The narrator illustrates how his text will include deviations from the plot in order to offer a contrast in the writing. He condemns the dictatorial approach of critics who strictly outline how texts should be written, saying they are no more than clerks.
He then refers to the English pantomime as superb because of the contrasts illustrated in the form. The reader is then given the option to skip these digressive essays and begin each book at the second chapter.
There are various responses to Tom’s injury as he convalesces at Squire Western’s home. Allworthy tells him to make the best of the opportunity; Thwackum tells him that his injury is a judgment from Heaven; and Square says it was a mere accident. Squire Western offers Tom beer, telling him that it is better than any medicine he may be prescribed.
Sophia’s love for Tom continues to blossom, and Tom begins to realize his feelings for her.
Tom considers his options regarding Sophia and the future.
He is aware that, as a bastard with no inheritance, he would never receive Squire Western’s consent to court Sophia, and his conscience forces him to consider his duty to Molly Seagrim as more important than any emotions he has for Sophia.
Mrs. Honour finds Tom attractive, but having had her heart broken in the past, she merely admires him from afar. However, she does tell him that how attached Sophia now is to her muff because of the affection he showed it. She tells him how one night, Squire Western threw it in the fire because it impeded her harpsichord playing, and how Sophia quickly rescued it. It is upon hearing this story that Tom realizes Sophia loves him too.
Tom remains troubled about how to handle Molly. He decides to offer her money. When he visits, she shows indignation at his offer, but a rustle in the room leads him to uncover Square hiding in Molly’s closet, naked except for her night cap. Mrs. Seagrim was aware of her daughter's two lovers, and was happy to share in the material and financial benefits the liaisons afforded. Tom laughs at the situation, and vows to keep Molly and Square’s secret. He is all the happier because it relieves him of some obligation.
Tom is relieved of even further obligations when Molly's sister reveals to him that another man, one Will Barnes, is the father of Molly’s child. Tom's heart is now free to focus on his affection for Sophia. Squire Western remains unaware of the growing affection between Sophia and Tom.
Allworthy falls ill, and his physician declares him close to death. He calmly summons his family and distributes his estate between Blifil, Tom, Thwackum, Square and the servants. Only Tom shows any gratitude for Allworthy’s generosity, while the rest are disappointed with their share of the bequest.
Mrs. Wilkins is angry that she was not distinguished from the other servants in Allworthy's bequest, and she vows to dance on his grave. Square is annoyed that his legacy is equal to Thwackum’s. He considers himself a friend, whereas Thwackum is only an employee.
Blifil receives news that his mother Bridget has died. He wants to tell Allworthy immediately, hoping that the shock will hasten Allworthy’s death. Allworthy receives the news with calm resignation, and sends Blifil to deal with her funeral plans. The narrator reveals to us that the situation was never as grave as the doctor claimed.
Tom is furious with Blifil for carelessly worrying Allworthy when he is so ill. However, the doctor declares a miracle: Allworthy has recovered! (Of course, it's not really a miracle at all.) Tom is elated at Allworthy's recovery, and drinks to excess in celebration. He quarrels with Blifil, who mocks Tom’s illegitimacy. They ultimately agree an uneasy truce.
Tom goes outside to cool off from the quarrel. He is thinking about Sophia, when he is distracted by Molly, who is out working in the field. After some flirtation, Tom and Molly retire to the undergrowth to fool around. Meanwhile, Blifil and Thwackum are out walking, and see the two enter the bushes. Twackum does not recognize Tom, and insists they interrupt the immorality. Though Blifil does recognize Tom, he pretends otherwise so as not to distract the parson.
The lovers' privacy is intruded upon by Thwackum and Blifil. Angry at the impertinence they show to the girl (who stays hidden), Tom strikes Blifil and overpowers Thwackum. Tom is losing the fight when Squire Western appears on the scene and joins Tom's side.
Sophia and her aunt are also out with Squire Western. Sophia faints at the scene and is revived by Tom with water from the river. Both Tom and Sophia are energized by their closeness. Squire Western then inquires as to how the fight began. When it is revealed to have been over a woman, Sophia relapses with the shock. The party returns to Squire Western’s home to settle the dispute.
The narrator's admiration of pantomime would have been amusing to Fielding's audience, since pantomime was considered low-brow entertainment. However, the audience interaction and clear designation of good and evil certainly encompasses the breadth of contrast that the narrator admires. What Fielding wants to do in praising the form is to suggest again that his novel is different from those that precede it; he will gladly engage in both bawdy humor and high moral education, with no sense that the two cannot co-exist.
The novel continues to follow certain traditional conventions. The symbol of the muff continues to symbolize the affection between Sophia and Tom. For instance, she rescues it from the fire where her father throws it - this action foreshadows how she will later challenge her father more directly for Tom’s affections.
The lower qualities of humans are also on display in this Book. Tom's plan to offer Molly money is a bit tactless, but her own loose morals overshadow his own, and they rescue him from more severe obligations. It is telling that, even after Tom realizes he is not the child's father, his generous nature leads him to insist that Square will look after her.
And then there are moments that feature both high and low entertainment. Tom’s liaison with Molly in the woods reminds the reader that he is a passionate man who can make impulsive and rash decisions, even while thinking of his more pure love for Sophia. However, his willingness to fight to protect Molly's dignity, and then his rush to waken Sophia from her faint, show his chivalrous side is never fully absent. Likewise, Tom's drunkenness does not work out well for him, which is what a 'moral' novel would be expected to show. And yet that drunkenness comes from a place of true nobility; he is celebrating the survival of his most beloved guardian. That Tom could show both low and high qualities in one action speaks to the complexity of human nature Fielding wishes to exhibit.
Blifil remains one of the most unlikable characters in the work. He shows affection for noone, evidenced by the use of news of mother's death as a weapon against the kindly Allworthy. When he teases Tom about his lack of parents, Blifil reveals more about his jealousy for Tom, who Bridget loved far more than him.
Lastly, Fielding makes yet another attack on the physicians of his day through Allworthy’s deathbed moments. The doctor's incompetence (and desire to appear as a miracle-worker) marks the second time he has mocked physicians already in the book.