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 ina moralized continuation of Homers Odyssey, and thus marks Fieldings 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 Toms 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, well look at Toms journey. It consists of 3 parts that correspond the 3 sections in the book. three sets of six books deal respectively with Toms 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 from home.
The second part (Books VII-XII) is the journey on the road. In this part, Tom sets off on his journey and there is no interaction with Mr. Allworthy. Finally, the last part (Books XIII-XVIII) is the journey home and reconciliation. Tom finds a home with Mrs. Miller; she then helps to reconcile him with Mr. Allworthy and Sophia. Tom then goes home to the country as a changed man and starts a family with Sophia. Now, well look at Tom Jones on the romance level. Again, it is regarded as one of the greatest comedy novels of all time, but it also contains the now standard romance novel format.
I say now standard romance, because it was written right on the transition of the classical romance era and the newer literary form, the novel. The romance found within is structured, of course, like the rest of the novel. Basically, a romance consists of 3 movements: falling in love, separation, and reunion and reconciliation. In Henry Fieldings work, Sophia and Tom fall in love with each other as children. They are just as soon separated from each other only to be reunited as young adults, and both still in love with one another. Tom, being the rascal that he is, soon falls out of grace with Sophia.
As soon as Tom is once more respected enough by Sophia, they are again separated by the decision of a marriage between Sophia and Blifil, Toms evil half-brother. Tom and Sophia are further separated by Toms unjust banishment. This ends the first part of the romance structure, as well as the journey structure. Sophia pursues him to the Upton Inn, where she finds him in bed with Mrs. Waters, again, causing Tom to fall out of her grace. Sophia then flees Tom, and, of course, Tom pursues her. This ends the second part of the romance structure, while simultaneously ending the second part of the journey structure.
Tom meets Sophia through Lady Bellaston, but Sophia flees him again due to Toms infidelity with Lady Bellaston. The young couple is then reconciled by Western, Mrs. Miller, and Allworthy, and proceeds to marry and live happily ever after, a crucial factor in romances. This ends the story, the third part of the romance structure, and the third part of the journey structure. Thus the journey structure reflects Tom’s banishment and reconciliation with Allworthy, while the romance provides the story of Tom’s winning Sophia. The culmination of both the journey and the romance is the couple’s marriage and return to the country.
Fielding masterfully inserted organization, balance, and symmetry, while telling both of these classic stories in a comedic way (Hartwick). The importance of the structure has been proved, but structure alone is not the only reason for the experience Tom Jones offers. Balance and symmetry play a huge role in the story, as they are weaved into the structure with amazing craft. Balance is shown through the segments with the first and last books each containing 13 chapters. The most complicated part of the story, when everyones paths cross at the Upton Inn, is dead center in the middle of the story, being at chapters 9 and 10.
Balance and symmetry are further shown throughout the setting of the story. The Western and Allworthy estates balance each other in many ways. They are both owners of valuable estates, are squires, are widowed, and have sisters living with them. The Western estate is where Sophia resides. Her father is Squire Western, the owner. His sister, Sophias aunt, lives with them and is Sophias surrogate mother. Next door, the Allworthys family situation is very similar. Sophias balance, Tom, lives there and is born of Mrs. Bridget, while Mr. Allworthy, Mrs.
Bridgets brother and Toms uncle, is Toms surrogate father. Further, Tom closely resembles Squire Western, while Sophia resembles Squire Allworthy. Tom and Sophia both desire each other while disliking Blifil. Fielding made sure that almost every character and plot element is balanced in some way by another. Much of the plotting also contains these balances. This is best shown by Douglas Brooks-Davies: interpolated stories correspond to each other exactly: the Man of the Hills long tale in Book 8 (the second book of the central section of six books) is answered by Mrs.
Fitzpatricks in Book 11 (second from the end of the central block); this block opens with the Quakers tale of his aughter (Book 7, chapter 10) and concludes with the thematically relevant puppet show (Book 12, chapter 5). Another example would be when, in the London section of Tom Jones, Lady Bellaston hides behind a bed curtain while Mrs. Honour visits Tom. Later, Mrs. Honour hides behind the bed curtain while Lady Bellaston visits Tom. Achieving such balance and symmetry was an accomplishment, but all these details had to add up to the bigger picture.
Every single detail adds up to a chapter and every single chapter adds up to a book. The three books are combined to make the entire story. Creating a clear connection and coherence throughout a story is a difficult task even in much less organized works, yet Fielding was able to accomplish this with perfection. [The plot of Tom Jones is] elaborate not only in the sense that the book contains an immense number of episodes, but also in the sense that all these episodes are knit, as intimate cause and effect, into a larger single action obeying a single impulse from start to finish, (Ghent).
Fielding acquired such skills while working as a writer for the theater before he was a novelist. One of the readers strongest impressions is the handling of scene and act (the chapters may be thought of as scenes, a single book as an act) (Ghent). Every scene and act is governed by cause and effect, which is another method of structuring a storyline, a generally unstructured area of the novel. Fortune rules events in Tom Jones- -that chance which throws up even and counterevent in inexhaustible variety. Tom himself is a foundling, a child of chance, (Ghent). This displays Fieldings great organization even in a seemingly unorganized area.
The nineteenth century poet and critic Samuel Coleridge called Tom Jones one of the most perfect plots ever planned, (Bender). Henry Fieldings 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 perhapsThe structure is all out in the light of intelligibility; air circulates around and over it and through it.