The Picaresque NovelThe History of Tom Jones, a foundling, is Fielding’s best novel and one of the best loved in English literature. It’s a comic portrayal of life in a countryside in southern England, where aristocracy and the common people still live side by side though class distinctions are clear. This work was filmed in 1962.
Henry Fienlding - Tom Jones
Henry Fienlding - Tom Jones
How the story begins
Tom Jones is a foundling who has brought up by the country gentlemen Mr. Allworthy as if he was his son. Tom is strong, generous and intelligent and loved by everybody. He often runs into trouble because of his impetuous nature; he is attracted by women as they are to him. He is also hated bu Mr. Blifil, Allworthy’s nephew, a mean young man. The two boys are educated together; their tutors are a philosopher,( mr. Square) and a priest.
How the story ends
Tomfalls in love with Sophia Western, a daughter of a country squire. Their relationship is opposed by the families, since Tom is illegittimate. But the love between the two young people is strong . When Tom is thrown out of the house of Mr. Allworthy because offalse accusations of blifil, Sophia runs away from home to join Tom. They have many adventures but finally the intricate plot is resolved ; Tom is cleared of all accusations and turns out to be Allworthy’ legitimate nephew and he is now able to marry Sophia.
The writer Henry Fielding
He was born in 1707 to an aristocratic family and he had a classical education. He began to write for the theatre because the novel seemed to him too vulgar in subject matter and style. He was wellknown as the author of farces and satires that were very critical of the Whig government. So the prime minister, sir Walpole issued the licensing act by which he closed the theatres. As a result Fielding found himself without any work. For this reason he turned to the legal profession and became one of best and most human judge. His literary talent was inspired by the pubblication of Richarddson’s Pamela.
In the great debate that followed the appearance of this novel Fielding sided with the anti-pamelists and he reacted agaist the superfical morality of Pamela;so he wrote a satire of Pamela called Shamela Andrews ( shame-Pamela):in it a seires of bawdy letter were attributed to shamela.
Then he wrote the novel Joseph Andrews:it was in part a parody of Pamela but then develops into a picaresque story. This novel shows analogies with Cervantes’ Don Quixote, whiche Fielding greatly admired. In it Fielding created the pattern of his next major novel: Tom Jones. Both these works are comic stories centred on generous young man who makes several mistakes before he attains maturity. There are comic incidents and a variety of situations set in the country, in London and on the road.The characters grow up thamks to their love for beautiful and intelligent girls.
Fielding’s final yeaars were marked by illness and suffering. He kept working as judge and writing others novels. Then he moved to Lisbon for the better climate but died soon after his arrival.
The novel Tom Jones is carefully constructed according to the augustan principles of harmony and balance:it’s divided into 18 books, exactly half-way of classic epics ( 12 aeneid; 24 iliad and odissey). Each book is introduced by a chapter of critical and philosophical reflections. These 18 books are divided into three-part scheme: in the first six the story is set in the english countryside; the nexy six describe Tom’s picaresque wanderings across England; the final six take place in London. The novel has a wide range because it’s a complete and rich picture of 18th century English life as in William Hogarth’s paintings. All aspects of contemporary english life are represented in Tom Jones, but unlike Defoe, Fielding doesn’t give us realistic descriptions or journalistic reports. Instead he chooses a classical narrative style to indicate moral progress in the main character. Tom Jones is a novel of growing up . at hte end of the story Tom has become a responsible and reliable young man. The novel’s happy ending has also a moral meaning: in this world there is a providence and evil doesn’t triumph over good. Under comic style of the novel, Fielding celebrates aristocratic and christian vitues: courage, generosity and benevolence.
Fielding’s comic style is due to long elaborated and ironical descriptions, circumlocutions, understatements and comic metaphors. Irony is due to the comments of the all-knowing, or onmiscent,narrator, but also is implicit in the words and actions of the characters.
He was the first to write a theory of the novel as a genre, in the Preface he wrote to Joseph Andrews.In his desire to find antecedents in the classic epic for his work he defined it as a comic epic poem in prose, because the 18th century criticism accepted that a piece of well-written literary prose was also poetic.