Chapter I

The narrator reminds us of his earlier warning that his History will not document every second of time, and that the reader must therefore flesh out the time by arriving at his own opinions of the characters. Through a series of rhetorical questions, the narrator suggests that he does not need to describe the grief Allworthy experienced at the death of Captain Blifil, nor does he need to elaborate on the character of Mrs. Bridget Blifil. The narrator says that such analysis would be for a lower class of reader, and he expects much more from "the upper Graduates in Criticism." Since the narrator knows that most of his readers are of superior intellect, he has granted them twelve years in which to exercise their skills of penetration. Now he is impatient to introduce the novel's hero at fourteen years of age.

Chapter II

Tom Jones, is introduced with an unfortunate anecdote. Tom possesses many faults, chief among them being his passion for stealing. Tom has recently stolen fruit from an orchard, a farmer's duck, and a ball from the pocket of Master Blifil, the son of the late Captain Blifil. Master Blifil abounds in "Virtues" and is praised by the neighborhood whereas Tom is despised. Blifil's virtues, in a nutshell, are sobriety, discretion, and piety.

The narrator presenta us with a vignette to reveal these boys' opposing characters. Tom's only friend is one of the servants of the household, a gamekeeper, and Tom's give the things he steals to this man's family. One day, Tom goes hunting with the game-keeper, and, at Tom's bidding, they follow some partridges into the estate of Allworthy's neighbor, which Allworthy has warned the game-keeper not to do. The neighbor hears the sound of the game- keeper shooting one of the partridges and, arriving at the scene of the crime, finds Tom with the dead bird, since the game-keeper has leapt into a bush to hide himself. The neighbor goes straight to Allworthy and tells Allworthy there must have been two people involved because he found two guns. Yet when Allworthy asks Tom who his accomplice was, but the boy maintains that he was alone. The game-keeper also pleads innocent. Tom receives a flogging from Mr. Thwackum, the Reverend whom Allworthy has hired to educate Tom and Master Blifil. Later, Allworthy relents and tries to remedy the situation by giving Tom a little horse as a present. The narrator predicts that a dinner between Allworthy, Thwackum, and a third unnamed gentleman will soon ensue.

Chapter III

Mr. Square, who has been living some time with Allworthy, is introduced. Although not naturally intelligent, Square has improved himself through education, and is well-read in the ancient philosophers. Square believes that a man should always be a speculator and sees virtue as a "Matter of Theory." Square and Thwackum are always arguing, and their only similarity is that neither will ever refer to the concept of "Goodness" in arguments. Square maintains that human nature is inherently virtuous, while Thwackum believes in original sin. Over dinner at Allworthy's table, Square and Thwackum debate whether honor can exist independent of religion. Their voices rise in volume and anger until something interrupts their debate. The narrator tells us we will have to wait until the next chapter to find out the nature of the interruption.

Chapter IV

Before continuing his story, the narrator takes it upon himself to rebut the arguments of both Square and Thwackum, arguing that neither of them should ignore the "natural Goodness of Heart."

The dinner is interrupted by Master Blifil who has a bloody nose from a fight with Tom. Tom is smaller, but is by far the better boxer, and Blifil has "Tears galloping… from his Eyes." Tom explains that he punched Blifil after the latter called him a "Beggarly Bastard." Blifil denies this and accuses Tom of lying. Blifil reveals that Tom's accomplice in the partridge incident was Black George, the game-keeper. Tom pleads with Allworthy to have mercy on Black George and his family, and takes full blame for the incident, saying it was his idea to trespass. Allworthy dismisses the boys, asking them to treat one another more amicably in future.