Wednesday, October 07, 2009

History of Tom Jones, A Foundling

I read this book by Henry Fielding several months ago, but it merits a spot on this humble blog. It chronicles the adventures of Tom Jones, an infant orphan who is adopted by the local rich guy. As he becomes an adult, he is both part of the upper class (because of his adopted father) and an outsider (because of his shady origins). Tom falls in love with the neighboring local rich guy's daughter, but his being an orphan prevents any easy wedding for them.

Tom eventually gets thrown out of the house, and has various adventures while trying to stay alive and fed. His lady love, Sophia, tries to find him but can't, then he tries to find her but can't, then they all find each other 400 pages later in London. The book was pretty good and quite funny, and even though it dragged in a few parts, I recommend it.

I enjoy reading classics such as this, although it is often difficult to evaluate them properly since I do not know all of the historical context. For example, I read in a review that this book had one of the three best novel plots of all time, but I don't think it's plot was as good as, e.g., The Life of Pi or The Master of Ballantrae. It is basically just a romantic intrigue that could be written by any number of writers these days. But then when I consider that it made "a crucial contribution to the development of the novel as a unified narrative structure held together by a coherent authorial vision," the book becomes much more impressive. It would be handy to have a class or Cliffs Notes to help give me some perspective, both in terms of the book's impact on writing as well as the roots of its biting social commentary.

There are a couple more interesting things to note about this book. 1) The women frequently amused me because of how quickly they forgave the fellas. At one point, Sophia finds out that Tom has been getting overly intimate with the area's most prominent lady of the evening, and is justifiably angry. After about 1.3 minutes of soothing and apologizing, though, she is ready to put it all in the past. 2) The presence of the aforementioned scarlet woman, and frequent depiction of sex and alcohol abuse, evidently caused quite an uproar when this book came out. According to Barnes and Noble, people thought that this book was so evil and inappropriate that it caused earthquakes and other natural disasters.

1 comment:

Mom said...

When was Tom Jones, a Foundling, published? I love that title!

May I make a recommendation to your book-loving readers? I just finished reading, Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron, and it was delightful. You certainly don't have to be a librarian to enjoy it, but especially if you are a cat-lover, I think you will love the book.