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A Double Standard For Men And Women In Tom Jones

1342 words - 5 pages


For this project, I will be summarizing three different articles that pertain to the argument that there is an apparent double standard for what is acceptable behavior in men versus women in Tom Jones. In addition to summarizing these articles, I will also be adding my own views and comments throughout this paper.

The first article is by April London, entitled Controlling the Text: Women in Tom Jones. London begins by stating that Fielding uses a metaphor between property and women throughout the text in Tom Jones. She states that "Fielding plays with the multiple meanings of property, undercutting the equation of female and helplessness, to offer versions of power unconstrained by gender which are. . . contradicted by . . . Sophia's subordination [at] the novel's happy ending" (323). London argues that although Fielding seems to put aside the gender bias, he actually enforces it by the way his character Sophia changes at the end of the novel. I think this is an interesting observation that has some merit. London does a good job of providing examples to reinforce her argument.

London claims that throughout the novel Sophia steps over the bounds of authority in order to maintain her own integrity, something rather uncommon for women to do back in the 18th century. The most outright example of this, of course, is when Sophia refuses to marry Blifil and runs away after her father locks her in her room, intending to keep her there until the day of the wedding. London says that "the structure of authority . . . arose from property" (325) and that Sophia is testing her father's power of acquisition of that property. Because she decides to place herself in her aunt's care, Sophia takes control of her own life.

According to London, throughout most of this novel, the female characters sort of control the plot and course of action, which is really unusual for its time. Furthermore, a few of them, Lady Bellaston in particular, actually demonstrate assertiveness and determination, which is again, unusual for the time period. London states that "female power, although most richly evoked in negative terms as an expression of carnality, also has its positive embodiment in the person of Sophia" (329).

This seeming rise of feminine power stops abruptly, however, with Sophia's concession and marriage to Tom. According to London, "Sophia . . . is correspondingly diminished as she becomes part of the property relations that now define her husband" (331). She goes on to say that this development brings the 18th century values concerning land (and women through the use of the property metaphor) back into line: symmetry, stability, and continuity. London finishes by stating that in all of Fielding's novels, including Joseph Andrews, Amelia and Tom Jones, women are given power only so that they can later give it up through the ceding of their property to their male counterparts once the men have "revealed themselves as prudential" (331). She...

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