Henry Fielding · Tom Jones
According to the scholar John Mullan, even readers who know Fielding's novel well will struggle with the above question, without recourse to the book. One can see why Tom's paternity should be something of a poser. The crucial information is held back until the very last pages and then passed over quickly. Maternity is something else. That young Jones is Bridget Allworthy's offspring will be picked up early by astute readers. It is implicit in Miss Allworthy's instant partiality for the foundling -- a partiality which continues even after she has a legitimate child of her own (whom she evidently hates as his father's son) -- and her refusal to join in the persecution of Jenny Jones. Fielding sows a number of such hints in the early chapters. But the author tantalizingly withholds the identity of Tom's father -- even from the characters themselves at crucial junctures. It was, as Jenny tells Mr Allworthy, always Bridget's intention 'to communicate it to you'. But when she sends her deathbed confession via Dowling, it is frustrating (particularly for Blifil, who intercepts the message) that Bridget does not, even on the brink of eternity, name Tom's father. 'She took me by the hand,' Dowling recalls, 'and as she delivered me the letter, said, "I scarce know what I have written. Tell my brother Mr Jones is his nephew. -- He is my son. -- Bless him," says she, and then fell backward, as if dying away. I presently called in the people, and she never spoke more to me, and died within a few minutes afterwards' (p. 840). Her son, and who else's?
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Publication information: Book title: The Literary Detective:100 Puzzles in Classic Fiction. Contributors: John Sutherland - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 265.
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