Book 4 Chapter 8 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.

After last week's short chapter, this one is what students of the Classics call, "a real humdinger."

Where to begin? First off, the main action of the chapter involves a battle fought between Moll Seagrim and the congregation of her church, for the crime of wearing clothes above her station (presumably, in the mind of the mob, this means she thinks she's better than all of them). What makes this such a bizarre battle is that it's fought in the church's graveyard, and involves Molly fighting off her attackers with whatever weapons are at hand, namely a thigh bone and a skull!

Add to that, the carnivalesque combination of the high writing style (in this case, calling upon the Homerical Epic, complete with an invocation of the Muse) with the low status of the actors in the scene (country peasants fighting over a dress). When mixed in with the grotesque use of human remains, we get something truly special!

Also, I must make a note on accent, here. As you may or may not have noticed, I've been recording this novel with my normal American accent. It's not altogether appropriate for the material, but tough noogies. However, we come, in this chapter, to something new for this book: dialogue that is specifically written in a low dialect (mostly it comes down to Fielding substituting the letter "v" for the letter "f"). I've chosen to do these lines of dialogue in a more appropriate accent, as these lines are specifically marked as such. This will continue to a much greater extent in the next chapter of the book.

AuthorMark Turetsky