How does Fielding's social consciousness affect his point of view in Tom Jones?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Enlightenment's fundamental precepts about how human beings are good and how individuals are essentially created by their own experiences form the basis for Fielding's work.  As a character, Tom is not driven by the church or some higher notion of authority.  Instead, it is evident that the individual's sense of identity is forged by his experiences and the embrace of positive, socially affirming values over negative, personally destructive behaviors of consciousness.  In this, the idea of how individuals can be redeemed and not unfairly condemned is a part of the social consciousness of the work.  Again echoing the Enlightenment tendencies, Fielding's work brings to light how individuals can essentially be good and reasonable.  A type of human trial and error, where Tom makes good choices from his experience of making bad ones, helps to bring to light that society can embrace reason-ability within individuals and can consist of individuals who can make themselves and, by extension, their world better.  The fact that Tom becomes able to fully partaken in being Allworthy's heir reflects a breakdown of the social stratification of the time period.  This is evidence of ths Enlightenment idea of how individuals can be seen on their own merit and how both Fielding's work and the movement of which it is a part of embraces a positive notion of human nature, seeking to radiate this to all society.

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Tom Jones

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