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In the first chapter, we are told that a period of twelve years has elapsed. This is a common narrative device when the author skips a certain part of history in order to hurry on the story or simply when nothing very important develops during the skipped time.
In the previous books, the narrative had moved forward but not much attention was paid to little incidents. In this book, we see this trend changing. We are introduced to young Tom, who is the hero of this story. We also meet the boy who is closest to being an antagonist in this narrative and that is Blifil, Captain Blifil's son. Young Tom is naughty and wild, but at the same time he is decent and large-hearted. Blifil might be sober and pious, but hidden beneath this is a vicious and selfish heart.
An incident involving Black George is recounted. Tom and the gamekeeper trespass into the neighbor's territory while chasing a covey of partridges. Tom is caught while the gamekeeper manages to hide in some bushes. We can see the largeness of Tom's heart in his reluctance to reveal the fact that the gamekeeper too was involved. They both know that this could cost the gamekeeper his job and living. It is through small incidents such as this that the narrator is able to build the traits of the characters.
We meet Thwackum, one of Tom's tutors and do not like him too much. He is conceited and unnecessarily cruel to Tom. He loses no opportunity to give Tom a good thrashing, even though it is undeserved most of the times.
Square and Thwackum are outlined for us and we are told right in the beginning that they are objects of derision more than anything else. Neither has the generosity of spirit and both are hypocritical and false. We see that very few characters in Fielding's story are good and noteworthy. Many are petty and evil.
Blifil and Tom are further contrasted in their contradictory behavior. While Blifil uses manipulative arts to win over people, Tom is very straightforward in his approach and cannot be false. This is seen in their respective behavior to their tutors. Blifil wins them over with flattery; Tom does not show them respect when he does not feel it. We later learn more reasons that explain why the tutors are more partial to Blifil, over Tom.
The characters of the children as seen here continue in the same note, as they grow older. It is a pity that the Squire is late in realizing Blifil's true nature, but if this wasn’t the case the story would have not have developed and reached the interesting and climactic heights it does. Fielding is indeed a good painter of diverse characters that together create the variety that is Human Nature. All this while, he has remained true to his theme and we see that he will continue in the same vein.