Literary Analysis Essay on Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

Published: 2021-08-18
885 words
4 pages
8 min to read
Sewanee University of the South
Type of paper: 
Literature review
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The novel Tom Jones by Henry Fielding presents two themes in a very explicit way. The characters in the film suggest the different elaborations of the different themes that exist throughout the text. However, in one instance in chapter 7, the author succeeds to question Toms characters and criticize it for being both good and bad while advising him to change some of the aspects of his personal character. The instance in which this happens, the reader is brought to light to two themes that exist in the novel which include morality and social education. The novel portrays the theme of morality in different ways while the theme of social education is upheld in the mannerisms of the characters as they go about their daily lives. The theme of morality and social education seem to have been well elaborated throughout the novel as they guide the characters on their conduct and behavior while in public and throughout life so as to ensure they adhere to the principles of good manners and morality.

Throughout the text, it is evident that the characters have different notions of what morality and social education are. This is well illustrated when Allworthy talks to Tom, he mentions of what is good in Toms character and what is bad. He also goes on to mention what Tom should change and what he should keep ensuring that his characters are suitable for the society. In view of the words of advice and criticism that Allworthy says to Tom, the reader is exposed to the theme of morality. Allworthys definition of morality is guided by two defining principles. According to Allworth, there are two distinct ways in which one can find himself or herself to be immoral. These include villainy and imprudence. The explanation of the two aspects of immorality is very different with regard to the text.

On the one hand, imprudence refers to the acts of doing things in an excessive manner. After all, the idea behind the moral behavior is the aspects of moderation. Allworthy mentions that Tom is an imprudent individual. Tom goes on to conduct most of the aspects of his life excessively. For instance, tom drinks too much spend too much money and have sex too much. In view of the above activities in Toms life, Allworthy considers his behavior to be immoral. As such, Toms immoral behavior gets him into situations that require help or assistance which enhances the perception of imprudence in his character.

Villainy, on the other hand, refers the dark side of an individual. The most prominent type of Villainy mentioned or depicted in the novel is that of Mr Blifil. According to Allworthy, villainy is far much worse than immorality and has a far much lasting effect on ones character that is considered to be permanent. Villainy is depicted as the connection to ones evil side, and once such a connection has been made, it becomes very hard for it to be broken. The problem with villainy is that it becomes a permanent component of ones character. There is, therefore, no greater or serious problem than villainy.

On the same note, the theme of social education is depicted in many ways in the novel. Most of the characters are an illustration of the presence of or lack of social education. Ideally, social education has a significant impact on ones moral behavior in the society. As such, when Allworthy talks to Tom in chapter 7 of the Novel, he tries to impact social education in character. He alludes that Toms character lacks some aspects of social education that are bound to refine his personal behavior to be accepted in the society. Social education is, therefore, an important aspect of the themes of the novel. Furthermore, the theme of morality and social education seem to intertwine with each other throughout the novel as they guide the conduct of various characters by defining them as immoral or moral in the eyes of the society. Therefore, morality exists due to the presence of social education while immorality persists due to lack of social education. This perspective has been sufficiently supported throughout the novel by the characters conduct and words and teachings of otherwise and knowledgeable characters such as Allworthy.

In a nutshell, the theme of morality and social education guide the many themes that exist in the novel. Furthermore, these two themes appear to be important in the novel as they pass on an important message to the reader, one that entails the teachings of the proper conduct of one according to the norms of the society. However, it is also important to note that Allworthy depicted that it is upon oneself to change his or her character to make sure it befits the society he or she lives in. Consequently, ones character defines ones level of morality and social education. This illustrates that socially acceptable conduct is a mixture of the mannerisms of an individual resulting from his character and social teachings imparted to him that have shaped significant aspects of his character.


Fielding, Henry. 1938. The history of Tom Jones. London: Dent and Sons.

Gale, Cengage Learning. 2016. A Study Guide for Henry Fielding's" Tom Jones". Gale, Cengage Learning.

Konig, Eva. "Tom Jones and Narrative (Il) legitimacy." In The Orphan in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, pp. 39-49. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2014.

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