The formal well-organized structure of The History of Tom Jones contributes greatly to the intricate plot inside, and the novel as an overall piece of work. Henry Fielding contrived the blueprint of the book in its many clearly separated segments extremely well, making it equally as important as the plot. Tom Jones is deliberately and clearly divided into its separate parts. Through these parts he is capable of paralleling two types of stories in one single novel, along with bringing forth symmetries and balances in the division, and in the setting and plot.
Broken down, Tom Jones consists of 18 books each introduced with an opening essay. This 18 book format imitates the standard form of an epic.
“Its 18 books-the total number alludes to the number of books in…a moralized continuation of Homer’s Odyssey, and thus marks Fielding’s novel, too, as a journey novel in the Odysseyan tradition-are arranged in a system of complex symmetries in accordance with ancient epic practice…” (Brooks-Davies).
These 18 books are then broken further into 3 sections to reflect the 3 major parts of Tom’s journey. This structure specifically allows for balance and symmetry to occur.
Reading through Tom Jones once, one draws lines between a few seemingly related details. Upon a closer examination, it is discovered that these relations are made
intentionally and purposefully. The 18 books are grouped into the 3 parts of the journey: the first grouping of 6 books take place at home in the country, the second grouping on the road, and the last grouping in London (Brooks-Davies). This setup or format allows for two forms of story to be brought into one genre. Tom Jones is generally regarded as a comedy, but inside of this it is also the standard epic journey novel and a romance at the same time.
First, we’ll look at Tom’s journey. It consists of 3 parts that correspond the 3 sections in the book. “…three sets of six books deal respectively with Tom’s upbringing in the country and expulsion by his Uncle Allworthy; his journey to London; and his experiences in London and return home,” (Brooks-Davies). The first part (Books I-VI) taking place at home in the country. This sets up the journey. Tom finds a home with Mr. Allworthy, grows up, and is banished fro...
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... Coleridge called Tom Jones “one of the most perfect plots ever planned,” (Bender). Henry Fielding’s high level of structure and wonderful organization added greatly to the intricate plot inside, and the overall piece of writing. He keeps numerous and structured plots and subplots going at once, and makes them collide in fascinating ways. Dorothy Van Ghent put it perfectly when she said, “We may think of Tom Jones as a complex architectural figure, a Palladian palace perhaps…The structure is all out in the light of intelligibility; air circulates around and over it and through it.”
Bender, John. “Tom Jones.”
FortuneCity. 14 November 2003.
Brooks-Davies, Douglas. “Tom Jones: Overview” in Reference Guide to English
Literature, 2nd ed., edited by D.L. Kirkpatrick, St. James Press, 1991.
Ghent, Dorothy Van. “On ‘Tom Jones’,” in her The English Novel: Form and Function.
Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1953, pp. 65-81.
Hartwick, Cynthia. “Tom Jones.”
LikesBooks: Review of Tom Jones. 14 November 2003.
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