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Published: 14-12-2019

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The Values and Virtues Of the Man On The Hill In The Novel Tom Jones

Although Fielding’s Tom Jones isn’t written in an totally linear style, by far the lengthiest of his digressions, and seemingly the least relevant to the plot, is the episode in which Tom meets the Man of the Hill. A misanthropic hermit whose unlucky early life caused him to abandon all efforts to stay a part of society, his pessimistic view of man’s possible for great and self-imposed isolation stand in direct opposition to the complex moral method and engagement with others that Tom represents. Just as Fielding makes use of figures like Thwackum to criticize the use of a religious front to mask the absence of actual goodness, the Man of the Hill’s choice to stand apart from the world and look down on it disapprovingly, much like a God figure, holds him back from self-examination and improvement. By serving as a foil to Tom, the Man of the Hill and his simplified view of humanity permit Fielding to criticize previous conceptions of morality, and clarify his own much more complicated approaches.

The Man of the Hill’s views on humanity and morality, as well as the causes behind his choice to leave society and live an isolated life, are created explicit as he tells his story. When he explains his initial encounters with the study of religion, it becomes clear that he views humanity as fundamentally significantly less moral than the perfect set forth in Christian texts, telling Tom of his admiration for “that Divine wisdom which is alone to be located in the Holy Scriptures for they impart to us the knowledge and assurance of items considerably much more worthy our attention than all which this world can provide to our acceptance” (385). He goes on to further clarify his selection to reside apart from humanity, saying “I have only escaped [the madness of humanity] by living alone, and at a distance from that contagion” (392). Even though Tom disagrees with the Man’s assertion that humanity is, at its core, immoral, the Man repeats his belief that, “human nature is everywhere the identical, everywhere the object of detestation and scorn” (395). By way of the Man of the Hill’s story, Fielding sets up an extreme religious viewpoint on morality, which he proceeds to contradict with Tom’s a lot more nuanced personality and opinions.

The authorial selection to counterpoise Tom and the Man of the Hill tends to make sense mainly simply because of their similarly difficult backgrounds. The former, despite benefiting from Allworthy’s kindness, had to contend with Blifil, Thwackum, and Square all through his childhood. The latter also seems to lack a strong connection with his family he describes his mother as an “arrant vixen” and notes that his father refused to lend him income right after he was expelled from school (367). Both males are portrayed as having been troublemakers when they had been younger—Tom’s exploits are recounted at length in the book, and the Man of the Hill tells him about having gambled, stolen, and finally been sent to jail just before he could graduate from college. Due to these similarities, Fielding can use Tom’s differing philosophies to contradict and point out the errors in the religious and pessimistic way of thinking that the Man of the Hill advocates. Furthermore, although this comparison is produced less explicit, Fielding also reveals a stark difference among how Tom and the Man of the Hall act with regards to their own previous indiscretions. Even though Tom ultimately learns to take duty and make amends for his immoral actions, the Man alternatively tends to ascribe his actions as really becoming the fault of other folks around him. When Tom ultimately returns house to Allworthy by the book’s close, he tells him, “I have had time to reflect on my past life… I can discern follies and vices more than enough to repent and to be ashamed of” (835). The Man of the Hill, on the other hand, does not appear to admit accountability to the identical degree, arguing that his misdeeds wouldn’t have occurred have been it not for his college pal Sir George, who “had a fantastic delight in destroying and ruining the youth of inferior fortune,” simply because “[the Man’s] reputation of diligence in [his] studies created [him] a desirable object of his mischievous intention (369). By the end of the novel, it is clear that Fielding intends this dialogue as a direct critique of moral and religious systems that views mankind as wholly very good or bad, hence discouraging the urge towards self-improvement and individual responsibility that Tom’s journey exemplifies.

As described earlier, Fielding’s inclusion of the Man of the Hill is a fairly lengthy digression from the all round plot of the novel—he isn’t described once more, and doesn’t actually seem to influence the series of events in any main way. Even so, when readers consider the author’s remedy of religion as a larger theme in the novel, this episode’s objective becomes a lot more clear—it tends to make more explicit the consequences of a misguided religious morality that are only hinted at through Fielding’s therapy of characters like Mr. Thwackum, the reverend. Thwackum has considerably in typical with the Man of the Hill, each in terms of religion and his opinion of mankind’s overall level of morality—upon his introduction, Fielding describes him as “[maintaining] that the human mind, since the fall, was absolutely nothing but a sink of iniquity, till purified and redeemed by grace” (82). As opposed to the Man of the Hill, nonetheless, Thwackum is not isolated and readers can both see and judge how his beliefs result in him to interact with other individuals. Fielding notes, “when [religion and virtue are] poisoned and corrupted with fraud, pretense, and affectation… they have enabled guys to perpetrate the most cruel mischiefs to their personal species” (85). Thwackum exemplifies this dilemma. Portrayed as vicious and hypocritical, he notably prefers Blifil to Tom. Following the incident in which Tom lies to shield Black George the gamekeeper, Thwackum beats him in order to get him to reveal the truth, rather than letting him go unpunished since of his benevolent motivations. Shortly soon after, Thwackum not only objects to Tom obtaining sold his horse to additional help Black George (because “the Almighty had marked some specific persons for destruction”), he recommends that Allworthy beat him for doing so (99). Once once more, Thwackum’s religion serves as a misguided and cruel replacement for a fair set of values. This method of morality, in which the truly great is sacrificed in favor of that which only seems great, is one particular that Fielding argues against throughout Tom Jones, in distinct during the Man of the Hill scene.

If Fielding is opposed to the notion that human nature is wholly negative, as well as the blind use of religion to mask personal failings whilst judging other people, what technique for figuring out morality does he attempt to advance? It is clear via his portrayal of Tom’s transformation from a disobedient foundling to Sophia’s redeemed husband, as effectively as passages of narration directed especially from Fielding to the reader, that he hopes to persuade his audience that mankind has no prescribed nature, and can exhibit each excellent and evil, however should conform to a particular set of societal expectations if he wants that inner morality to be recognized externally. Fielding begins to make this clear early in the text. Right after a discussion of how Thwackum and Square’s differing philosophies can probably be resolved towards a less erroneous approach to virtue, he notes, “we do not pretend to introduce any infallible characters into this history exactly where we hope practically nothing has been identified which hath never yet been observed in human nature” (91). Even Squire Allworthy, esteemed for his “goodness,” is led to make incorrect judgments precisely since of his really like for other folks. Due to Fielding’s insistence on realism in his portrayals of his characters, his contention that each and every figure in the story is flawed to some degree reflects a related view on humanity’s capacity for morality. In addition, he complicates his definition of virtue by acknowledging the possible for excellent acts to outcome in poor outcomes, saying, “if by virtue is meant (as I nearly think it ought) a particular relative top quality, which… appears as considerably interested in pursuing the excellent of others as its personal I can not so simply agree that this is the surest way to human happiness” (668). Finally, Fielding draws a distinction amongst inner goodness and its outer manifestation. He acknowledges the societal impulse to reward conformity and very good manners—“[t]he most formal appearance of virtue, when it is only an appearance, may… look to be rather significantly less commendable than virtue itself without having this formality but it will, nevertheless, be often a lot more commended” (515). By way of advice provided straight from the narrator to the reader, he expands upon this point by clearly instructing that, “[i]t is not adequate that your designs, nay, that your actions, are intrinsically good you have to take care that they appear so. If your inside be in no way so beautiful, you have to preserve a fair outdoors also” (96). Even a lot more strongly, he repeats, “no man can be good sufficient to enable him to neglect the guidelines of prudence nor will Virtue herself look stunning, unless she be bedecked with the outward ornaments of decency and decorum” (97). This brings the reader back to Fielding’s earlier point that virtue doesn’t automatically grant happiness. Rather, happiness can be achieved, as Tom Jones shows, by way of virtue that is accompanied by excellent manners. Then, not only will your inner need to help others and carry out very good deeds be happy, but your good manners will put you in a position to be noticed as moral by the globe, which will trigger society to grant you happiness within it. By means of the moral framework that Fielding’s narrative voice reveals, we can go on to examine the virtue of characters within Tom Jones in a way a lot closer to what the author likely intended.

Tom himself follows Fielding’s prescribed journey to virtue over the course of the book’s plot, transforming from problems generating child of indeterminate parentage to the much far more virtuous husband of Sophia. Clearly, he exhibits both very good and bad traits, in keeping with Fielding’s efforts towards realism. This is exemplified in the actions he takes to help Black George and his family. When he says, “I could not bear to see these poor wretches naked and starving… I could not bear it, sir upon my soul, I could not,” his motive to assist them is clearly deeply held and admirable in its generosity (98). Nevertheless, what would otherwise be a moral action (offering the hungry with food) is compromised by the lengths Tom goes to—stealing and lying about where the income and meals have come from. In this case, the morality of his choices is portrayed as dubious even though his internal motivations are moral, his actions disrupt the decorum of his household, which functions as a parallel to society as a whole. Fielding is cautious to note that, had been Tom not “deficient in outward tokens of respect,” he probably would meet with significantly less trouble from Thwackum (89). Even so, as Tom grows up, he conforms far more and more closely to what society expects from him. As soon as he is released from jail, the first aspect of his redemption is his reunion with Allworthy, which occurs simply because of a letter from Square, which reads, “When you lay upon your supposed deathbed, he was the only individual in the residence who testified any genuine concern… this young man has the noblest generosity of heart” (804). In this case, Fielding shows that Tom’s enjoy for Allworthy is not enough—his actions, which have been in keeping with what society expects from a single whose loved a single is ill, are what return him to Allworthy. Finally, not only is Tom legitimized as Allworthy’s heir, he is rescued from his state of unknown parentage via the revelation that Bridget Allworthy is his mother. This new, more acceptable location within society mirrors his new tendency to take duty for his actions, and focus on the social implications of his decisions rather than solely his moral motivations. Due to these individual adjustments, Tom can finally marry Sophia. In this way, Fielding confirms that his protagonist has succeeded in manifesting his inner goodness externally, which makes it possible for him to obtain happiness in a societally sanctioned way. Tom has finally overcome the difficulty that the Man of the Hill represents—the difficulty of becoming virtuous inside society, instead of virtuous to its exclusion.
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