NARRATION IN HENRY FIELDING’S TOM JONES
There is no doubt to the fact that the excellence of Henry Fielding’s novels lies in his unique and unconventional narrative style. Fielding was closely associated to theatre. Great narrative scenes in his literary masterpiece Tom Jones perfectly depict Fielding’s directional expertise.
In his novel Tom Jones, as we know, there are two voices that render opinions of the author – an omnipresent narrator and occasionally, Mr Squire Allworthy. It is however, the all-knowing, omnipresent narrator that we are more concerned with while dealing with narrative techniques.
It is hard denying that the narration is the most important part of the novel. Every book starts with a formal introduction from the narrator (which many critics thought added unnecessary volume to the novel). The narrator enters a scene and then seldom leaves. The narration seems to be intended to ensure an open-communication with the readers.
Considering this, we can say Tom Jones features a third-person narration, which means that the story and action of the novel are voiced by a narrator who is not a character in the novel, and has an over-arching point of view. He sees and knows everything (including the character’s thought process). This God-like narrator makes Fielding tell his audience things that otherwise no one can put forth.
Narrator is an extremely witty, intelligent, interesting and educated citizen of the society. He constantly amuses and allures the audience. The narrator shows a conscious, father-like attitude towards the characters, readers and even the society. Also, the narrator, at certain stances, becomes a teacher, a philosopher, a guide and even a pal. Enlightening the audience is an important aspect of narration. For this, the narration makes use of satire and irony. Moreover, immediately, one can sense that the narrator’s voice is masculine.
Fielding’s narration enjoys ashamed freedom and subjectivity, which helps him, set a rapport with his audience. His narration style can be referred to as Partisanship as the narrator butts in just anywhere to tell what is right and what is wrong. He neglects the possibility of difference in opinion and views of others for a particular situation. In this way, the narration also helps bring some comic elements in the novel also.
It is worth mentioning here that despite a wide appreciation and success of novel’s literary devices, the libertinism applied to the narrative techniques of Tom Jones by Fielding got mixed reviews. The novel’s unconventionality faced severe criticism and disapproval from Samuel Johnson.