Tom Jones Character Sketches of Sophia and Molly
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In the novel Tom Jones, two female characters had a great impact on the story. They were Miss Sophia Western and Miss Molly Seagrim who differed in very many ways. These traits became distinct when matters concerned with physical appearance, family, and their feelings about things as well as the people around them were discussed. Both girls were comparable in that they were beautiful, but this was where their similarities stopped. The ways in which they were beautiful were different. Molly’s beauty was described as being not exactly feminine but more of the “amiable kind”. She had a handsome face and “youth and florid health had a very considerable share in the composition” (137). Sophia’s beauty was described as more of the fragile kind. “Her shape was not only exact, but extremely delicate” (122). Sophia’s beauty was made apparent to the reader by explaining, in detail, the perfection of her forehead, eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, and teeth. In short, she was the picture of perfection. Molly was the second of five children while Sophia was an only child. People in the novel who are clergymen are associated with being poor. Molly’s mother’s father is described as such.
In contrast, Sophia’s father was a rich, well known Squire. In Molly’s family, it seemed they were often against her. After the occurrences at the church, instead of consoling her after the punishment she received from the other women at church, her family scolded her for her actions and called her a hussy, a slut and told her that her pregnancy had brought much shame to the family. In an attempt to stop Tom from finding Molly with Square her mother lied to him. She was motivated, however, not by love but by some “profits” she would be receiving because of her daughters relationship with Square. Her sister was not as motivated by these “profits” and ended up telling Tom in order to be spiteful. Sophia’s father was very pleased when he was able to do something for her and called her his “little darling” (133). Every night Sophia played her harpsichord for him and she learned the ballads he liked in order to please him.
When a friend of Sophia’s made a comment on the effort she put in making her father happy, she replied, “You mistake me, madam, if you think I value myself on this account: for besides that I am barely discharging my duty, I am likewise pleasing myself. I can truly say, I have no delight to that of contributing to my father’s happiness; and if I value myself, my dear, it is on having this power, and not executing it” (150-151). Sophia expressed her devotion to her father when Allworthy asked if she will marry Tom. Although her love for Tom was very deep, she resolved never to marry him because of her strong belief that she was “never to have marry’d without (her fathers) consent” (798). She believed that this was “the duty of a child to a parent” (798). Only when his consent was given did she consent to marry Tom. Having been raised by her Aunt and her father, after her mother passed away, she received much love and was very much doted upon. “They had both a vast affection for Sophia, and both a sovereign contempt for each other” (706).
It was for this reason that there were disagreements concerning the way she should be raised. In the situation considering the matter of marriage between Sophia and Blifil, different means were used to coerce Sophia into the match. Although they differed in actions, the consequences were much the same. Both delivered an ultimatum; her father locked her in her room and planned on keeping her there until she agreed and her aunt used threats of deserting her to her father’s will and thus the former punishment would ensue. The things that these girls held dear were very different. In order for material things to be special to Sophia, emotional attachment was necessary. This became apparent after the loss of her beloved pet, her bird. Being one of her favourite toys and a present from Tom, she was very upset when it was harshly taken away from her by Blifil. This was also true with her muff. After hearing from Honour that Tom had kissed and held it, it became a prized possession. She risked hurting herself to save it when her father threw it into the fire. Both of these items would have been replaced, had she wished them to be, but the sentimental value would be lost. On another occasion, Sophia presented the landlord of an inn with a present. The motivation was to make amends for an argument, but it was mainly because she had little value for her money.
Molly valued material things very much. When Molly’s mother dressed her in Sophia’s old sack dress, Molly was very pleased. She liked the idea of being able to show off her beauty and added some jewellery and a laced cap in order to “extend her conquests” (139). Even though it was simply an old cast away of Sophia’s, it made Molly feel special and she was able to hold her head up high. She also showed the way to her heart was through material things. She displayed this very well when she was caught by Tom with Square. When Square offered her a present, it pleased her so much that it proved to erase all other interests, or at least helped her to forget them, and focus on Square and the gifts he was willing to bestow. In order to get what they wanted when matters of the heart were concerned, the two girls had very different strategies. Molly was insistent, when she saw something that she wanted, she went after it. After she became fond of Tom, she was very forward about the way she felt and pursued him until she finally won him over.
“In the conduct of this matter, Molly so well played her part, that Jones attributed the conquest entirely to himself and considered the young woman as one who had yielded to the violent attacks of his passion” (138). She used her “situation” to make Tom feel obligated to her and “…he could not think of abandoning his Molly, poor and destitute as she was” (138). The feeling of regard that Sophia harboured for Tom was so “sweet and pleasing, that she had no resolution sufficient to check or repel them; and thus she went on cherishing a passion of which she never once considered the consequences” (157). She did not realize how she felt until they were of a significant size, and when they were, she choose not to act on them. Her feelings for Tom was compared to that of an illness, a “disease of the mind” (157) and the next time she saw Tom “the former symptoms returned, and from that time cold and hot fits alternately seized her heart” (157). Instead of pursuing Tom, Sophia decided to avoid him.
In order to avoid suspicion began to act favourable toward Blifil. Sophia finally admitted her love for Tom and after he left Sophia stayed very faithful to him and at long last she was finally able to see her love. “The lovers were now alone, and it will, I question not, appear strange to many readers, that those who had so much to say to one another, when danger and difficulty attended their conversation; and who seemed so eager to rush into each others arms, when so many bars lay in their way, now that with safety they were at liberty to say or do whatever they pleased, should remain for some time silent and motionless” (813). When she got over her tentativeness, Sophia questioned Tom of the wrongs he committed . It was only her goodness which allowed her to trust his loving words and made her forgive him. In an attempt of reconcile between Molly and Sophia, on the part of Sophia, a match between Molly and Partridge was later encouraged and it was “most likely to take effect” (821).
The amount of consideration Sophia and Molly had for others displayed a significant difference between them. Molly convinced Tom that she had sacrificed her innocence to him and “placed all her affections, and all her prospect of future happiness in him only” (180). Tom felt badly for leaving Molly but, “the superior merit of Sophia, totally eclipsed, or rather extinguished all the beauties of the poor girl” (180). Tom planned to offer her money to make up for his deserting her, and hoped that this act would appeal to her vanity, thereby allowing him to be free to care for Sophia without feeling guilty. It was not until later, having been told by Molly’s older sister, that Tom learned that he was very much innocent of the charges of fathering Molly’s child. The father was a man by the name of Will Barnes who “had, in reality, the sole possession of Molly’s affection, while Jones and Square were almost equally sacrifices to her interest, and to her pride” (188). She also wanted someone to help support her baby as well as herself and knowing Tom’s good nature, she attempted to take advantage of him. In contrast, Sophia shows her kindness through her naturally innocent way of caring for other people.
After she fell off of her horse and Tom rushed to her aid she realized that Tom was hurt and she “grew much paler then her fears for herself had made her before” (159). The fact that her worry for Tom surpassed the worry she had for herself showed Sophia’s considerate nature. After seeing Molly at church, “Sophia was much pleased with the beauty of the girl, whom she pitied for her simplicity, in having dressed herself in that manner”, so Sophia offered to “provide for her in the family, and might possibly place the girl above her own person, when her own maid, who was now going away, had left her” (140). Other occasions had been made reference to in which Sophia had given Black George’s family clothes, money and other things in order to help them out. The doctor told Sophia, before he bled her, that she should not be concerned and she was in no danger. She replied that if he made a mistake she would forgive him. She was very kind to everyone and “She treated every servant with more respect than some persons shew to those who are in a very slight degree their inferiors” (699).
It was because of these acts of kindness’ among many in which Sophia became someone who everyone knew of as “the sweetest lady in the world” (668). Sophia and Molly were attractive young girls with very different characteristics but were there differences simply a result of differing opinions or were there other influences? Both girls were treated in some type of cruel nature by their families but Sophia’s family was motivated by love, Molly’s, by spite. Growing up, Sophia got the things she needed, Molly often had no food or clothes. This was why Molly regarded material things with such importance while they meant little to Sophia. In their pursuit of love; Molly, being accustomed to having to fight for what she wanted, pursued Tom until he was won over and Sophia, not used to having to be forward, acted more reserved. In their nature towards others; Molly was to preoccupied with herself to worry about anyone else and Sophia, not having as much to concern herself with was able to extend herself to others. Another big impact was society. Having grown up as a ” beggar wench” and a “proper young lady” people had preconceived notions about who they were and how they were expected to act, thus influencing their own self images and ultimately their characteristics.