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Henry Fielding's Tom Jones
with Summaries of Chapters Appended
By Susan Price Karpuk
With an introduction by Alison Winch
LC 2006047602 — Clothbound $147.50
ISBN-10: 0-404-64855-X / ISBN-13: 978-0-404-64855-8
AMS Studies in the Eighteenth Century, No. 55
The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling is "considered to be one of the most influential and important of the early English novels, and...Fielding's finest fictional achievement" ("Introduction"). Any reader interested in this novel's intertextual allusions, ironic plot, shifting meanings, and circular, symmetrical structure will find Karpuk's Index an invaluable and illuminating companion.
The Index is no mere catalogue of topics, characters, places, and symbols: it is the product of Karpuk's own nuanced understanding of the novel. Her listing of coincidences, misunderstandings, and chance meetings will allow character relationships to be traced and unraveled. Socioeconomic and political allusions and details of eighteenth-century material culture—coffee-houses, dress, food, masquerade, romances—can inform a contextualized discussion of the text. Entries for biblical, classical, and literary references will make apparent the novel's crucial intertextuality. Characters are described in intricate particularity, and names are included of characters who never appear in the text but who are spoken about by others. Comparative readings are facilitated by Karpuk's grouping together of related events or characters: she files protagonists and their symmetrical opposites under relevant topical entries to assist such interpretations. Book and chapter number locators mean that the Index can be utilized beside any edition of the novel. Karpuk concludes her volume with brief chapter summaries that describe both the narrator's commentary and character and plot developments.
The Index is an unrivalled finding tool and essential to the library of any reader developing a full, informed understanding of Fielding's complex novel.