Book 3 Chapter 5 of Tom Jones.

This is part of an ongoing project in which I will record and post one chapter per week of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones over the course of four years.

This week, we learn a little bit about what makes young Blifil tick. Apparently, he's gained the favor of both Square and Thwackum, who both hate each other. His secret? Agree with whatever Square says when Square is around, agree with whatever Thwackum says when he's around, and shut up when they're both around. We also learn a bit about why Allworthy has hired two so combatively antagonistic men to educate his two "children."

But the real meat of this story is in the discovery that Tom has been protecting Black George the gamekeeper all along, and George's dismissal from Allworthy's service. Once again, the wisdom of the mob shines through, and they all pity Black George (despite despising him before he was fired) and praise Tom Jones, while considering Blifil an untrustworthy fink. Of course, both Square and Thwackum side against Tom Jones, despite Square acknowledging that Tom's behavior has the ring of virtue, but it's all toward the telling of a lie, and therefore immoral (so perhaps Square's a proto-Kantian).

Another bit of errata: this book begins with Tom being "about fourteen years of age," but in this chapter, Blifil is sixteen. Since there really hasn't been enough action to merit two years of time (and also Blifil should be around one year younger than Tom), one has to wonder what Fielding was up to. With a book as full of complex relationships as this one, you'd think he'd have a better handle on the age of his main character from chapter to chapter.

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AuthorMark Turetsky