Published in 1749, Tom Jones by Henry Fielding is one of the earliest examples of an English novel. Its plot is divided into 18 books and follows the life of its titular character, Tom Jones, through all his life obstacles.
The novel begins with Tom as a baby showing up in the bed of Allworthy, a wealthy gentleman of a country estate. Allworthy decides to raise the boy in his household alongside his own nephew, and the plot proceeds to follow Tom's life as he grows up, falls in love with various different girls and women, and gets into scuffles and arguments with acquaintances all the while with his origins remaining mysterious.
Tom's life takes a turn when he is banished from Allworthy's estate over a misunderstanding. He thus travels around the countryside and then eventually to London, meeting more women and also being pursued by his former love from Allworthy's estate, Sophia. While on his travels, he gets into a duel with a scorned husband of a woman he slept with and is even thrown into jail.
In the end, however, the many misunderstandings are cleared up. Tom winds up with Sophia, his true love, and it is revealed that he is, in fact, Allworthy's actual nephew. He lives happily ever after with Sophia.
As an early example of a novel, Tom Jones exhibits how the novel as a form creates a totality of human experience through biography of a main character. Specifically, this character is usually a problematic character—such as Tom Jones—who searches through many obstacles in life to eventually find himself and harmony in his life.