Abstract

Abstract:

As a magistrate who dealt with the problem of crime in Europe's largest metropolis, Henry Fielding was keenly aware that violence and its destructive effects pervaded life in eighteenth-century Britain, and that much of this violence originated from conflicts centered on male honor. This essay explores the link between public violence and honor-based notions of masculinity and argues that Fielding addresses the issue in Tom Jones by presenting Tom as the exemplar of a new model of masculinity, one not tethered to the code of honor and placed in direct opposition to men of honor, whom Fielding saw as a threat to civil society. A crucial dimension of Fielding's critique of the culture of honor and his construction of a new paradigm of manhood stems from his decision to cast Tom as a modern Odysseus. While it is well known that Fielding alludes to Homer's epic in Tom Jones, why he did so and the effects generated by this intertextual dynamic have not been fully explored. Nor has scholarship on Tom Jones fully appreciated that Fielding, in casting his hero as a modern Odysseus, was making use of a venerable idiom in European literary history for rethinking ideals of human character. Comparing Fielding's Odysseus to Homer's reveals how Fielding reimagined one of the most compelling models of manhood in Western civilization, made him less prone to violent impulses, and adapted him to function in a post-honor-based society—a kind of society that would be less violent, and one that Fielding wanted Britain to become.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0383
Print ISSN
0039-3738
Pages
pp. 803-834
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-04
Open Access
No
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