Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Fielding insisted that his theme was 'human nature' and he exposes it in the various conflicts in the novel. Broadly, human nature refers to a mixture of animal instinct and human intellect. But at many occasions in the book its meaning tips to one side: tending to lean heavily toward 'animal instinct'. This is also because the animal and instinctive part of man is so frequently disguised or denied by the adoption of formal appearance. Instinctive drives are emphasized by the author as being an important, constituent of 'human nature'. Also, displayed in the narrative are the curious, sometimes beneficial, sometimes damaging uses of intelligence. Blifilís nature is inherently bad - an inheritance from a tenderly hypothetical mother and a brutally hypocritical father.
Nature in Tom, on the other hand, seems to be congenitally good though he had the same mother as Blifil and a father on whom we cannot speculate at all, as he is not described. Human nature - presented in the book is a balanced mixture of instinctive drives and feelings and intellectual predilections. It is not instinctive feeling alone; it is the human tendency to revert instinct by intellection. It may be altogether bad or altogether good. And, the ideal human nature would be a happy collaboration of instinct as well as intellect. It would mean neither the suppression of instinct by intellect nor a suppression of intellect by instinct. Tom himself is the apt representative of human nature though he has to learn with difficulty the appropriate balance between instinct and intellect. Tom yields frequently to instinct and in doing so exhibits the 'naturalness and therefore 'rightness' of instinct as a constituent of the personality. But, he also shows a remarkable absence of the useful social sense which we call discretion, a lack of which is damaging certainly to himself and a cause of confusion for others. On the other hand he also no fool - his proposal to Sophia at the end of the book, is conched in civilized, exquisite language. On the whole 'human nature' in Tom, in all its intricacies and difficulties and mistakes, is a splendid thing. It is fine and splendid because it is undisguised. It is unpretentious, unlike the pretentiousness of other characters. Nature is not fine and splendid but indecent and embracing when a man adopts a mask for appearance's sake and allows it to warp instinct. It is the incongruity between what a man might 'naturally' be and what he makes of himself by adopting a mark that gives human nature its variety funniness and breatherousnes. The indecency of 'nature' when it has been going around in a mask and the mask is suddenly ripped off is illustrated grossly when philosopher Square is exposed in bed with Molly. Square's mask of deistic theory corrupts his instinctive nature into the narrow channel of 'lust'.
Henry Fielding also represents 'human nature' beautifully in a variety of other minor characters - Molly Seagrim, Black George, Squire Allworthy, Bridget Allworthy, Jenny Jones and Partridge. In the process Fielding creates characters that represent a wide variety of human beings and their many emotions.
There is a unity of design in the many little incidents of the novel. One of the unifying factors is the pursuit motif. Tom is turned out of doors, Sophia follows him. She catches up with him in the inn at Upton but now the pursuit is reversed. From Upton it is Tom who pursues Sophia. Meanwhile Squire Western, has set out in pursuit of his daughter, and finally Square Allworthy and Blifil must go to London in pursuit of the Western and the scenes at Upton occur at the center of the story and it is here that we again pick up Partridge and Jenny Jones. It is at Upton also that the set of London characters first begins to appear with Mrs. Fitzpatrick and her husband as its representatives. Fitzpatrick is pursuing his wife. From the central scenes at Upton Inn; the novel pivots proud itself.
It is at Upton Inn, in the mathematical mid point of the story that, country and city - come together. The initial pursuit motif, beginning at the end of Book Sin, finishes its arabesque at the end of Book Eight again with nice mathematical balance when Tom reaches London and is enabled to meet Sophia. Now, it is Blifil who persues Sophia, so that eventually everyone winds up in London for the demovement. Fielding manages to gather many pursuing and pursued people together, in the proper places and at the proper times for intricate involvement and complicated infringe. All that can be said is that it must be a small world and that's why Fielding is so readily able to do this.
The pursuit motif is, then, not only a provision for comic situation but, as the immediate dynamics of action, is integral to the plot development.