Characterization in Tom Jones and Don Juan


In discussions of Henry Fielding’s influence upon

Byron, literary critics have generally agreed that the

raost obvious similarity between the two writers is found

in the characters of Tom Jones and Don Juan. Subjects of

scholarly comment have ranged from the sensuality of the

two young men to the inadequacies of their forraal education

and their subsequent intellectual growth. The most

coramon areas of agreement have been that both characters

share sensuality, passivity, and innate goodness.

Contemporaries/modern critics notice influences by other authors in Don Juan

Many literary critics have noticed similarities

between various works of Henry Fielding and of Lord Byron.

Most critical comments have focused upon parallels between

Fielding’s novels Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones and Byron’s

long poem Don Juan. Typically, Fielding’s influence upon

Byron has been seen in the theory and practice of the comic

epic, the use of digressions as a narrative technique, the

satire of society and politics, and the characterizations

of Tom Jones and Don Juan. As yet, little has been done

with Fielding’s influence upon other works of Byron or

with the development of Byron’s interest in Fielding.

The purpose of this introduction is to define the

limits of the study, first, by summarizing what is already

known and, then, by suggesting several areas in which

additional investigation might be fruitful. The following

survey of previous critical observations has been divided

into three categories: characterization, style, and therae.

The concluding section briefly enumerates the areas of

study which will be developed in subsequent chapters.

Characterization in “Tom Jones” and “Don Juan”

In discussions of Henry Fielding’s influence upon

Byron, literary critics have generally agreed that the

raost obvious similarity between the two writers is found

in the characters of Tom Jones and Don Juan. Subjects of

scholarly comment have ranged from the sensuality of the

two young men to the inadequacies of their forraal education

and their subsequent intellectual growth. The most

coramon areas of agreement have been that both characters

share sensuality, passivity, and innate goodness.

Although Don Juan’s sexual escapades were condemned

by Byron’s contemporaries, om Jones was recognized

as a precedent for such episodes. Paul G. Trueblood quotes

The British Critic of August, 1823« “With the character

of Juan, . . . we have no more quarrel than with that of

Tom Jones, or any other child of passion and impulse.”

According to V/illis W. Pratt, the reviewer “Odoherty”

reached a similar conclusion in Blackwood’s Magazine of

September, 1823« “Defending its morality, he ["Odoherty"]

says, ‘ln point of fact, it is not within fifty miles’ of

Tom Jones or Voltaire, and is less obscene than ‘pious

Richardson’s pious Pamela.•” In later scholarly studies.

As quoted by Paul G. Trueblood, The Flowering of

Bvron’s Geniust Studies in Bvron’s “Don Juan” (Stanford.

Cal.: Stanford University Press, 19^5; rpt. New York«

Russell & Russell, I962), p. 53«

As summarized in Truman G. Steffan and Willis W.

Pratt, eds., Byron’s “Don Juan”. Vol. I: The r.laking of a

Masterpiece. by Truman G. Steffan? Vols. II-III: A Variorum

Edition; Vol. IV: Notes on the Variorum Sdition. by

Willis W. Pratt {k vols.; Austin: University of Texas

Press, 1957)» IV, 3O8 (hereafter referred to as Steffan and

Pratt).

The comparison to Tom Jones has remained a popular one; and

passion and impulse have continued to be seen as the key

points of similarity. For example, Ronald Bottrall sees

in both Tom Jones and Don Juan “the natural man who acts

according to impulse”; any evil to be found in either

character “is mainly sexual.”-^ Elizabeth F, Boyd states

that both characters act “instinctively” and from “hotblooded

impulses.” Andrâs Horn observes: “This frailty

of a Jones or a Juan springs, besides their amorousness,

from a weakness of will, from an inability to control their

desires.”^

In addition to his sensuality, Don Juan’s passivity

has also interested the critics. Since Byron

obviously strayed from the traditional sources of the Don

Juan story, other precedents have been sought. Some

scholars have selected Voltaire*s Candide as the model, but

others have preferred Tom Jones. Trueblood writesi

Byron deliberately altered the traditional Don’s

character and made him the innocent victim of

-^Ronald Bottrall, “Byron and the Colloquial Tradition

in English Literature,” Criterion. XVIII (1939)t rpt.

in M. H. Abrams, ed. , English RoTnantic Poets: Modern Sssavs

in Criticism (New York: Oxford University Press, I96O),

p. 220.

Slizabeth F. Boyd, Bvron’s “Don Juan”: A Critical

Studv (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press,

19^5î rpt. New York: Humanities Press, 1958), p. 38.

^András Hom, Bvron’s “Don Juan” and the Eighteenth

Centurv English Novel. Swiss Studies in English (Berni

Francke, 1962),p. 10.

womankind, “more sinned against than sinning,”

a handsome, winsome, beloved rogue, like Fieiding’s

Tora Jones.o

Hom also corapares Juan’s passivity with that of Tom Jones,

suggesting that it is a natural result of both characters*

weakness of will. He continuesi

This passivity is a circumstance which does much

to mitigate their frailty: they cannot at least

be accused of having premeditatedly embarked upon

masculine adventures of conquest. They are, in

short, none of them Don Juans.

In the views of most modem critics, the passion

and impulsiveness of Juan and Jones are balanced by their

generosity and humajinity. Boyd says that Tom Jones acts

“instinctively according to his innate goodness” and that

Don Juan’s “innate good disposition carries him through

every trial.” Hom makes a similar assertion: “And they

are good. Not only in the sense that they never mean harm

to anyone, but positively, too: they are benevolent, ever

ready to help those in distress.” As examples, Hom

suggest Juan’s saving the orphan Leila and Jones’s assistance

to the would-be highwayman, Anderson.

The gaps in Don Juan’s education and their effect

upon hira have also been suggested as parallels to the

Paul G. Trueblood, Lord Bvron. Twayne’s English

Authors Series (New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc, I969) t

situation and character of Tora Jones. After discussing

Donna Inez’ systera of educating her son, George M. Ridenour

concludesi

The altemate severity and laxity tended to cancel

each other out (like Fielding’s Thv/ackura and

Square), so that when Don Juan goes out into the

world he has to deal with it (like Tora Jones)

with his own natural resources.^O

Boyd also feels that both young men are the victiras of

fallacious educational theoriesi

As far as truth to nature goes, this characterization

of the late-adolescent boy, especially

of one who had been brought up in the cloistered

manner Juan had, seems highly credible. The

formal education of Tom Jones was neutralized

by the intellectual quarrels of his tutors, and

he was cast into life to act instinctively according

to his innate goodness. Juan, likewise, released

from the rigid and meaningiess govemance

of his mother, may be expected to show a combination

of numb bewilderment and instinctive animal

courage.^^

The question of Don Juan’s maturation has been

disputed by Boyd and Hom. In a continuation of the

passage cited above, Boyd implies that Juan and Jones

develop in similar ways. Juan, like Jones, “learns discretion

and worldly wisdom,” and he “shows at the end of

the poem that he is ready to consider more seriously his

Hom believes that Juan raay deraonstrate some developraent,

but not in the sarae way that Tora Jones doesi

In contrast to Tom Jones and Amelia. Don Juan

is obviously . . . no picturing of a developraent

in the course of which the individual, by taking

wrong paths and being met by attending evils,

is eventually led towards the ideal.

Hom feels that Tom Jones grows towards the ideal, while

Don Juan grows away frora it.

A final similarity between the two characters is

one which does not lend itself readily to an argument for

literary influences. As Boyd observes: “Juan, in fact,

is as much the young Byron as Tom Jones is the young

Fielding.” Though Byron followed Fielding’s practice m

this respect, we can hardly suppose that he was indebted

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