The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Summary and Analysis of Book 2


Chapter 1

The narrator explains that he will not tell his story like others storytellers tell their own stories. He believes others craft narrative as though it is in a newspaper; that is, the number of words remains constant even when the importance of events may differ. He will use a different approach, wherein he will focus purely on the important matters.

Chapter 2

Eight months after Captain Blifil and Bridget marry, a son is born. Captain Blifil works then to discredit the foundling Tom in Squire Allworthy's eyes, in hopes of raising his own son's chances for inheritance. It is revealed that Mrs. Wilkins has further information on the child.

Chapter 3

Details are given on Jenny Jones’ employer, Mr. Partridge. He runs a small school in Little Baddington, but relies on an annuity from Mr. Allworthy to survive. He has taken Jenny's education into his own hands. His wife is portrayed as a shrewish scold, and is compared to the woman pouring tea in Hogarth’s Progress. She has long been suspicious that her husband’s interest in Jenny is more than just academic, and she banishes Jenny from the house.

Chapter 4

One day, when Mrs. Partridge is out at the chandler's shop, a neighbor praises her for firing Jenny Jones over the girl's pregnancy. It is here that Mrs. Partridge learns of the rumor that Jenny has had a second child; since it has been less than nine months since the girl was banished, she assumes her husband to be the father.

She rushes home and viciously attacks Mr. Partridge. Confused, he tries to defend himself, and slightly injures her in the attempt. He runs into the street to seek help, but she then tells the crowd that he was the one who attacked her. They take her side.

Chapter 5

Rumor spreads through the parish that Mr. Partridge has beaten his wife. The narrator reveals this to be the knowledge Mrs. Wilkins had heard. She spreads the gossip to Captain Blifil, who informs Mr. Allworthy, who in turn sends Mrs. Wilkins to Little Baddington to investigate.

Chapter 6

Mr. Allworthy, an innocent where gossip is concerned, sends for the Partridges to properly hear their story. Mrs. Partridge again condemns her innocent husband. Jenny Jones cannot be located to testify; she has left the area with a recruiting officer. The news of her disappearance discredits her testimony in any case. Despite Mr. Partridge's protestations of innocence, Allworthy believes Mrs. Partridge’s version of events. As a result, Mr. Partridge loses everything. The gossiping locals, who were so instrumental in the allegations and rumors, begin to feel sympathetic for him (although not sympathetic enough to offer him any help).

Chapter 7

It is revealed that Captain Blifil informed on Partridge in hopes of getting Tom Jones turned out of Allworthy’s house. Captain Blifil and Bridget are extremely unhappy with the marriage, and constantly torment each other with their obstinacy. The narrator reveals that Fortune will intervene to restore Mrs. Blifil’s affection for her husband.

Chapter 8

Captain Blifil consoles himself by meditating on Allworthy’s fortune, which he is keen to inherit through his wife and son. Fortune intervenes and, during one of his musings on how to dispatch Allworthy, Captain Blifil has a stroke and dies.

Chapter 9

Mrs. Blifil is anxious when Captain Blifil does not return from a walk. The captain’s body is found, and two physicians fuss over it, disagreeing on the cause of death. Both need to stay in the house long enough to earn their fee, so they then turn their attentions to the distressed widow, ministering to her as fashion, rather than need, dictates. An elaborate monument is erected to Captain Blifil.


The narrator’s opening, where he explains that he will only focus on key events and not recount detail for the sake of it, is ironic in that he uses the entire first chapter to make this observation. Fielding continues to treat his narrative like a history - meaning he wishes to recount objective fact rather than psychological explanation - and often stays true to this intent, sometimes explicitly noting that he does not understand why his characters act as they do. Of course, the breadth of his novel leads him to frequently contradict this claim, as he often uses psychological insight to explain the characters, such as with the marriage of Bridget and Captain Blifil.

One way in which Fielding departs from the traditional novel form is through his use of caricature. His frequent mentions of Hogarth - a popular caricaturist - emphasize this intent. The caricature of Mrs.. Partridge is well drawn. She is referred to as resembling another character from Hogarth’s work; this time, ‘The Harlot’s Progress.’ Her character is devised by comparison: she has jealousy akin to Shakespeare’s tragic Moor, Othello, and has the shrewish qualities of Socrates’ wife, Xantippe. She threw Jenny out, but not because she believed her pregnant. In fact, Jenny’s intellectual superiority was beginning to aggravate Mrs. Partridge.

Similarly, the public is presented in an extremely unfavorable light in this Book. Represented through the meanness of Mrs. Wilkins, they are seen to be vicious gossips whose affections can change on a whim (much as those of Mrs. Wilkins did in Book 1 to match those of Bridget). The effects of gossip are highlighted by the exaggeration of Jenny's second baby, and the wildly varying accounts of the dispute between Mr. and Mrs. Partridge. By some accounts, he broke her limbs and even murdered her. There is further irony at the end of chapter 6 when the people of the parish change their attitude towards Partridge after he is ruined. Fielding shows that the neighbors are concerned, but still do not act. In some ways, this compassion is but another sentiment in vogue, and has no material weight. Partridge "left the country, where he was in danger of starving with the universal compassion of all his neghbours" (109).

What's more, even some of the most 'moral' of these gossips - Bridge and Captain Blifil - are subject to hypocrisy. Consider that Master Blifil is born eight months after the marriage of his parents, showing the hypocrisy regarding illegitimate children. There is a further cruel irony when Captain Blifil dies of ‘apoplexy’ while considering how to dispose of Allworthy to speed up his succession. Fielding's cynicism is on full display as he explains how the sure way to rekindle Mrs. Blifil’s affections for her husband is to have him die. Overall, we see in Book 2 that Fielding is indeed ready to explore the basest of human behavior, though we also see his ability to do so through humor rather than sanctimony.

Interestingly, Fielding establishes evidence of his overall goal through Squire Allworthy's behavior as judge. Allworthy's virtue is never in question, but his inexperience with gossip leads him to adjudicate poorly in the case of Mr. Partridge, and the effects are dire for that man. There is an implicit charge that a purely moral life, removed from the complications of man's baser qualities, can cause its own trouble. If this sentiment is taken as true, then Fielding's intent in this work - to showcase all levels of "HUMAN NATURE" - is validated.

Doctors Y and Z are used to ridicule the medical profession, as the two men argue about the cause of death, then look for ways to occupy their time to justify their fee. Bridget Blifil is to grieve for her husband in the way that she was courted by him: accorded to accepted form. She utilizes "the decent time for sickness and immoderate grief" (118). Yet again, the issue on display is the absurdity of social convention in the face of true human emotion.