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In the first chapter, Fielding discusses the ‘serious’ in writing and for what purpose it is introduced.
Tom is visited by many during his confinement in bed. Square and Thwackum lecture him, while Squire Western is the most frequent visitor. Tom spends some time with Sophia as she plays music. He notices her attention towards him and starts getting drawn to her too.
But, Tom reasons in his mind that even if Sophia likes him her father will not consent to the match. He is also torn by his obligations to Molly. He decides to remove Sophia from his thoughts but is not able to succeed.
Mrs. Honour tells Tom that Sophia gives special attention to the old muff that he had kissed. Sophia now wears only that muff and when her father throws it in the fire, she retrieves it. Tom once again starts getting influenced by Sophia’s charm, beauty and goodness.
Tom’s concern is that by pursuing Sophia he will be guilty of leading Molly into distress. One day he goes to visit Molly but discovers Square in her bed. Tom is surprised and Molly does not know what to do. We learn how Square had pursued Molly. Tom leaves Molly but says that he will still help her.
One of Molly’s sisters Betty removes Tom’s guilt by telling him that one Will Barnes and not Tom, had been the first seducer of Molly. She adds that the child Molly is pregnant with might be Will’s. Betty in turn had loved Will.
Tom still remains worried about his love for Sophia and feels that it might never find attainment. While he is coping with his conflicting feelings, Sophia notes his disposition. One day, Sophia and Tom meet in the garden by chance. They are along together and Tom is very awkward in front of Sophia. Sophia and Tom head back to the former’s house. Both are shaken by this chance meeting.
When Tom is in his bed, different people visit him for myriad purposes. Square and Thwackum use this opportunity to lecture him on morality. They are self-serving hypocrites and play the part of the ‘disliked’ persons quite well. Blifil is another diplomatic creature. He visits Tom rarely and when he does he is patronizing. He expresses hope that Tom shall reform himself. Squire Western is fond of Tom and his visits are more genuine than the others. Because of the accident Tom gets to see more of Sophia. We now note how the attraction between the two increases and Tom falls deeper in love. He cannot resist Sophia’s charms in proximity to her. Sophia also cannot hide her affections and Tom is quick to note them.
Tom has to wrestle with a scorpion though and that is the scorpion of doubts in love. While he loves Sophia he realizes that the match would not be approved by either Squire Allworthy, or by Squire Western. He is also worried about his promise to Molly of being true to her. He is scared to think that she might stand ruined because of him. Tom is a scrupulous man who does not lack heart. This is one of the qualities that makes him the ‘hero’ of the novel.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Honour plays cupid for Tom and Sophia. She encourages the two by telling each the affection that the other had shown for his/her person. Tom’s doubts regarding Molly are laid to rest in chapter six. We learn that Molly is also having an affair with Square. For all his talk about morality, Square too is a man of regular passions. On seeing Molly’s beauty and on learning that she has already been soiled, Square pursues and then attains her. Tom actually finds Square in Molly’s room. We as readers, have a very low opinion of Square’s actions. Molly’s sister also tells Tom that he is not the first person to have slept with Molly. Molly’s first lover had been a country lover. Tom must be happy to know that Molly is pregnant with Will’s child not his own.
Tom now is constantly thinking about Sophia. But his feelings for her are soured by the social distance between them. Thus Tom and Sophia’s romantic affair begins. One day, when the couple bumps into each other at the garden, Tom is very awkward. We wonder at the delicacy of the two that when they meet like this, they can hardly support themselves. This delicacy makes us wonder if their description has been exaggerated. But now there is no doubt that the feeling of ‘love’ has taken complete possession of both Tom and Sophia.