Discuss the use of satire in Henry Fielding's novel Tom Jones. 

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Karyth Cara eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Satire plays a significant role in Tom Jones and is evident from the outset. An amusing example is the satire thrown upon the misbegotten notions of propriety and modesty that besought the society and was nicely manifest in Mrs Deborah, Mr Allworthy's "elderly woman-servant." Being urgently summoned at a late hour of the night to attend Mr Allworthy in his bedchamber, and not having a clear reason--whether an attack of "apoplexy" or an attack of some other sort--Mrs Deborah lingered before complying to give Mr Allworthy plenty of time to dress himself (ironic if it had been an attack of apoplexy) and shield her delicate sensibilities, though at the age of fifty-two, as Fielding points out.

She had indeed given her master sufficient time to dress himself; for out of respect to him, and regard to decency, she had spent many minutes in adjusting her hair at the looking-glass, notwithstanding all the hurry in which she had been summoned by the servant, and though her master, for aught she knew, lay expiring in an apoplexy, or in some other fit.

Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Writers of satire often use humor to expose or illuminate human errors and to teach readers about the consequences of these errors. With that definition in mind, Tom Jones meets the criteria of a satire. One example of satire can be found in Fielding's treatment of different kinds of professionals. For example, the academic character of Partridge attempts to communicate in his faux scholarly language, using wrong Latin phrases and confusing his audience, which is the opposite of what we might expect a decent educator to do. He is the head of a school, but he is not very intelligent, which may be an interesting comment on the field of education in general. By creating a character like Partridge, Fielding may be shining a light on the state of education at the time at which he wrote the novel, encouraging readers to think critically about the authority figures placed in charge of the classroom.