Central Themes Of Tom Jones Essays

Central Themes Of Tom Jones Essays

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One of the central themes in Tom Jones deals with the conflict between parental authority and individual choice in matters of love and marriage. As a related topic, I'm looking to explore the ways in which Fielding portrays the relationship and dialectic between love and free will. I intend to show that when ideas of love are conveyed or emotionally expressed by certain characters in the novel toward others, they are accompanied by, and frequently interconnected with, the question of autonomy and self-determination. Furthermore, Fielding's treatment of the ideas of love and personal freedom, through the behavior and language of the characters in the novel, underpins another of the central themes: that marital felicity is as dependent on mutual affection and harmony as it is on familial and monetary considerations. There is also a suggestion in the novel that "true love" is somewhat disconnected from free will. I'll show how I'm trying to work out this idea in one of the paragraphs from my paper below.
Throughout the novel there are instances in which Sophia is treated as a sounding board for expressions and ideas of love. She is the perpetually the object of romantic, sexual, and/or paternal love. I intend to support the above thesis partly by exploring these instances. For example, the narrator of Tom Jones, with characteristic magisterial authority, states that Squire Western loves his daughter. However, a good portion of the story primarily involves him in a quest to exert his unmitigated power over her. By examining this situation one may see how parental love is conditional on, or at least intertwined with, the submission of Sophia to the will of her father. It may be even be inferred that love as such is a bane to pers...


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...erms a "Jewel" and a "Reward"(510). Lady Bellaston adds that Sophia is "a most delicious Girl"(515). Such language certainly conveys the sinister quality of their designs, and yet it also reflects the real way in which both view love. To them it is primarily the desire for the acquisition of a thing, and the whole episode illustrates the demeaning and perverse nature of such a point of view. In this sense, the act of rape is represented as an unmistakable gesture of contempt toward one's individual dignity and volition. Throughout the narrative Sophia refuses the idea of marrying against her fathers will, yet she also reserves the freedom to reject any proposal she finds undesirable, or odious. The plot between Lady Bellaston and Lord Fellamar is a direct threat to this freedom, as they seek to usurp Sophia's prerogative to govern a fundamental aspect of her own life.

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