Chapter I

The narrator claims that Truth is the vital ingredient setting his story apart. The narrator, however, does not want this history to be the kind that is so boring it cannot be digested without a bout of ale. Since the heroine is to be presented in the following chapter, the narrator traces literary examples of hero introductions. He praises the tragic poets, who knew best how to welcome their heroes (with a resounding of drums) and their lovers (with gentle melodies). He self-consciously states: "Our Intention, in short, is to introduce our Heroine with the utmost Solemnity in our Power, with an Elevation of Stile, and all other Circumstances proper to raise the Veneration of our Reader."

Chapter II

Miss Sophia Western, Squire Western's daughter, is ushered into the spotlight. At first the narrator does not provide exact details, hailing instead a string of female characters from high literature and high society, with whom he compares Sophia. Reinforcing his reluctance to paint Sophia's portrait, the narrator elusively says: "most of all, she resembled one whose Image never can depart from my Breast, and whom if thou dost remember, thou hast then, my Friend, an adequate Idea of Sophia." Finally we are graced with the information that Sophia is symmetrical, of medium height, of perfect proportions, with saber-colored hair, black eyes, and "two Rows of Ivory" in her mouth. Moreover, her inside matches her exquisite exterior. If jealousy should look to find fault with her, the narrator supposes that Sophia's forehead could be a little higher. He incorporates the words of John Suckling, John Donne, and Horace in his description of Sophia. Although Sophia's manners lack that polished finish found in the "Polite Circle," such airs are not needed in a character with such "sense" and "natural Gentility." Sophia has been educated by her aunt.

Chapter III

Sophia, at eighteen years old, loves her father more than any other living being. This is why Tom chooses to direct his plea on Black George's behalf to Sophia. The narrator steps back in time to describe the relationship between the neighboring households—they have lived pleasantly enough as neighbors, and Tom, Sophia, and Blifil were playmates as children. Tom's gregariousness appealed more to little Sophia than Blifil's cautious solemnity. In their early youth, Tom presented Sophia with a bird that he had stolen from a nest and trained to sing. Sophia christened the bird "little Tommy" and became so attached to it that feeding and playing with the bird was her greatest pastime.

One day in the garden Blifil persuades Sophia to let him hold little Tommy for a moment. On acquiring the bird, Blifil quickly removes the string from the bird's leg and releases it. Beckoned by Sophia's screams, Tom runs to them and climbs the tree where the bird has perched itself. The branch breaks and Tom tumbles into the canal below. When the adults arrive at the scene, Blifil confesses that it is his fault and explains that he cannot stand to see anything not have its liberty. Tom and Blifil are sent home, Sophia retires to her chamber, and the adults return to their alcohol.

Chapter IV

Square, Thwackum, Squire Western, Allworthy, and a lawyer friend of Western's argue about whether Blifil's actions were right or wrong. Square and Thwackum praise Blifil. Western, annoyed with Blifil for depriving Sophia of her bird, simply urges his guests to continue drinking. Allworthy thinks that the action was wrong, but the motivation good, and therefore resolves not to punish the boy. The lawyer enigmatically declares that property rights are "nullius in bonis," confounding the rest of the participants. Soon after, Allworthy whisks Square and Thwackum away.

Chapter V

From the day of the bird's death, Sophia develops a "Kindness" for Tom and an "Aversion" to Blifil. Many events, unnecessary to relate, further these sentiments. Sophia realizes that Tom has no enemy in the world but himself, while Blifil has few enemies but loves only himself. Some people keep good people to themselves, for fear of losing dominion over their goodness. But Sophia acts otherwise—publicly praises Tom, and publicly disparages Blifil. Sophia has returned to her father's house after more than three years of living and studying with her aunt. She hears the story of Black George and the partridge one night while dining with Squire Western, her aunt, and Allworthy. Later, when her maidservant is undressing her, Sophia vents her hatred for Blifil.