The History Of Tom Jones, A Foundling

by Henry Fielding
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"O! More Than Gothic Ignorance"

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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 338

Context: Tom Jones, one of Fielding's four novels, represents innovations and advances over preceding works. The author, while accepting human nature as it is, ridicules its faults and foibles, and portrays virtuous living as the most desirable of human achievements. His wife, Charlotte Cradock, was his model for the heroine, Sophia. The country Squire Allworthy, returning from London, finds an infant lying on his bed. He thinks the baby the son of the servant, Jenny Jones, and names him Tom Jones. He brings the child up with master Blifil, son of his widowed sister. Later the boy attracts the attention of Sophia Western by rescuing her from a runaway horse, at the cost of his broken arm. In order to conceal her interest in Tom, Sophia pretends to be in love with Blifil. Sophia's aunt, Mrs. Western, seeing this situation, arranges with her brother to talk to Sophia about a marriage. Their conversation is narrated in Book VII, chapter 3. After painting matrimony as "an institution in which prudent women deposit their funds in order to receive a larger interest than they could have elsewhere," Mrs. Western gets angry when Sophia refuses to consider marriage to Mr. Blifil. When her brother interrupts, she charges him with not having taught Sophia obedience and the duties of a child to her parents. To her, Goths were barbarous and uncivilized, and so she characterizes her brother's ignorance as Gothic. After all, he is not acquainted with philosophy, as she is.

". . . Have I not told you what Plato says on that subject?–a subject on which you was so notoriously ignorant when you came first under my care, that I verily believe you did not know the relation between a daughter and her father."–"'T is a lie," answered Western. "The girl is no such fool, as to live to eleven years old without knowing that she was her father's relation."–"O! more than Gothic ignorance," answered the lady. "And as for your manners, brother, I must tell you, they deserve a cane." . . .

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