The Non-Verbal Implications: Relevance of “the Man of the Hill” in Fielding’s Tom Jones

by Janice Wood

Essay, Tom Jones

“All Nature is but Art, unknown to Thee;

All Chance, Direction, which thou canst not see”

(An Essay on Man, i, 289-290)

The Non-Verbal Implication: Relevance of “the Man of the Hill” in Fielding’s Tom Jones

“All Nature is but Art, unknown to Thee;

All Chance, Direction, which thou canst not see”

(An Essay on Man, i, 289-290) (Norton 702)

The Non-Verbal Implications: Relevance of “the Man of the Hill” in Fielding’s  Tom Jones

Janice Wood

Fielding’s mastery of the unspoken/non-verbal implications in Tom Jones is perhaps one of its greatest assets; however, over many years of critical analysis this intriguing quality has been basically overlooked, especially concerning the significance of “the Man of the Hill.” What has been implied about “the Man of the Hill” (Fielding 285-320) has, up until now, not been truly recognized as an essential function of the novel. One such critic, R.S. Crane, claims there is not much significance in the segment of the old man by writing, “There are not infrequent longueures, notably in the Man of the Hill’s story (whatever positive values this may have)” (695). On the contrary, subtlety, though not initially apparent in the story, is the sublime mystery speaking to the more fertile imagination. Since there have been comments on several other, more apparent unspoken/non-verbal implications in the text, such as Dowling’s blackmailing of Blifil, the undoing of Mr. Blifil by his brother, also of Tom’s prostitution with Mrs. Bellaston and, in payment receiving fifty pounds the first night he meets her, yet very little insight has been given on the unspoken/non-verbal implication relevance of “the Man of the Hill” as an element of complication and development of plot. We shall, therefore, explore “the Man of the Hill” representing an element of complication and development of plot via the unspoken/non-verbal implication in three ways, as part of the structure, location on the road, and location in the text.

. “[T]he Man of the Hill” represents an element of complication and development of plot via the unspoken/non-verbal implication as part of the structure. When Watt writes, “Fielding’s primary aim is certainly not to reveal character through speech and action” (264), one is aware that whatever the motivation behind Fielding’s style of writing the architecture of the novel must begin in the plot. Structurally, Fielding’s Tom Jones has the individual as less important than the whole utilizing the neo-classicism structure. Ian Watt writes of the individual character, “society and the large order which it represents must have priority” (271). The character of the old man must represent more than just one person. He must be the universal hurt and the disenfranchised of the entire society as part of the whole.  Watt further writes, “as a kind of magnet [the plot] that pulls every individual particle out of the random order brought about by temporal accident and human imperfection and puts them all back into their proper position (271). Likewise, R.S. Crane writes about the “system of actions” (689) in his criticism, “The Plot of Tom Jones”, he writes, “Fielding might have had fully developed in his mind before writing a word of Tom Jones” (689). Yet Crane and others see the old man segment as an extrinsic factor, an intrusion ill-placed with no intrinsic qualities of no non-verbal implied inferences to benefit the story. This seems ironic because he and Watt among others acknowledge Fielding’s plot follows the extrinsic format of neo-classicism. Fielding works from the external using a neo-classic structure strategy where plot acts like a “magnet” (Watts 271) pulling the iron particles (characters) into place. Surely conjecture on the conceivability that the inclusion of the “Man of the Hill” as a vital pivotal component in the novel has been overlooked.

“The Man of the Hill” represents an element of complication and development of plot via the unspoken/non-verbal implication from a location on the road. Tom is on a journey on an open road where all of humanity passes. One must assume that any meeting is by chance supposedly from the reader’s viewpoint. What Tom experiences, in his quest on the open road, in his encounters are a variety of members of society he could not have met in his village, nor receive certain information from about other types of society. It is supposedly not just coincidental that this information is somewhat parallel of the types of individuals he meets (of which some types he knows from childhood), but a forewarning of experiences (and types of society) he is to encounter just as the “universal hero of folk tale and myth” (Norton 576) receives from warnings of prophecy. The old man is, therefore, setting the groundwork for “individual particle[s]” (Watt 271) to be placed into “their proper position” (271). This is just before Upton where many of the characters come together from Tom’s past, and several from the future. The placement of the old man in the center of the book takes Tom up a hill where in one direction he can turn to Sometshire, and the other towards Upton, and London.  One would surmise, therefore, that the meeting between Tom and the old man serves as a definite function of the novel should not be lightly dismissed. If as Rexroth states, that Tom is the “universal man” found in myths in general, then “the Man of the Hill” should be seen as a universal representation as well. There is one who foretells or relates prophecy concerning the fate of the “hero” as the forewarning. Fielding places a warning at the beginning of Book X, chapter one advising the reader and critics not to question his plot, although according to Watt, in Preston’s estimation, Fielding is not to be taken too seriously in his narrator’s role when boasting. Preston quotes Fielding when he writes:

First, then, we warn thee not too hastily to condemn any of the incidents in                        this our history, as impertinent and foreign to our main design, because                          thou dost not immediately conceive in what manner such incident may                         conduce to that design […] without knowing the manner in which the                           whole is connected, and before he comes to the final catastrophe, is most                                     presumptuous absurdity. (Preston 703)

Finally, “The Man of the Hill” represents an element of complication and development of plot via the unspoken/non-verbal implication from a location in the text. As a recluse, the messenger with a removed-from-this-world-of-society appearance is the futuristic image of what could become Tom Jones. William Empson explains the non-verbal implicational value of   “ [t]he Man of the Hill” as essential when he writes in his criticism of Tom Jones:

All the critics call the recital of the Old Man irrelevant, though Saintsbury labors to excuse it; but Fielding meant to give a survey of all human experience (that is what he meant by calling the book an epic) and the Old Man provides the extremes of degradation and the divine ecstasy which Tom has no time for; as part of the structure of the ethical thought he is essential to the book, the keystone at the middle of the arch. (Norton 717)

While Tom and the old man talk the entire night ‘til dawn, Partridge is overcome with sleep. He expresses no interest, and is too tired to take a walk with Tom and “the Man of the Hill”. How convenient that Partridge should refuse the invitation from the old man who directs Tom to a halfway point between the past and the future at the top of a hill. There ensues the first instance where Tom encounters Jenny Jones/Mrs. Waters, and without Partridge. If Partridge had been present, Tom would have found out she was accused of being his mother, and quite possibly, through Jenny herself, who his real mother was. This bit of news would have changed the plot occurring too soon. If this had happened, several “system of actions” (689) would have no placement in the story, nor the plot.

One must conclude that due to subsequent writings and change in the novel by Fielding that if the old man had no credibility, he would have removed it during one of those revisions. Since it remains, it must be therefore a function of the novel serving an unspoken/nonverbal balance in the scheme of the universe of the book.

Work Cited

Crane, R. S. “The Plot of Tom Jones”. Tom Jones The Authoritative Text Contemporary                                      Reactions Criticisms.  Sheridan Baker, Ed. New York: W. W. Norton. 1995.

Empson, William. “Tom Jones”. Tom Jones The Authoritative Text Contemporary                                            Reactions Criticisms. Sheridan Baker, Ed. New York: W. W. Norton. 1995.                               711-731.

Fielding, Henry. Tom Jones The Authoritative Text Contemporary Reactions                                                  Criticisms.  Sheridan Baker, Ed. New York: W. W. Norton. 1995.

Hilles, Frederick W. “Art and Artifice in Tom Jones”. Tom Jones The Authoritative Text                             Contemporary Reactions Criticisms.  Sheridan Baker, Ed. New York: W. W.                              Norton. 1995. 786-800.

Preston, John. “Plot as Irony: The Reader’s Role”. Tom Jones   The Authoritative Text                                Contemporary Reactions Criticisms. Sheridan Baker, Ed. New York: W. W.                              Norton.  1995. 699-710.

Rexroth, Kenneth. “Tom Jones”. Tom Jones The Authoritative Text Contemporary                                  Reactions Criticisms. Sheridan Baker, Ed. New York: W. W. Norton. 1995.                               675-677.

Watt, Ian. Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding.                                                         Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957.

Outline

The Unspoken:

Relevance of “the Man of the Hill” in Fielding’s Tom Jones

Janice Wood

Fielding’s mastery of the unspoken/non-verbal implications in Tom Jones is perhaps one of his greatest assets in the success of the book because what has been unspoken about “the Man of the Hill” (285-320) has, up until now, not been examined thoroughly as a true necessity in the novel.

We shall, therefore, explore “the Man of the Hill” representing an element of complication and development of plot via the unspoken/non-verbal implication in three ways, as part of the structure, location on the road, and location in the text.

  1. “the Man of the Hill” represents an element of complication and development of plot via the unspoken/non-verbal implication as part of the structure.
  2. When Watt writes, “ Fielding’s primary aim is certainly not to reveal character through speech and action” (Watt 264), one is aware that whatever the motivation behind Fielding’s style of writing the architecture of the novel must begin in the plot.
  3. Structurally, Fielding’s Tom Jones has the individual as less important than the whole utilizing the neo-classicism structure.
  4. Yet Crane and others see the old man segment as an extrinsic factor, an intrusion ill-placed with no intrinsic qualities of no non-verbal implied inferences to benefit the story.
  5. “the Man of the Hill” represents an element of complication and development of plot via the unspoken/non-verbal implication from a location on the road.
  6. Tom is on a journey on an open road where all of humanity passes. One must assume that any meeting is by chance supposedly from the reader’s viewpoint.
  7. It is supposedly not just coincidental that this information is somewhat parallel of the types of individuals he meets (of which some types he knows from childhood), but a forewarning of experiences (and types of society) he is to encounter just as the “universal hero of folk tale and myth” (Norton 576) receives from warnings of prophecy.
  8. If as Rexroth states, that Tom is the “universal man” found in myths in general, then “the Man of the Hill” should be seen as a universal representation as well. There is one who foretells or relates prophecy concerning the fate of the “hero” as the forewarning.
  • “the Man of the Hill” represents an element of complication and development of plot via the unspoken/non-verbal implication from a location in the text.
  1. As a recluse, the messenger with a removed-from-this-world-of-society appearance is the futuristic image of what could become Tom Jones, if.
  2. While Tom and the old man talk the entire night ‘til dawn, Partridge is overcome with sleep.
  3. This bit of news would have changed the plot occurring too soon. If this had happened, several “system of actions” (689) would have no placement in the story, nor the plot.
  4. Both were betrayed “ A treacherous friend is the most dangerous enemy; and I will say boldly, that religion and virtue have received more real discredit from hypocrites than the wittiest profligates or infidel could ever cast upon them” (III, iv)

Both each had a brother.

  1. They each experience such treatments from “Envy, Malice, Treachery, Cruelty, with every species of Malevolence” (290).
  2. “[T]he Man of the Hill” represents an element of complication and development of the plot.
  3. Tom acquires Prudence. The old man acquires a “suspious Temper” (289).
  4. Their appearances show the old man shun society and Tom’s “You are a human Creature then? –Well perhaps you are” (289).
  5. Prison
  6. Death Judgement
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