Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1080
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Tom Jones, a foundling. Although he is befriended by his foster father, Squire Allworthy, Tom encounters many vicissitudes, some of them of his own making, for he is a somewhat wild and foolish, though good-hearted, young man. His wild ways, exaggerated by enemies, including Master Blifil, cause Tom to be cast off by Squire Allworthy. After Tom’s goodness and virtue eventually triumph over disastrous circumstances, the young man is reconciled with the squire and, even more important, with Sophia Western, the beautiful and virtuous woman he loves. He is acknowledged as the squire’s nephew when the secret of his real parentage becomes known.
Squire Allworthy, an extremely just and virtuous country gentleman who becomes Tom’s foster father after the infant is discovered in the squire’s bed. Tom’s enemies play upon the squire’s gullibility, for Allworthy, like many another honest man, finds it difficult to believe that there is dishonesty in other people. Eventually, he sees Tom’s essential goodness, receives him as his nephew, and makes the young man his heir.
Sophia Western, the virtuous daughter of a domineering country squire. She loves Tom, even to facing down her father and aunt when they try to marry her off to Master Blifil and Lord Fellamar. Although she loves Tom, she is disappointed by his escapades, particularly those of an amorous nature, and until she is convinced that he can be a faithful husband, she refuses to accept his suit.
Squire Western, Sophia’s domineering, profane father, who loves his hounds, his horses, and his bottle almost as much as his only child. When he insists on forcing her to marry Master Blifil, the husband of his choice, Sophia is forced into running away from home, placing herself and her virtue in the path of adventure and danger. The squire, though uncouth, is a good man at heart. Both he and Squire Allworthy are exceptionally well-drawn characters.
Master Blifil, the villainous son of the squire’s sister, Bridget. A great hypocrite, he hides his villainy under a cloak of seeming honesty and virtue. He plays false witness against Tom many times. He becomes Sophia Western’s suitor only because he wants her money and hates Tom, the man she loves. His villainy is done in the face of his knowing that Tom is really an older half brother, not a foundling.
Bridget Blifil, Squire Allworthy’s seemingly virtuous sister. She bears Tom out of wedlock and lets him become a foundling. Later, she marries and has another son, Master Blifil. On her deathbed, she sends to her brother a letter telling the story of Tom’s parentage. The letter is stolen and concealed by her legitimate son.
Captain Blifil, Bridget’s husband, who marries her for her money. He dies of apoplexy, however, before he can enjoy any of it.
Mr. Partridge, a schoolteacher and barber-surgeon. Long Tom’s loyal, if loquacious, companion, he is for many years suspected of being Tom’s father.
Jenny Jones, later Mrs. Waters. As a maid in Mr. Partridge’s house, she is accused of being Tom’s mother, and her surname is given to him. As Mrs. Waters, she has a brief love affair with Tom, much to the horror of some of his acquaintances, who believe that the supposed mother and son have committed incest. Through her testimony, the identity of Tom’s real mother becomes known.
Mr. Dowling, a not-so-honest lawyer. Through his testimony, Tom’s identity is proved, as he corroborates Jenny Jones’s statements. He keeps the secret for many years, thinking that he is following Mr. Allworthy’s wishes.
Black George Seagrim
Black George Seagrim, so called because of his extremely black beard, a rustic and poacher. Although he is befriended by Tom, he steals from the young man and plays him ill turns.
Molly Seagrim, a young woman of easy virtue, Black George’s daughter. Tom’s escapades with her cause him grave trouble until her affairs with other men take some of the blame from him.
The Reverend Roger Thwackum
The Reverend Roger Thwackum, an Anglican clergyman retained by Mr. Allworthy to tutor Tom and Master Blifil during their boyhood. A self-righteous, bigoted man, he voices his prejudices at all times. He beats Tom often and severely, living up to his name.
Mr. Thomas Square
Mr. Thomas Square, a deistically inclined philosopher who is a pensioner in Mr. Allworthy’s household and is Mr. Thwackum’s opponent in endless debates over the efficacy of reason and religious insight. Although he dislikes Tom, he makes a deathbed confession that clears Tom of some of his supposed misdeeds.
Lady Bellaston, a sensual noblewoman of loose morals who takes a fancy to Tom and, when she is spurned, tries to do him much evil.
Mrs. Western, Lady Bellaston’s cousin and Sophia’s aunt. To satisfy her own social pretensions, she tries to marry off Sophia to Lord Fellamar against the girl’s will.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick, Sophia’s cousin. They travel to London together.
Mr. Fitzpatrick, her jealous husband. Tom is jailed for wounding him in a duel.
Lord Fellamar, a licentious nobleman who makes love to Sophia and, with Mrs. Western’s approval, even attempts to ravish the girl to force her to marry him. Misled by Lady Bellaston’s advice, he tries to have Tom impressed into the naval service.
Mrs. Arabella Hunt
Mrs. Arabella Hunt, a pretty and wealthy widow who offers formally, by letter, to marry Tom. His refusal of this handsome offer helps reestablish Tom with Sophia.
Honour Blackmore, Sophia’s loyal, if somewhat selfish, maid, who shares in most of her mistress’ adventures.
Mrs. Miller, Tom’s landlady in London. Convinced of his virtue by his many good deeds, she pleads on his behalf with Squire Allworthy and is instrumental in helping restore Tom to his foster father’s good graces.
Betty Miller, the landlady’s daughters.
Mr. Nightingale, Tom’s fellow lodger at the Miller house. Tom persuades the elder Nightingale to permit the son to marry Nancy.
Mr. Summer, a handsome young cleric befriended as a student by Mr. Allworthy. It was he who seduced Bridget Allworthy and fathered Tom Jones.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2638
Squire Allworthy’s sister, Bridget, takes care of the infant Tom at her brother’s direction. She is unmarried when the story opens but later marries Captain Blifil and has a son, Master Blifil.
At the end of the story, long after Bridget has died, it is revealed that Bridget was not as virtuous as she appeared. In fact, she was Tom’s mother; to hide her shame, she bribed Jenny Jones to say the child was hers.
Squire Allworthy’s kindness extends to all, from Tom’s supposed mother, Jenny Jones (to whom he, in his role as magistrate, gives the lightest possible sentence) to Sophia, whom he is unwilling to force into a marriage she does not want.
When all is said and done, Allworthy chooses to make Tom his heir over the villainous Master Blifil in spite of Tom’s illegitimate birth. In doing so, he gives more weight to individual character than to the strictures of society.
Lady Bellaston is a relative of the Western family to whom Sophia flees when she runs away from home. While Sophia is staying at Lady Bellaston’s London home, the lady seduces Tom, and the two have an affair.
Lady Bellaston is self-centered and vindictive, as well as promiscuous. When her affair with Tom ends, she goes to great lengths to bring about his unhappiness, from trying to have him drafted into the navy to trying to make Sophia marry someone else.
See Mr. Partridge
Mrs. Honour Blackmore
Honour is Sophia’s servant. When Sophia decides to run away on the eve of her forced wedding to Blifil, Honour is loyal enough to purposely get herself fired so that she can pack Sophia’s belongings along with her own. She then accompanies Sophia on her flight and is a dependable servant and messenger to Sophia throughout the tale.
The captain is a self-serving hypocrite who marries Bridget for her money and fathers one son, Master Blifil, before he dies suddenly of apoplexy.
The son of Bridget and Captain Blifil, Master Blifil is hypocrisy personified. He takes great pains to pretend to be virtuous and shamelessly curries favor with anyone who is in a position to do him good. In reality, however, he is completely unprincipled. Most of his villainy is directed at Tom.
He lies about Tom to cause him trouble and often bribes others to join him. He will do anything to keep Tom out of Allworthy’s favor and to keep him from becoming the squire’s heir. He wants to marry Sophia for two reasons: first, because he knows that she and Tom love each other; and second, for her money.
At the end of the story, readers learn that Master Blifil has known for a long time that Tom is his half-brother. When Bridget was dying, she sent a letter to Allworthy telling him the truth about Tom’s parentage, but Blifil intercepted this letter and kept it from the squire. The knowledge that Tom actually had some legitimate claim to Allworthy’s fortune made Blifil all the more determined to ruin Tom.
All of Blifil’s schemes fail in the end, when Allworthy sees the truth about him as well as about Tom. Allworthy makes Tom his heir and exiles Blifil from the manor, giving him a small annuity to live on.
Dowling is a lawyer. He is with Bridget Allworthy when she dies and is responsible for settling her estate. Bridget gives Dowling a letter for Allworthy revealing that Bridget is Tom’s mother. Master Blifil intercepts the letter, however, so that Allworthy does not discover Tom’s true parentage until the end of the novel.
Master Blifil on several occasions engages Dowling to cause difficulty for Tom, making Dowl- ing believe that the orders to do so are originating with Squire Allworthy.
Lord Fellamar is a friend of Lady Bellaston. He falls in love with Sophia and tries to rape her as a way of forcing her to consent to marry him. At Lady Bellaston’s request, he tries to have Tom drafted into the navy to keep him away from Sophia.
Mrs. Harriet Fitzpatrick
Harriet is Sophia’s cousin; the two spent some part of their childhood together in the care of Mrs. Western. They meet en route to London when Sophia is running away from her father and Harriet is running from her abusive husband.
Mr. Fitzpatrick is Harriet’s husband. He acts the part of a loving suitor but marries her for her money and, as soon as the marriage is made, becomes so harsh toward her that she takes flight.
Fitzpatrick is suspicious and rash, and when he arrives one day at his home (to which his wife has returned) and finds Tom leaving his house, he insists on a duel. Tom wounds him gravely and is sent to jail. Fitzpatrick is not all bad, however, because when he recovers, he admits that he was the one who forced Tom to duel. This information brings about Tom’s release from jail.
Mrs. Arabella Hunt
Mrs. Hunt is a wealthy widow who lives next door to Mrs. Miller and comes to know something about Tom as he comes and goes there. She sends Tom a formal letter proposing marriage, and Tom is briefly tempted to accept because the woman’s fortune would be a help to him. When he turns down her proposal, Tom is highly pleased with his virtue.
Jenny Jones As the novel opens, Jenny works as a servant for the schoolmaster and his wife and also has recently been a nurse to Bridget during an illness. Jenny is very smart, and the schoolmaster has taught her Latin and other subjects. The schoolmaster’s wife and others in the village are very jealous of Jenny because of her education.
When Mrs. Wilkins sets out to find out who is Tom’s mother, the schoolmaster’s wife accuses Jenny, and others are happy to see Jenny brought low. Jenny admits that she is Tom’s mother, and Squire Allworthy metes out a light punishment: He arranges for her to go away to a place where she can get a new start.
At the end of the book, it is revealed that Jenny is not, in fact, Tom’s mother. She was willing to say she was in return for money paid to her by Bridget, the child’s real mother. In her new identity as Mrs. Waters, she has an affair with Tom and, ultimately, reveals to Squire Allworthy Tom’s true parentage.
The novel’s hero, Tom first appears as an infant left on Squire Allworthy’s bed. He begins life with the good fortune to be taken in by the wealthy and kind squire, who develops real affection for Tom. The boy becomes something of a rascal, though. Not only is he imprudent and mischievous, he is, unfortunately, surrounded by people who are eager to magnify his failings and bring about his downfall.
All in all, Tom’s vices, while they cause him substantial trouble and nearly cost him his beloved Sophia, are not equal to his virtues. He is several times caught stealing, but more often than not it turns out that he stole food for the family of his friend Black George. He is always ready to help anyone in any kind of trouble; many episodes feature some hapless person screaming and Tom leaping to his or her aid. When his landlady is distraught because her pregnant daughter, Nancy, has attempted suicide and Nancy’s lover has absconded, Tom, as always, saves the day.
Tom is also forgiving to a rare degree. After Master Blifil has spent his entire life trying to ruin Tom, Allworthy finally sees Blifil for what he is and sends him away. Tom’s response is to urge Allworthy not to be too harsh with Blifil, and he even secretly increases the annuity that Allworthy gives Blifil.
Throughout the novel, Squire Allworthy, usually with great patience and kindness, admonishes Tom that he must be more prudent and wise in his actions. It takes years and many misadventures for Tom to learn the lesson, but he does learn it.
Mrs. Miller is a kind widow who runs the London boardinghouse where Tom stays. Tom goes to her house because Allworthy has stayed there on his own visits to London.
Tom is compassionate toward Mrs. Miller and her daughter, Nancy. When Tom’s friend Nightingale is about to abandon the pregnant Nancy for a marriage arranged by Nightingale’s father, Tom talks Nightingale into marrying Nancy and even tries to reconcile Nightingale’s father to the marriage. In return, Mrs. Miller is a true friend to Tom. At crucial moments she comes to his defense and corrects others’ mistaken views of him. She has occasion to intercede for Tom with both Sophia and Allworthy.
Nancy is the daughter of Mrs. Miller. She falls in love with her mother’s boarder Mr. Nightingale. Eventually, with Tom’s help in overcoming obstacles, the two marry.
Northerton is one of the soldiers in the group of rebels Tom joins briefly. When Tom gives a toast to Sophia, Northerton, insisting that he knows her, assaults her character. In the ensuing fight, Northerton gashes Tom’s head with a wine bottle. He then escapes from the guard assigned to hold him. Later, when Tom hears a woman screaming in the woods and goes to her rescue, he finds Northerton assaulting Mrs. Waters and rescues her. Tom assumes that he has interrupted a rape, but it is later revealed that Mrs. Waters had regular assignations with Northerton and was screaming because on that occasion he was trying to rob her.
Mr. Partridge is the local schoolmaster at the beginning of the novel. Once Jenny is accused of being Tom’s mother, Mr. Partridge, who is her employer, is accused of being the father. Mr. Partridge’s wife testifies against him, and he is ruined. He leaves the area, changes his name to Little Benjamin, and becomes a barber.
Tom meets Little Benjamin after being ejected from Allworthy’s home. The two discover each other’s identities and decide to travel together. Partridge remains with Tom throughout the story, and the narrator tells readers in his epilogue that Tom has given Partridge an annuity to allow him to start another school and that Sophia is engineering Partridge’s marriage to Molly Seagrim.
Mrs. Partridge is the schoolmaster’s suspicious, mean-spirited wife. She testifies against him when he is accused of being Tom’s father, although she has no real evidence of his guilt. As a result of this, she and her husband are both reduced to poverty, and she soon dies of smallpox.
Black George Seagrim
Called Black George because he has a black beard, George begins the story as the gamekeeper at Allworthy’s estate. When all the other members of Allworthy’s household turn against Tom, Black George is his only friend. Tom, in turn, is a friend to George, going so far as to steal food for his family.
George loses his job with Allworthy because of some mischief that Tom had encouraged him in. Tom takes all the blame himself and begs Allworthy to retain George, but fails to help his friend. Later, though, Tom succeeds in getting Squire Western to hire George, and George accompanies Western to London.
George rewards Tom’s loyalty by stealing the money Squire Allworthy gives Tom the night he leaves Allworthy’s house. When Tom discovers this near the end of the novel, George flees, and Tom allows George’s family to keep the money.
Molly is Black George’s daughter. Tom sleeps with her and considers abandoning Sophia for her when Molly becomes pregnant and Tom thinks the child is his. He decides, finally, to give Molly money instead of his love. When he goes to her house to tell her this, he finds the tutor Square in her bedroom and then learns from her sister that Molly’s pregnancy is most likely the result of her encounter with yet another man. Tom finds all of this amusing and is relieved to be free of obligation to Molly.
At the end of the novel, the narrator relates that Sophia is doing her best to arrange Molly’s marriage to Mr. Partridge.
Mr. Thomas Square
Square is one of Tom and Master Blifil’s two tutors. Like his counterpart, Thwackum, Square is an adversary of Tom and an ally of Master Blifil in all things. Near the end of the novel, Square, on his deathbed, writes a letter to Allworthy in which he repents of his ill treatment of Tom and even details some occasions on which Tom was falsely blamed.
Square is a deist, while Thwackum is an Anglican, and the two are constantly engaged in philosophical and theological debate. This ongoing debate mirrors that which was occurring throughout England at the time Fielding wrote.
Rev. Roger Thwackum
Thwackum, one of Tom and Master Blifil’s tutors, is also an Anglican clergyman and a selfrighteous bigot. Like his fellow tutor, Mr. Square, Thwackum looks for any excuse to punish or denigrate Tom (he has a special fondness for corporal punishment), while he favors Master Blifil, who appears to be Allworthy’s heir.
See Jenny Jones
Mrs. Western is Squire Western’s sister, Lady Bellaston’s cousin, and Sophia’s aunt. She is not married and acts as a surrogate mother to Sophia and in some ways as a surrogate wife to the squire. She is more concerned with appearances and social status than with Sophia’s happiness, and, in the brawl over whom Sophia will marry, Mrs. Western supports the lewd Lord Fellamar.
Sophia is the beautiful daughter of Squire Western and a friend of Tom’s from childhood. Tom’s pursuit of her is the central thread of the story. Sophia loves him but is understandably put off by his lusty adventures. Although she cuts him off more than once, she is finally convinced of his readiness to love only her. When all other obstacles to their union have been overcome, Sophia finally agrees to marry Tom.
Scholars generally believe that Fielding based Sophia on his own beloved and beautiful wife, who died before he wrote the book.
Western is Allworthy’s neighbor and Sophia’s father. While he loves his daughter, he shows that he loves other things more, especially money and hunting, and quite possibly liquor. When Sophia runs away from home to avoid marrying Blifil, Western goes after her but gives up his search for her when he runs across a hunting party and decides that it is too nice a day to forgo a hunt. He is determined to marry Sophia off to Master Blifil as long as Blifil is Allworthy’s heir, in spite of her understandable dislike for him. As soon as Tom becomes the heir, Western changes his alliance.
In the end, Western gives his estate to Sophia so that she and Tom can live there, and he himself moves to a place where the hunting is better. He is, however, a doting grandfather to Sophia and Tom’s children.
Deborah is Bridget’s lady-in-waiting. She sees herself as the manager of Allworthy’s household. It is Deborah whom Allworthy sends out into the village to discover the identity of Tom’s mother, and Deborah wastes no time in catching up on the local gossip and in using it to reach a conclusion about Tom’s parentage.