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 transaction of business than a union of love. But the examples the readers see of this kind of marriage lead us to think that these kinds of marriages may not be the best thing. Fielding wants us to question these things, like why should two people who have no feeling for each other be married just to better their estates? And why should one partner in the marriage have no voice?
An important issue that Fielding raises is the issue of gender equality in a marriage. In most of the marriages presented in this book, we see that the man has control of the money as well as all other aspects of life. We also see in Mr. Allworthy's (who is supposed to be one of the most virtuous and kind characters in the book) speech on pages 574-575 how he thinks a good wife is supposed to act. Mr. Allworthy says, "[Sophia] always shewed the highest Deference to the Understandings of Men; a Quality absolutely essential to the making a good Wife"(575). I think that...