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Once We Start a Book, What Drives Us to Continue to Read? An Essay on Tom Jones

Uploaded by joe on Jan 03, 2006

In examining the effects of a work of literature on a reader, it is vitally important to understand why a reader completes the work. In other words, the forces that drive the reader to turn page after page of a novel are directly related to the entire reading experience – what values and stories the reader takes from the book, the overall feeling that the book creates within the reader, and impact of the reading on future actions of the reader. It is with this in mind that we turn to the claim that Tom Jones is the most “plot-driven” book in English.

Although Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones is an intricately plotted novel, it is not plot-driven. The force that drives the reader from page to page through the novel is not the plot, but rather the narrator. This is not necessarily an obvious insight, so we will take care to show its truth by presenting the narrator’s argument for this interpretation, the logical consequences of such a claim, and an argument that the reader’s reaction under Tom Jones as a plot-driven novel would not account for the novel’s place in literary history today. Although the latter approach certainly ignores the readers of Tom Jones who did not finish or find any value within the work, any in-depth examination of those readers’ experiences with the novel is not likely to yield anything of much interest. Thus, we will only consider the readers of Tom Jones who find it to be useful or interesting.

Fielding, in the introduction to the final book, comparing the process of reading the novel to the travel of a Stage-Coach. This is a very useful metaphor for understanding the relationship between reader, narrator, plot, and novel. The Stage-Coach takes the trip from the Country to London, and travels around both locales rather extensively, visiting many houses and several inns and pubs. It also frequently jumps around from location to location, and leaps around in time, to revisit some events that it had previously skipped over. Thus, the linear passage of reading the novel – turning page after page, only going in one direction – is equivalent to the linear time it takes for this Stage-Coach to visit all these locations in space-time. The non-linear path the plot takes as its form is just the...

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Uploaded by:   joe

Date:   01/03/2006

Category:   Literature

Length:   7 pages (1,606 words)

Views:   1996

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