What is the plot construction of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones?

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Payal Khullar | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones was written during a time when fiction as a literary form was just emerging. Hence, there was a scope of much experimentation and newness. Potential of this new form was, then, unbound. Fielding experimented a lot with the style, characters, plot structure, etc. in Tom Jones, and for this his novel even received harsh criticism from literary experts Richardson and Samuel Johnson. Nonetheless, it came out as a huge success as one comic masterpiece during its time. The plot of Tome Jones is not loose, and all the segments are carefully joined. It is very balanced, symmetrical, complex but neatly drawn. There are some 18 books in total that gives this novel a formal epic style. Besides, there are a lot of twists and misunderstandings in the plot which do not get solved until the climax. The journey of moral growth of the main protagonist- Tom who is a foundling, a rogue- makes this a picaresque and bildungsroman novel. Tom Jones has a unique narrative structure with mainly the author butting in every now and then and giving his comic yet responsible comments on almost everything that occurs and doesn’t occur in the plot. The plot is symmetrically divided into three parts- the first set of six books is the introduction that introduces us to our main protagonist- Tom, his ways, his attraction for Sophia, animosity with Blifil, and arising misunderstandings with Allworthy. All this happens when Tom is at home. In the second part (next six books), Tom leaves his home, and wanders in the suburbs. There he has numerous encounters, meets many problems but resolutions also happen. In the remaining six books, Tom is put into serious trouble and, in fact, is about to be killed, but just in time everything is cleared and he is saved. Even though there's so much happening in the novel, the readers don't feel that the plot is disjointed, and that reflects mastery of Fielding's technique.

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