The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Summary and Analysis of Book 3


Chapter 1

The narrator reminds us that he will gladly pass over years of little incident in his narrative. Twelve years have gone by. Allworthy’s grief passes, and Mrs. Blifil shows hers as fashion dictates - changing outfits and countenance to suit the phases of mourning.

Chapter 2

Tom Jones's first appearance in the book is not set in a positive light. Allworthy’s family had long believed that Jones would end up in trouble. By the time he is introduced, Tom has been convicted of three robberies – of apples from an orchard, of a duck and of a ball. He has one friend, the gamekeeper Black George. Tom had stolen the apples and the duck so that George could feed his family. Later, Tom and the gamekeeper strayed onto neighboring property when hunting partridges. Only Tom is caught, and despite being beaten, he refuses to name his accomplice. Thwackum, his teacher, wants him whipped a second time for concealing the truth, but Allworthy refuses.

Chapter 3

The narrator introduces the two educators entrusted with Tom Jones and Master Blifil. The first is Mr. Square, the philosopher, and the second is Thwackum; their views differ in significant ways. Square sees human nature as inherently perfect, and vices as a deviation from the norm. Thwackum sees human nature as inherently flawed, even since the Fall of Man left us in need of redemption. They debate, obstinately and without resolution, whether honor can exist without religion.

Chapter 4

The narrator apologizes if the reader interpreted the earlier debate as meant to ridicule of the two educators. He is able to respect the different opinions, but believes that it is the distortion of these two arguments that leads to the worst abuses of human nature.

Tom gets into trouble after punching Master Blifil, who had insulted him. In recounting the details of the attack, Master Blifil reveals to Thwackum and Allworthy that Tom lied about being alone on the partridge hunt. When confronted, Tom explains that his motives were to protect the gamekeeper, since Black George had only followed Tom in order to look after him.

Chapter 5

Allworthy believes that Tom should be rewarded for his altruism rather than punished for the lie, but Thwackum disagrees. Allworthy dismisses the gamekeeper for failing to come forward.

Master Blifil is able to curry favor with both Thwackum and Square by refusing to contradict either, even though their views are diametrically opposed. He simply agrees with whoever is there, and stays silent when in the presence of both (which each educator interprets as tacit consent of his own philosophy). Allworthy believes that the complementary views of Thwackum and Square would be a good way to educate Tom and Master Blifil, and so keeps both men on salary.

Chapter 6

Thwackum and Square both try to court the widowed Mrs. Blifil. They assume that she must hate Tom, so both set out to punish the boy and pamper Master Blifil. However, in reality Mrs. Blifil dislikes her son and favors Tom. This becomes obvious to the whole county by the time Tom is eighteen.

Chapter 7

When Allworthy perceives that Mrs. Blifil favors Tom, he sympathetically shows greater support for Master Blifil as the underdog. He magnifies Master Blifil’s good deeds, and ignores his faults.

Chapter 8

In order to assuage his guilt over having Tom beaten in the gamekeeper incident, Squire Allworthy gives the boy a horse. Tom sells the horse at a fair six months later, and gives the proceeds to the gamekeeper’s family, as George has kept no job since being dismissed. When news of the sale is discovered, Thwackum argues Tom should be beaten. However, Allworthy demands Thwackum appeal directly to his judgment in such cases, and never use such punishment on his volition.

Chapter 9

Tom sells his personal Bible to Master Blifil, who shows it to Thwackum in order to get Tom in trouble. Thwackum considers the sale to be a sin. Square disagrees, arguing the sale of one book is no different than the sale of any other. Mrs. Blifil argues that both the buyer and seller are equally guilty, when ends the debate.

Squire Western, the landowner of the adjoining property onto which Tom and George had strayed, brings charges against the gamekeeper. Out of sympathy for Black George, Tom takes Allworthy to see the poverty that the gamekeeper and his family live in.

Chapter 10

Master Blifil reveals that the gamekeeper had been trapping hares illegally. George had actually only done this once, but Blifil exaggerates the story. Tom tries to earn his friend a reprieve from Squire Western, who thinks very highly of Tom. In order to achieve his purpose, Tom decides to approach the squire's daughter - Sophia - to enlist her as an ally. The narrator tells us that our heroine needs to be established properly, and that the end of a book is not an appropriate place to introduce her.


Tom Jones makes his first appearance in Chapter 2 of Book 3. It was common for playwrights - including Shakespeare - to introduce their lead character through the opinions of others before s/he is revealed to the audience. Fielding uses this device in introducing Tom. We are told, in the words of others, that Tom is "certainly born to be hanged," even though he is nonetheless named our hero. From the outset, we see he will be a fully rounded character, one whose public persona is quite distinct from his true personality. For instance, he steals - something frowned upon - but does so to support a friend, which gives him a noble edge even at this early stage. The narrator then mocks the vehemence with which poaching is punished by referring to the "Bannians in India" who reject any form of animal killing or consumption. Here, the narrator shows us that the fierce protectors may condemn poachers with determination, but are of course happy to kill themselves – "…our English Bannians, while they preserve them from other enemies, will most unmercifully slaughter whole horse-loads themselves, so that they stand clearly acquitted of any such heathenish superstition" (124). What this reveals is that Fielding is not simply interested in showing characters of high and low moral fiber, but also in questioning the integrity of commonly-held moralities.

This question of morality is further explored through the buffoons Thwackum and Square. Their debate about "honour" reveals many apt arguments, but it is entirely devoid of any practical application. They live their lives subscribed fully to static philosophies, and are uninterested in the nuances of human behavior, the complications that help us to understand a rounded character like Tom. When Allworthy cedes their argument to point out neither understands his meaning of "honour," it not only foreshadows their later hypocrisy, but also reveals the limits of their firm moralities.

There are further examples in this Book of the absurdity of outward appearance. For instance, Mrs. Blifil grieves appropriately for her husband, noting the necessary fashion changes as well as those of demeanor. There is an irony here as we later learn of Mrs. Blifil’s less seemly behavior earlier in her life, and even more irony when we remember how fully she detested Captain Blifil before his passing. Similarly, her son has the outward respectability of being a legitimate child, but he in inwardly a sneaky and deceptive young man, keen to have Tom punished. He is able to deceive both Thwackum and Square into believing that he follows their doctrine whilst rejecting the other. Allworthy had hoped that their differing opinions would shape the boys well, but the opposite is the case. Tom merely ignores these fixed moralities (instead acting from his sense of right and wrong), whereas Blifil merely learns how to con his masters through their absurdities.

Allworthy’s benevolent nature is further validated in this Book, when he sides with Master Blifil after seeing that the boy is so disliked by others. Master Blifil continue to conspire to get Tom discredited, and he exaggerates the tale of George the gamekeeper’s hare poaching, oblivious to what pain this could cause. So though Allworthy is kind, he also exhibits a serious naivete into the machinations of human beings, and this naivete will prove costly to him later in the work.

It is worth noting that one of Tom's greatest assets is his charisma. In this Book, though the hypocritical teachers despise him, he is liked by Squire Western, an affable (if boorish) man who is drawn towards the boy's vivacity and manliness.

Finally, the close of the Book is interesting for the subjectivity the narrator shows his heroine, who he deems too special to introduce at this point. He goes so far as to say she is "a lady with whom we are ourselves greatly in love" (149). This may reflect on the fact that Sophia Western was believed to be based on Fielding’s beloved first wife, Charlotte Cradock. Regardless of the cause, he employs here (and will continue to employ) significantly less subtlety in Sophia's character than he employs with Tom's. She is nigh perfect, though at least he owns up to such bias from her first mention. Yet again, Fielding shows a willingness to contradict himself in his willful subjectivity (despite his many claims that this work is an objective history).