Marriage Issues in Tom Jones
Throughout Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, there are many examples of marriage. There is Squire Western’s marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s marriage, the mentions of Allworthy’s wife, the marriage of Nightengale and Nancy, and the marriage of Nightengale’s cousin and the clergyman, and finally the marriage of Tom and Sophia. Some of these marriages end with a happy ending and some do not and we, the reader, are supposed to look at these marriages and see why they went wrong or why they are good. Through all these examples of marriage, Fielding is urging us to question the current institution of marriage and what it is based on.
Fortune is a big issue in the book, especially when marriage is involved. Squire Western’s wife’s father married her off to the Squire against her will because of his fortune, and she became more of his servant than his wife. He treated her badly and they ended up hating each other. Mr. Fitzpatrick also married his wife for her money, which is made evident by the letter sent to Mr. Fitzpatrick by Sam Cosgrave concerning Mr. Fitzpatrick’s debt and Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s “ready money” (379). Mr. Fitzpatrick and Mrs. Fitzpatrick grew to resent each other, he treated her horribly, and he spent all of her money. Using these examples, Fielding challenges the reader to question if money should be the foundation of marriage.
Squire Western’s marriage is prearranged by the Squire and Mrs. Western’s father (just as he would like to do for Sophia). It was a tradition in this time for marriages to be prearranged by the parents according to fortune, title, etc. Women had no voice in whom they were to marry and the marriage became more of a t…
… Injustice and Oppression…”(575) and he likewise says in the book that no one should be married to each other except on the basis of love. Fielding is trying to get the point across to the readers that marriage should be based on love, not fortune, estate, or prearrangement.
In this book fielding gives the reader examples of how a marriage can be if it is prearranged with fortune in mind or how it can be when it is based on love. He challenges the reader to question the current institution of marriage and all it’s faults. He, then, suggests a happy alternative through love. In this book fielding is challenging his readers to think about the world around them and about issues such as injustice in marriage and oppression of women through marriage.
Fielding, Henry. The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling. London: Penguin, 1966.