The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

Virtue and the Man of the Hill in Tom Jones College

Although Fielding’s Tom Jones isn’t written in an entirely linear style, by far the lengthiest of his digressions, and seemingly the least relevant to the plot, is the episode in which Tom meets the Man of the Hill. A misanthropic hermit whose unlucky early life caused him to abandon all efforts to remain a part of society, his pessimistic view of man’s potential for good and self-imposed isolation stand in direct opposition to the complex moral system and engagement with others that Tom represents. Just as Fielding uses figures like Thwackum to criticize the use of a religious front to mask the absence of actual goodness, the Man of the Hill’s decision to stand apart from the world and look down on it disapprovingly, much like a God figure, holds him back from self-examination and improvement. By serving as a foil to Tom, the Man of the Hill and his simplified view of humanity allow Fielding to criticize past conceptions of morality, and explain his own more complex approaches.

The Man of the Hill’s views on humanity and morality, as well as the reasons behind his decision to leave society and live an isolated life, are made explicit as he tells his story. When he explains his first encounters with the study of religion, it...

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