After enjoying things so much last week, I hate to see things slip downward again this week–but I do understand why Fielding’s doing what he’s doing (at least I think I do). But yawn. It’s not that it was bad, it’s just the kind of thing that you need to read to establish one or more things so that future chapters/events will be interesting and make sense. It wouldn’t have occurred to me at all to evaluate these chapters if it weren’t for my reading schedule making them the only things I had to read.
We start with a long disclaimer/apology from Fielding for some of his content about religion/religious people–he’s not trying to focus on the failings of the religious or the virtuous, he says. On the contrary, those who come off poorly in his writing have a lack of real religion or virtue (despite their claims) and that’s what he’s highlighting. Whether or not this is sincere on his part I don’t know (I could probably read a lot about that if I cared to), but I like the approach, and it seems to apply to those we have seen/will see in these pages.
Basically, there’s an altercation between Master Blifil and Tom, resulting in Blifil getting his nose bloodied. To draw attention away from the fact that he provoked Tom, Blifil rats him out on some of the details of Tom’s earlier hijinks (recounted as evidence that he’s the sort “born to be hanged”). Tom had refused to name his accomplices at the time, but Blifil spilled the beans. Thwackum takes this as a sign of virtue in Blifil and proof of Tom’s hooligan status. Mr. Allworthy, on the other hand, sees honor in Tom’s refusal and commends it–but even better for Tom (I imagine), this act earns him a lot of fans within the servants.
The widowed Mrs. Blifil picks up a couple of other suitors, who misreading the situation, go out of their way to prefer her son to Tom and target him for condemnation. But all the while, her affections toward Tom grow and grow.
That’s the chapters in a nutshell, not a lot actually happens. I get the impression that Master Blifil is going to be a pain in Tom’s side in the way rich, preppy kids are to plucky middle/lower-class protagonists in 80’s movies. Not a lot happens, but I’m willing to bet all this comes up later. If not in the next chapter, soon enough.