The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith was published in the year 1766. It is a very famous novel among the victorians. The subtitle of this novel is “A tale, supposed to be written by himself”.
The Vicar of Wakefield is an intelligent person who is living happily with his family. He has 4 sons George, Moses, Bill, and Dick and 2 daughters Olivia and Sophia. George is about to get married to a beautiful rich girl Arabella Wilmot.
Unfortunately, before marriage the vicar loses all his life savings to a crooked merchant. As a result Arabella’s father cancels the wedding. The Vicar, now penniless, is forced to move to the countryside.
The vicar starts working as a curate and farmer. He sends George to London to start earning money and supplement the family’s income. The vicar befriends a poor but handsome man Mr. Burchell who later saves Sophia’s life. After which Sophia gets attracted to Mr. Burchell. Vicar is now staying with his new landlord, Squire Thornhill who is a womanizer. Squire is a charming and attractive person who lives off the generosity of his uncle, Sir William Thornhill.
Squire has interest in Vicar’s daughter Olivia. The vicar and his wife Deborah wanted both of them to get married because it could bring the lost fortunes and social status for the family. In order to pressure Squire into marrying Olivia urgently, Deborah plays a stunt where she declares Olivia’s marriage to a farmer in the neighbourhood. Though upset by the situation, Squire makes no efforts to propose to Olivia and the family starts preparation for Olivia’s marriage with the poor farmer.
However, right before the wedding, Olivia runs away. This further lowered the family’s reputation. The Vicar thought she must have ran away with Squire Thornhill but later suspects that it can be Mr. Burchell. Vicar starts looking for her daughter far from home but to no avail. While moving back towards home he meets Mr. Arnold who turns out to be Miss Arabella’s uncle. There he finds out that Squire Thornhill is about to get married to Arabella. Squire made a visit to Arnold’s house and was surprised to see the Vicar.
While returning home, the vicar finds Olivia at an inn where they are reunited. There Olivia explained how Squire seduced her into a fake marriage ceremony but later dumped her in a brothel. Knowing what Squire has done to his daughter, Vicar insulted him once. This enraged Squire who sent 2 officers to collect house rent from Vicar. Unable to pay the rent, the vicar gets arrested.
In jail Vicar met a friend named Ephraim Jenkinson who once had scammed the vicar but is resentful about it. Hearing Vicar’s story, Jenkinson gets emotional and promises to help him however he can. Vicar asks to make peace with Squire after hearing the news of Olivia’s death but the latter refuses. Squire brings about all types of misfortune to the vicar. He had Sofia abducted and sent George to jail with the vicar.
Vicar soon gets the news that Mr. Burchell has rescued Sophia and offered to get them married. Burchell throws a party where Squire is also present and there Vicar discovers that Mr. Burchell is actually Sir William Thornhill. Jenkinson finds out who kidnapped Sophia and also tells Sir William that his nephew, Squire Thornhill is a bad man and has done all kinds of evil misdeeds to Vicar and his family.
Arabella and Mr. Willmot too comes to know about Squire’s evil deeds and quickly breaks the ceremony with him. But Squire stays calm as he knows that the dowry contract with Mr. Wilmot is still active. Arabella and George start planning to marry. The vicar afterwards heard a series of discoveries that left him contentful. Olivia was not dead. Squire and Olivia’s marriage was real and hence he was not entitled to any dowry from Arabella’s
Squire being ruined, begs mercy from his uncle. Sir William proposes to Sophia and she accepts. In the end, Squire starts living far away. The vicar recovers his fortune when the merchant who stole his money gets caught. In the whole turmoil, the Vicar never loses hope, stays positive and keeps faith in god. Now when everything’s alright, he again is thankful to the god.