Moral Teaching in Fielding's Tom Jones

Powerful Essays
Moral Teaching in Fielding’s Tom Jones

Abstract
This essay aims to explore Henry Fielding’s art of moral teaching in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, as the author originally entitled it. In his writing, Fielding does not try to create utterly good or evil characters; instead, he simply depicts them as what they are. For example, he treats Tom Jones as a simple-minded human being who errs at times. The story, though treated in this way, is as a matter of fact written with a deliberate purpose, which is to teach moral lessons in the form of burlesques.
In addition, to achieve the purpose of moral teaching and to make the story colorful and dramatic, Fielding employs such skills as authorial intrusion, mock-heroic style, and irony. With authorial intrusion, Fielding engages his readers in the evaluations of moral judgments. With irony and mock-heroic style, Fielding not only offers himself chances to play with his lively humor, but he also creates chances for his readers to assess the characters. Thus, it is fair to say that the core of Tom Jones is a parade of human nature. Everything else in the plot revolves around this core.

I. The moral tone
Henry Fielding began his career as a playwright, a journalist, and a lawyer. He accidentally became a novelist because of the closure of the theaters in London. The skills which he gained from his former dramatic works enabled him to adeptly handle intricate plots of his novels, such as colorful dialogue and vivid action. Among half a dozen novels, Fielding is best remembered for his Tom Jones. Thackeray, a Victorian novelist, exclaimed that the plot of Tom Jones was a perfect one (Johnson 95). Coleridge, a Romantic poet, even regarded the plot of Tom Jones as one of the three most perfectly planned plots in the history of literature (Coleridge 521). And it is safe to say that the publication of this novel, at least, drove the eighteenth century fiction almost to the midway of that century (Mckillop 118).



Cited: Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “A Table Talk,” The Complete Works. Ed. W. G. T. Shedd. Vol. 4. London, 1856. Cross, Wilbur L. The Development of the English Novel. London: Macmillan, 1907. Fielding, Henry. Tom Jones. Ed. Sheridan Baker. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973. Guerin, Wilfred L. et. al. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature, 3rd ed, New York: Oxford UP, 1992. Hutchens, Eleanor Newman. Irony in Tom Jones. Univeristy: U of Alabama P, 1967. Johnson, Maurice. Fielding’s Art of Fiction. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1961 Kettle, Arnold Knox, Norman. The Word Irony and Its Context. North Carolina, 1913. Magill, Frank N., ed. Masterpieces of World Literature. New York: Harper Collins, 1989. Mckillop, Alan Dugald. The Early Masters of English Fiction. Kansas: U of Kansas P, 1956. Stephen, Martin. English Literature: a student guide. 3rd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2000.

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