Comment on the plot construction of the novel Tom Jones.
Introduction: Henry Fielding is believed to be the first English writer to consciously use a plot to structure his narrative. For the first time, he showed extraordinary architecture and made a definite plan for his description. Fielding is like a master of the house who shows his visitor around and takes him where he thinks he needs to be taken. Fielding shows his mastery of plot construction in the novel “Tom Jones.”
The design of the plot: Events have an organic unity to develop the plot of the novel. Characters create situations, and situations affect characters. Tom Jones represents a consummate skill in construction. The novel consists of eighteen books. Each book is again divided into three parts. The first six books are limited to Tom’s life in the countryside. The second six books devote themselves to Tom’s journey. The last six books deal with Tom’s life in London. It is observed that two anomalies are placed symmetrically before and after the novel structural middle.
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Waiting for the ending time but not ending: The plot is created in such a way that the hidden news can end the story instantly. Tom meets three persons his way, one after the other. All of them know something about his birth. From Partridge, Tom learns that Partridge is not his father. From Jenny Jones, Tom learns that she is not his mother. Advocate Dowling knew fully about the parentage of Tom, but he did not reveal the fact. The interlinked and interconnected incidents add to the unity of the plot structure.
Characters relevant to the story: Fielding shows skill in handling his characters and adding their importance to the development of the plot. No character is introduced for its own sake. Most characters have a relevant part in the story structure. Tom Jones is said to be a comic epic, but the characters are never presented as mere comic appendages. Everyone has their role. The plot movements of Tom Jones follow the curve characterization of comedy plots. It moves the hero from low fortune to high fortune.
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Consistent style of narration: The novel achieves its unity through Fielding’s moral vision, which governs the entire movement and design. Fielding called Tom Jones a comic epic in prose. Tom Jones’ style is consistently comic, satirical, and ironic. Ironic style best suited his purpose.
Limitations on plot construction: Tom Jones has been highly praised by some critics for the perfection of plot construction. But some recent critics have not been prepared to overlook the possible shortcomings like Hillman’s and Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s accounts. Modern critics fail to see much relevance of this digression to the movement of the story. Tom Jones is involved in several coincidences. Indeed, some of them are too neat to be easily believed. The ending of the story is a bit rushed and abrupt. The narrative is rather compressed and confusingly put together in the last pages.
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Conclusion: Despite some flaws, Fielding’s skill in plot construction has been highly praised by most past and present critics. His mastery of plot construction develops the store of English literature, especially the novel.