Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Tristram Shandy, in telling the story of his earliest years, says that he has always believed that most of the problems of his life were brought about by the fact that the moment of his conception was interrupted when his mother asked his father whether he had remembered to wind the clock. Tristram knows the exact date of his conception: the night between the first Sunday and the first Monday of March, 1718. He is certain of this because his father’s notebook indicates that before that Monday he had been seriously inconvenienced by an attack of sciatica, and immediately after that day he had set out for London.
Another complication of Tristram’s birth was caused by the marriage settlement of his parents. According to this settlement, which Tristram quotes in full, Mrs. Shandy had the privilege of going to London in preparation for childbirth. If Mrs. Shandy were to put Mr. Shandy to the expense of a trip to London on false pretenses, however, then the next child was to be born at Shandy Hall. The circumstance of a needless trip to London had occurred some time before, and Mr. Shandy stoutly insisted that Tristram should be born at Shandy Hall; the birth would be in the hands of a country midwife rather than in those of a London doctor.
As Tristram tells the story, on the night of his birth, his father, Walter Shandy, and Tristram’s uncle Toby, Walter’s brother, are sitting in the living room engaged in one of their interminable...
(The entire section is 1280 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Tristram Shandy Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent. is a long, challenging, and delightful work. Written serially over nine years, it does not exhibit unity of action or tell a single, identifiable story. Rather, it is unified by an overriding purpose—to tell the title character’s life and opinions as honestly and completely as possible—and a unique style, whereby that purpose is thwarted and diverted by digressions and embellishments that grow out of the life and opinions themselves.
“Life and Opinions” was an acceptable autobiographical format for an eighteenth century gentleman. Sterne set out both to use it and to ridicule it through the character of Tristram Shandy. “Old Tristram” was the name given to a statue of a bearded beggar at the Halifax parish church from Sterne’s adolescence. “Shandy” was Yorkshire slang for “odd” or “crazy.” Together they suggest an offbeat character; Sterne added gentility, charm, and an incapacity for direct thought or action. Tristram is the first-person protagonist of the nine volumes of the book, and in his life and opinions he introduces an array of other characters: his pompous father Walter, his gentle Uncle Toby, the Corporal Trim, Parson Yorick, the servant Susannah, his brother Bobby, his beloved Jenny, the Widow Wadman, his friend Eugenius, and a variety of other learned gentlemen.
If Tristram Shandy can be said to have a plot, it has two: Walter Shandy’s...
(The entire section is 525 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 1-6 Summary
Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (more popularly referred to simply as Tristram Shandy), first published in a series of nine volumes between 1759 and 1766, is a comic novel recounting the lives of several characters in Tristram Shandy's life. The book's literary value stems mostly from the author's focus on the art of storytelling. In the process of writing Tristram Shandy, Sterne often strays into his own critique of his work as well as other unconventional practices such as leaving blank pages for the reader to complete.
The novel begins with a narrative from Tristram Shandy commenting on his birth. Tristram wonders if his parents fully considered all the circumstances and consequences of begetting a child before they conceived him. If they had, Tristram ponders, possibly his life would have turned out quite differently.
The narration then moves on to a discussion between Tristram's Uncle Toby and his father, who goes on to predict, upon watching how Tristram plays with a spinning top, that the boy will never think nor act like any other child. Tristram's father blames this not on his son's birth but rather on his conception. Sitting nearby is Mrs. Shandy, who does not understand anything that Mr. Shandy has to say. However, it is noted that Uncle Toby understands everything.
Tristram (as narrator) then references Horace, a first-century Roman poet. Tristram alludes to rules Horace supposedly created for writers. However, upon further reflection, Tristram states that he shall not follow Horace's guidelines or any other rules set down by any man. If readers do not want to read about Tristram's opinions on this topic, Tristram suggests that they skip the rest of this one particular section. He only writes, Tristram states, for those who are curious and inquisitive.
Next Tristram relates the day he was conceived, which was some time between the first Sunday and the first Monday of March in 1718. The reason Tristram is so sure of this is because of a practice his father followed religiously. It was between the first Sunday and the first Monday of every month that his father wound up the large family clock. Being a man of rituals, his father also had sex with his wife at this time each month. In doing so, Mr. Shandy was able to get both chores out of the way at the same time, thus leaving him the rest of the month to be on his own....
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 7-10 Summary
The narrator begins this section with a discussion about a widowed woman who happens to be the mother of several children. The parson's wife, feeling sorry for this woman as she now has no one to support her, suggests to her husband that they see to it that the widow receives the training to become a midwife for the parish.
At this point of the story, the narrator then begins a long aside dealing with the narrator's willingness to write dedications in his novel to reflect the merits of local lords, princes, or even popes. He will provide these dedications for a set amount of money. He will write generalized dedications that could apply to any one and will sell them for "fifty guineas." The narrator even tells anyone who wants to buy a dedication where to send the money. Then he returns to his story about the midwife and the parson.
About five years before the widow earned her license to become a midwife, the parson did something that caused a lot of gossip in his parish. The reason for the village talk was because of the horse the parson rode. The parson's horse was extremely skinny and "broken." The narrator compares the horse's appearance to that of the similarly undernourished "Rosinante," the famed horse in the novel Don Quixote.
The parson could have helped to make this horse look a little more regal, the narrator claims, if he had used the beautiful saddle with the quilted seat, silver studs, and black lace, and from which hung brass stirrups. The parson purchased this saddle in his youth. However, the parson refused to use the saddle on his current horse. Instead, he stored the saddle in his house and used only a simple saddle for the skinny horse.
The sight of the parson riding through the village on this broken-down horse was the source of much laughter. A humble man with a good sense of humor, the parson often joined in the laughter at his own expense. Sometimes he even provided humorous reasons for riding such a "broken-winded" horse.
However, the truth was that the parson once had a magnificent steed, a beautiful and powerful horse. At that time, the nearest midwife was many miles away from the parish. This meant that there were always emergencies requiring that someone ride to the midwife's home to gain her assistance. Since the parson owned the fastest horse, the villagers always asked to borrow it.
The parson, being a man of the cloth and charity, could...
(The entire section is 559 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 11-14 Summary
As the narrator, Tristram offers the name of the pastor who owns the skinny horse. The parson's name is Yorick. This is not only an old family name, the narrator states, but one whose spelling has never been altered for "nine hundred years." Tristram questions whether the long history of the same spelling of this name, which he insinuates is very unusual, is due to pride or to shame. Then he concludes that it is probably a little bit of both sentiments.
In an attempt to discern why the name of Yorick has stayed unchanged, the narrator provides some historical information about one of the family's members. The Yoricks came to England from Denmark. One of the family's earliest immigrants held an impressive government position. However, this post was abolished two hundred years earlier because it was deemed completely unnecessary in every court of the "Christian world."
Upon reading the family history of the Yorick family, the narrator assumes that the only court position that the Yorick ancestor might have held is that of the king's chief court jester. Tristram then connects the Yorick jester to the jester in Shakespeare's dramatic play Hamlet. Then Tristram confides that he has not actually completed the necessary research to ground his statements in fact, but should the reader have the time and desire to do so, he or she should go right ahead and delve into it.
Continuing with his story of Parson Yorick, the narrator writes that he has found that Danish people tend to have moderate intelligence. Parson Yorick, nine hundred years down the family line, appeared to have no sign of Danish blood, from which we infer the evaluation that Yorick also does not have much of Danish intelligence. Unlike other Danes that Tristram has met, Yorick was "unpractised in the world." Yorick, in other words, did not know how to make his way through life nor did he understand other people.
Being the descendant of a jester, according to Tristram, Yorick was handicapped by his responses to life's experiences as well as to the people he met along his way. Not only did Parson Yorick enjoy a good laugh, he also liked to make fun of other people. He laughed, in other words, at other people's expense.
Yorick's friend Eugenius often warned him that this tendency might one day lead him into dire trouble; someone might seek revenge. Not fully comprehending the consequences of his inappropriate behavior, Yorick...
(The entire section is 465 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 15-19 Summary
Referring to a legal document that has several clauses dictating the terms of delivery should Mrs. Shandy became pregnant, Tristram returns to the story of his conception. The document states that Mrs. Shandy has the right to choose to give birth in London. However, one year before Tristram's birth, Mrs. Shandy has a "false alarm" (possibly a false pregnancy or a miscarriage) but demands to be taken to London; then she comes home without a baby. Because of this waste of a trip to London, Mr. Shandy adds another clause to the legal document so that should Mrs. Shandy become pregnant again, she has no other choice than to have the baby delivered at the Shandy estate.
Not only does Mr. Shandy come home from London without a son (the time before Tristram was born), he also was pulled away from his estate at a time when his crops were due to be harvested. Therefore, on the long trip back to the Shandy home, Mrs. Shandy suffered her husband's rants of anger and intolerance that she later told Tristram's Uncle Toby would have tried the patience of any human being on earth.
A year later, after Mrs. Shandy knows that she has conceived another baby, she begins to make immediate plans. She researches the midwives who are available and settles on a woman who lives nearby. Mr. Shandy, however, has other ideas. Since it was his decision not to take his wife to London so she might give birth, Mr. Shandy fears that he will be blamed if anything should happen during the delivery, such as if the baby or his wife should die. So he does his own research for a midwife and chooses "a man midwife." Unfortunately, Mrs. Shandy will have nothing to do with her husband's choice.
Mr. Shandy tries everything he can think of to convince his wife that the man-midwife is a more proper choice. However, no matter what argument he makes in favor of the man-midwife, Mrs. Shandy will not give her consent. In the end, Mrs. Shandy wins. The old female midwife is employed. Mr. Shandy, Tristram's Uncle Toby, and the man-midwife sit in the parlor during the birth, drinking wine.
Tristram then discusses the choosing of his name. He first mentions two aspects of his father's personality. First Tristram states that Mr. Shandy is a great orator. Second, Tristram's father has very strong opinions about a person's name. Some names, such as "Andrew," Mr. Shandy likens to a negative number in algebra—worse than nothing. "William" holds a fairly...
(The entire section is 480 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 20-25 Summary
In these chapters, which end the first volume of the story, the narrator continues his commentary on his birth. Digressions in the telling, which the narrator points out are not truly digressions as the story moves forward not just in spite of them but more precisely because of them, often interrupt the storyline. Among the digressions is the inclusion of two long letters written entirely in French.
Eventually, Tristram returns to his description of his Uncle Toby's character. Toby and Tristram's father, Walter, are sitting downstairs while Tristram's mother is upstairs about to give birth to Tristram. The narrator states that his uncle has a special type of humor, one that "does honor" to the British wit. All of the males in the Shandy family, according to Tristram, have unique gifts, although Tristram's father never acknowledges this fact. The women of the family, however, have no special traits at all, except for Tristram's Aunt Dinah who, at the age of sixty, had a love affair with the family coachman.
In describing the personality traits of his Uncle Toby, Tristram claims that the most predominant one is that of modesty. Tristram is not sure if his uncle is modest by nature or if he acquired this characteristic as he grew older. No matter how his uncle learned to be modest, he did so to such a pure and honest degree that he outshone even the most modest women of his time. Tristram suggests that most readers might assume that his uncle's modesty was honed by women, with whom Toby might have spent much time in conversation. In this way, Toby might have gained an uncommon knowledge of women and might have learned to imitate the "fair examples" of female modesty.
However, Tristram then points out that Toby rarely spoke to women, so this could not be the cause. The truth of the matter is this: Tristram's Uncle Toby was endowed with modesty from a blow he received when a large chunk of stone fell directly onto his groin. When Tristram gets to this point of his story, he breaks off the narrative, stating that the details of how this injury contributed to his uncle's modesty will be provided in later episodes of the book. The only part of the story that Tristram discusses is the fact that whenever this accident and its subsequent injury to his uncle was mentioned during family gatherings, especially in the company of women, Tristram's Uncle Toby would take Tristram's father aside and beg him not to tell the rest of...
(The entire section is 483 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 1-5 Summary
Tristram continues his story about Uncle Toby and his injury. After Toby is wounded, he is confined to bed for a long period of time. To help him pass the time and better endure the pain, Toby requests a map of Namur, the location in Belgium where the battle took place in which Toby was injured. Upon receiving this map, Toby begins to study it diligently. By forcing himself to memorize completely the map and recreate the whole scene of the military battles, their attacks and retreats, Toby slowly begins to heal as he replaces his emotional reactions to his wounds with more rational reflections on the battle in which they occurred.
However, as Toby's study of Namur expands into other battles and other histories of lands beyond Belgium, his thirst for knowledge become unquenchable. After the first year of his recovery, Toby is well versed in the wars and in the destruction and reconstruction of towns and cities. He becomes so obsessed in his studies that he forgets his wound, his pain, even his dinner.
In the years that follow, Toby widens his focus from the histories of wars and the countries involved in them to the weaponry and fortifications used in the battles. This eventually expands into the scientific explanation of the trajectory paths of canon balls, which leads Toby to an examination of Galileo's theories of geometry. At this point, Tristram yells (figuratively) at his uncle to stop. "Go not one foot farther into this thorny and bewildered track," Tristram writes as if he were speaking to his uncle. He tells Toby to run away from his quest for knowledge as if it were a snake.
During his fourth year of recovery, Toby grows impatient with his recovery. He stops caring about cleaning himself, changing his clothes, and even ignores his doctor's instructions about and inspection of his wound. One day in front of the doctor and Walter, Toby speaks about his frustrations and impatience with his healing. He talks about all the miseries he has suffered during what he refers to as his "imprisonment." This brings tears to Walter's eyes. The doctor, too, is surprised by Toby's words, as never in the first years of Toby's suffering had Toby ever complained. Toby, up to this point, was the purest example of patience.
Tristram writes that when a patient is submissive for several years' time, he loses the "right of complaining." Because Toby endured so much pain over the years without mentioning it to...
(The entire section is 559 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 6-10 Summary
Mrs. Shandy's labor has begun and she tells her maid to call for the old female midwife. Upon learning that Mrs. Shandy is soon to give birth, Walter sends his servant, Obadiah, to fetch the male midwife, Dr. Slop, whom he prefers. After this is done, Walter and Toby enter into a discussion of why Mrs. Shandy would prefer the old female midwife to Dr. Slop. Toby believes that Mrs. Shandy wants the female midwife because of modesty. Mrs. Shandy does not want a man to see her in such an intimate way.
Walter Shandy thinks that Toby's ideas about women are ridiculous. To Walter's mind, Dr. Slop is more educated and better trained and should be the person to whom the life of his wife and future son should be entrusted. Toby confesses that he knows very little about women, and he uses his failed attempt some years before at a love affair to a widow named Wadman as proof. This failed affair left Toby in shock, a shock he could have avoided had he gained prior knowledge of how to deal with women.
In the midst of their conversation, there is a knock at the door. At this point, the narrator goes into a discussion of time as it appears in storytelling. Though it seems too short a period of time since the mention of Obadiah's having been sent off to find Dr. Slop, the narrator reminds the reader that many chapters have gone by since the first time he mentioned that Mrs. Shandy was upstairs preparing to give birth. In other words, time is very elusive as well as elastic in storytelling, especially when the author often digresses into other topics.
However, the doctor is there, even though he lives eight miles away. To counter any critics, the narrator adds another detail to the story: Dr. Slop, having known that it was near the time of delivery, might have been on his way to the Shandys' home to check on his patient. Thus there is no need to allot him enough time to travel the eight miles.
Dr. Slop is a short man, under five feet tall. When he appears at the Shandy's door, he is splattered with mud. The reason for his disarray is that upon Obadiah's haste to ride to the doctor's home as quickly as possible, he all but ran the doctor over as he rounded the corner of the Shandy's house, making Dr. Slop fall off his horse.
Walter Shandy is surprised not only because of Dr. Slop's appearance but also because he too thinks the doctor arrived impossibly quickly. Toby, in the meantime, also finds Dr. Slop's...
(The entire section is 485 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 11-14 Summary
Chapter 11 begins with the aftermath of Dr. Slop's and Obadiah's accidental crash into one another as Obadiah was racing to fetch Dr. Slop. Dr. Slop, not knowing that Tristram's mother had indeed gone into labor, was on his way to the Shandy manor to check on Mrs. Shandy.
Dr. Slop's clothes are muddy because of the fall he has taken, and he is invited into the Shandy home so he might change. While inside the Shandy house, the doctor is told that Mrs. Shandy is in labor.
Unfortunately, the doctor announces, he is not prepared to assist in the delivery. Having thought that Mrs. Shandy was not yet due to deliver, he left his medical bag at home, the one that contains the tools of his trade. In particular, he left at home one of the latest inventions in the obstetrics field (of that time), a pair of forceps. He cannot deliver a baby without them, Dr. Slop tells them. So Mr. Shandy sends Obadiah to the doctor's residence to retrieve the physician's bag.
In the middle of relating this part of the story, the narrator, in the voice of Tristram (who actually is not yet born), interrupts the narrative to announce that he is not providing details about the doctor's trip to the Shandy's home or about Obadiah's accident with the doctor. The narrator says that the reader must use his own imagination to fill in the missing conversations as well as the particular actions of Mr. Shandy, who visits his wife's room at this time while Dr. Slop changes his clothes and washes off the mud on his hands and face.
The narrator talking to the reader in this way is an example of what literary critics refer to as Sterne's use of what today is called "post-modern" techniques. In employing these techniques, Sterne is often referred to as an author well ahead of his time.
As the story continues, the doctor, Mr. Shandy, and Tristram's Uncle Toby wait for Obadiah to return. While they do so, despite the fact that Mrs. Shandy is upstairs crying out in pain, the three men enjoy a lively conversation. During their discourse, the Shandy brothers' different personalities are displayed, demonstrating how different they are.
When Toby begins to discuss various aspects of the construction of war fortifications (which is a very serious hobby of his), Mr. Shandy berates him. Mr. Shandy accuses his brother of bringing up the topic of wars and forts no matter what people are talking about. He says that Toby has a...
(The entire section is 511 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 15-17 Summary
Mr. Shandy, his brother Toby, and Dr. Slop continue their conversation while waiting for Obadiah to bring the doctor's medicine bag. During a lull in the conversation, Corporal Trim, a man who works for Toby, walks into the house.
As soon as Toby sees the corporal, he asks the man to run over to his house and pick up his book by Stevinus, an engineer. The book is what had inspired Toby's conversation about war fortifications. Readers can assume that Toby wanted to continue that part of the discourse, possibly drawing references from the Stevinus book.
When Corporal Trim returns, Mr. Shandy asks him to go through the book to see if he can find a reference to a sail boat that Stevinus is accredited for engineering, as the previous conversation among the three men had involved this fact.
As the corporal searches through the book, a piece of paper falls out of the book. When Trim inspects the paper, he claims that there is something written on it. The writing begins with a quote from the Bible and so Trim concludes that it must be a sermon. Although Toby cannot imagine how a sermon was placed inside his Stevinus book, he asks Trim to read it.
Upon declaring that Trim is very competent in reading, a statement Trim reinforces, Toby informs his brother and the doctor that he considered Trim a scholar when both men served in the military together. Upon hearing this, Mr. Shandy asks the doctor if he minds listening to the sermon. Then the men settle back as Trim stands in the center of the room and prepares to read.
Before Trim begins reading, the narrator again interrupts the story to describe how Trim looks. The narrator claims that if he leaves these facts to the reader's imagination, Trim would probably be described as a soldier standing at attention. However, this is far from the truth. Trim's body is relaxed. He is standing at a slight angle, leaning forward, one foot placed a few inches in front of the other. This is the orator's stance, the narrator states, although the narrator does not know how Trim knows that he should stand in this fashion.
Trim does not read many words from the sermon before Mr. Shandy interrupts him. Shandy criticizes the way Trim is reading, suggesting that the tone of voice he is using is prejudiced against Protestants.
There ensues a conversation between Mr. Shandy and Doctor Slop concerning the differences between the Catholic religion and...
(The entire section is 510 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 18-19 Summary
Corporal Trim has read the sermon that he discovered, and the narrator (who is Tristram telling the story of his life) has described the corporal in detail. First the narrator points out that Trim is not standing at attention as some readers might assume, being that Trim is a military man. Rather, he is standing in what the narrator describes as an orator's stance. Trim leans, the narrators relates, at exactly an 85.5-degree angle, no more, no less. This being the perfect angle for an orator, the narrator points out that this is an example of how the arts and sciences work in conjunction with one another.
The topic of science versus nature is taken up next. Obadiah has returned to the Tristram home with Dr. Slop's medicine bag. Inside the bag is an obstetrical forceps, an instrument that represents the most modern scientific development in the delivery of babies at that time. Dr. Slop has been waiting for this instrument so that he can administer his skills on Tristram's mother's behalf. All the while the men have been discussing science and waiting for Obadiah to return, Mrs. Shandy, who remains upstairs, has been suffering through labor pains.
It is at this point, as the doctor prepares to go upstairs, that Tristram's father announces that he has ordered that the "old midwife" who is currently attending to Tristram's mother should come downstairs if any challenges present themselves that she feels she is unable to handle.
Mr. Shandy then tells the doctor that he has conceded to his wife's wishes in this matter. Mrs. Shandy prefers using the midwife over employing Dr. Slop. After all, it is the mother of a child who suffers through the delivery and should therefore have the last word in how she wants the child delivered as well as who should be available to assist her, Mr. Shandy explains.
Uncle Toby agrees, although the doctor ignores Toby's comments and is slightly surprised that Mr. Shandy is so weak as to give in to a woman, in spite of the fact that Mrs. Shandy has told her husband that she prefers the midwife to be in attendance and to use the doctor only in an emergency.
The doctor completely disagrees with this arrangement. He has studied obstetrics, he reminds Mr. Shandy, and is up to date on all the modern scientific practices. A father should exert his rights as patriarch and insist, for the sake of his offspring, that a scientific approach to birthing be followed. The doctor...
(The entire section is 606 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 1-6 Summary
Once again, the narrator interrupts the telling of Tristram Shandy's birth and wanders into conversations and ruminations among Tristram's father, his uncle, and Dr. Slop, who has yet to attend to Tristram's mother, in labor upstairs.
First, Tristram's Uncle Toby wants to talk about his experiences during the war in Flanders. He says that he wishes Dr. Slop had seen the "prodigious armies" there. Mr. Shandy, who believes that Toby does not understand the pertinence of his "wish" statement, interrupts his brother. Mr. Shandy is aware of the cultural custom of the person to whom the wish is directed making a countering wish after hearing someone make that wish. There is no further explanation of this custom, although the narrator interjects that there will be a future chapter in this story that will explain everything about wishes.
With the focus on Mr. Shandy now, the narrator observes Tristram's father taking off his wig and pulling out a handkerchief from his pocket with which to wipe his brow. A discussion of how Mr. Shandy manages to do this—using his right hand to remove the wig and his left hand to pull the handkerchief from his right-sided pocket—is then discussed.
The narrator questions if Mr. Shandy should have taken his wig off with his left hand to use his right hand to pull his handkerchief out of his right pocket, thus alleviating the uncomfortable contortion of having to stretch his left arm across his chest to reach his right pocket.
The narrator also points out that the fashion of the day requires that pockets are made unusually deep, thus suggesting that in attempting to retrieve his handkerchief, Mr. Shandy not only has to cross his arm awkwardly from left to right but also has to lean into his elongated pocket to find it.
This leads to the discussion of men's clothing. The narrator talks about one particular men's garment of the time, the "Jerkin," a vest-like garment often made of leather and worn over undergarments. The narrator states that men's bodies and minds are "exactly like a jerkin." If the outside of a jerkin is crumpled, so too is the interior lining, although many men throughout history, going all the way back to the Romans and the Greeks, have claimed the opposite—saying that even if the outside of the jerkin is rumpled, the lining is not affected. However, the narrator also asserts that in his case, no matter what his...
(The entire section is 508 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 7-11 Summary
The scene changes so that the readers hear about Obadiah's travails as he rides to the doctor's home to retrieve the instruments the doctor needs to assist Mrs. Tristram in her delivery of the baby.
Once at the doctor's home, Obadiah receives the bag of instruments from the maid. The medical instruments are in a cloth bag, the straps of which the maid hangs over Obadiah's head. However, Obadiah worries that the instruments might fall out while his horse gallops back home, so he and the maid tie knots in the straps to close the bag more securely.
This keeps the instruments from falling out, but it does not keep them from banging against one another in the bag as Obadiah rushes back to the Shandy home. The noise the banging causes all but drives Obadiah crazy as it keeps him from hearing himself whistle during the ride.
Obadiah loves music and is determined to hear his own whistling while he is riding his horse. Without stopping his horse from running, Obadiah loosens his head band with one hand, and by using his teeth and free hand, ties the band around the body of the bag so the instruments inside stop clanging against one another. This tight restriction performs exactly as Obadiah has planned and he continues on his journey, enjoying the silence in which he can now hear the sound of his whistle.
However, upon arriving at the Shandy home, the doctor cannot stop cursing. When he receives the bag with the necessary medical instruments inside, he cannot get to them; all the knots in the head band wrapped around the instruments.
While the doctor continues to curse, Mr. Shandy tells him that a church official, Bishop Ernulphus, has written a declaration that includes the proper curses to use according to the gravity of the incident that caused the need for profanity. Mr. Shandy has the list on his bookshelf. When the doctor wants to read it, Mr. Shandy tells him that he can but must read it out loud.
The next chapter is then devoted to the list of curses. The list is written in Latin and is presented in this chapter in its original language but not translated into English until the following chapter.
The list that follows contains references to various aspects of the Christian God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost) as well as mention of the Virgin Mary and many saints. After calling out these venerable beings, the list then asks that the saints "curse" the...
(The entire section is 480 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 12-18 Summary
Susannah, one of Mrs. Shandy's nurses, comes down from upstairs and announces that Mrs. Shandy is close to fainting from her challenges with her labor. Mysteriously, all her pains have ceased, and she has consumed all the medicine. In addition, while attending to Mrs. Shandy, the nurse cut her arm.
Despite all of this activity, the baby has not changed position, as if it were not ready to be born. Also, the midwife fell and badly bruised her hip. When Dr. Slop responds, his first point of interest is the midwife. He insists on looking at her damaged hip. However, Susannah begs him first to look at Mrs. Shandy and then to talk to the midwife so that the midwife might give the doctor her report of what has happened so far with Mrs. Shandy.
Dr. Slop, who continues to contend that he is in charge despite the fact that both Mr. and Mrs. Shandy have declared that they want the midwife to spearhead the delivery, insists that he cannot go to the midwife. That would not be proper because he is the attending doctor and she is merely the midwife. Instead the midwife must come to him as his subordinate.
As this discussion is occurring, Dr. Slop is finally able to open his bag of instruments. He reaches into the untied bag and brings out the forceps. Uncle Toby is surprised by the looks of the forceps and cannot believe that the doctor intends to use them in delivering the baby. In an attempt to ease Uncle Toby's mind, the doctor has Toby clench his fists to model the baby's skull. Then Dr. Slop clamps the forceps on Uncle Toby's fists and pulls on them.
At this, Uncle Toby screeches, telling the doctor that the forceps have scraped all the skin off the back of his hands and crushed his knuckles. Dr. Slop cannot believe this and tells Toby that he should have held his hands still. It was either the fault of Toby not sitting still or possibly because of the cut on the doctor's thumb, which he received when he had to resort to using a penknife to loosen the knots on the bag. The cut on his thumb has made the doctor a little more clumsy than usual.
Mr. Shandy points out that either way, it is good that the doctor first practiced on Toby rather than on the baby's head. Toby agrees, stating that if his knuckles had been the baby's head, the doctor would have broken the "cerebellum." The doctor disagrees, telling them that a baby's skull is pliable, soft as an apple, and would have slackened upon the...
(The entire section is 464 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 19-22 Summary
After a long discussion about his philosophy of time, Mr. Shandy falls asleep in his chair. Toby soon follows him, while Dr. Slop continues to attend to Mrs. Shandy upstairs.
Meanwhile, Corporal Trim, who works for Toby, has been busy transforming an old pair of "jack-boots" into a pair of "mortars" that he and Toby plan to use in their re-enactment of the battle at Messina. Toby normally spends most of his day out in the yard, where he and Trim have been building a miniature replica of the battles in which Toby fought during the war and in which Toby received an injury in his groin.
In the middle of his continued narration of the story, Tristram again interrupts with a discussion of his intent to "write a good book." To this end, he has used "all the wit" that God has given him. Tristram then appeals to those who will judge his writing, praying that they do so with great wisdom and charity. After all, his words are inspired by God.
The thought of receiving such positive reviews of his writing make Tristram feel giddy until he realizes how thin his fantasy is. He knows that critics do not tend to lavish praise on books and suspects, to the contrary, that they will read his writing and write negative comments. On one side there is wit, the narrator continues, referencing his writing, and on the other side there is judgment—that of the future critics. The narrator then attempts to make clear to his future critics that he has written this book for an audience that does not include them.
The next short chapter is devoted to a squeaky hinge on the door that leads to where Mr. Shandy and Toby are sleeping. Although it would take only three drops of oil and a slight bang of a hammer to fix the hinge, and although Mr. Shandy has always meant to have done it, the hinge has not been fixed.
The narrator likens the squeaky hinge to old wounds under which men tend to languish even when they have the powers to heal them. The narrator states that this is representative of the contradictions of a man's knowledge and that this contradiction is a "gift of God" that serves to sharpen a man's sensibilities, increasing his pains and making him more melancholy. Then the narrator questions this, wondering why God would do such a thing when man has so many other things in life that cause pain and cannot be so easily mended.
The reason the narrator goes into such a deep discussion about...
(The entire section is 540 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 23-31 Summary
The narrator refers to Bridget Wadman, a widow with whom Toby once shared affection. It is not yet clear how deep this relationship was as readers are told only of one incident that involved Corporal Trim, Toby, and the widow.
The narrator promises to provide more details about the widow later. All the readers are told now is that Bridget Wadman appeared one day at the Shandy residence. Because Corporal Trim had just helped Toby get ready for bed, when he sees Bridget appear, he decides to show her the army scene that he and Toby were erecting. One particular portion of the army replica that Trim was very proud of was a new bridge he and Toby were working on.
Unfortunately, while showing Bridget the bridge, Trim slips and knocks Bridget down. She lands and falls through one side of the bridge, and in his attempt to help her, Trim falls against the other side. Their falls completely destroy the bridge.
Reminded of this incident, Mr. Shandy teases Toby and Trim by providing a list of various war weapons such as cannons and bombs as well as more ancient weaponry like catapults, suggesting that if a soldier wanted to destroy a bridge, it could be done in a more military fashion rather than by having Trim and Bridget fall on it and smash it.
The reason this memory about the bridge is stirred is that upon hearing a noise in the kitchen, Mr. Shandy asks who is making the noise. After Corporal Trim goes to investigate, he returns to report that Dr. Slop is in the kitchen. Mr. Shandy asks what Dr. Slop is doing there because he should be upstairs with Mrs. Shandy helping with the delivery. Corporal Trim replies that Dr. Slop is building a bridge.
Toby, whose mind is always occupied with the war and the army replica that he and Trim are building, thinks that Dr. Slop is attempting to devise a more appropriate bridge model for Toby's fort. However, Trim corrects Toby's impressions by stating that in using the forceps to deliver the baby, the doctor has crushed the boy's nose. The bridge the doctor is concocting is a medical replacement for the baby's badly injured nose. When Mr. Shandy hears this, he asks Toby to take him to his room immediately.
The narrator states that Mr. Shandy is in great discomfort about his new son's nose. He throws himself on his bed and sighs deeply. The reason for his irritation is because of a family history of putting great importance on the size of one's...
(The entire section is 441 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 32-42 Summary
The implications of the size of one's nose began with Tristram's great-grandmother and her husband. His great-grandmother once told her husband that he had no nose, a statement she made in reference to a business contract, perhaps implying that he had no nose for business.
However the statement was meant to be taken, the family pride on the male side of the Shandy family was from then on based on the size of one's nose. One statement was even made about the family ranking very highly in the court of Henry the VIII because of the size of the Shandy men's noses.
So this explains why Mr. Shandy is so disheartened when he hears that Dr. Slop has broken the baby's nose, squashing the nose flat upon the baby's face and causing the boy to have a very small nose.
In a flashback, the narrator recalls a long philosophical discussion Mr. Shandy had one day with his brother Toby. Mr. Shandy was attempting to provide a reason, as some philosophers explained it, why some men have short noses and other's have long ones. However, the discussion proved too long and Toby became bored, letting his mind wander to his favorite hobby, building the replica of his infamous army battle.
When Mr. Shandy realized that his brother was not paying much attention to him, he became angry. After stomping around the room and slamming doors to gain his brother's attention, Mr. Shandy berated Toby for allowing his mind to go astray.
Toby protested, stating that he had heard the argument that the true reason one man might have a big nose and another a small one is because of the powers of God and no one else. However, Mr. Shandy said that this was just one argument of one person, a theologian whose ideas were too full of religion to be trusted.
Other philosophers have offered more scientific reasons for the varied features of a man's face. Mr. Shandy's favorite philosopher is a man by the name of Hafen Slawkenbergius. If all books of knowledge were ever destroyed, Mr. Shandy declared, except for the books of Slawkenbergius, the world could continue as if nothing had been lost. In other words, Slawkenbergius was the smartest man who every lived. One of Slawkenbergius's particular topics of philosophical discourse dealt with the size of men's noses.
Here in the story, the narrator relates one of Slawkenbergius's tales, written in Latin and then translated into English. Slawkenberguis's story is about...
(The entire section is 450 words.)
Book 4, Slawkenbergius's Tale Summary
Slawkenbergius is one of Tristram's father's favorite philosophers. Of all the books he owns, Mr. Shandy claims if all other books were destroyed and only Slawkenbergius's books were saved, the whole world could be put back together from any chaos with this one book.
Slawkenbergius is known not only for his philosophical writings but also for a large volume of stories of fantasy. It is one of these stories that is next told, partially in Latin with most of it translated into English.
On a sultry day in August, a stranger riding on a mule enters the town of Strasburg. As he passes through the gate of the city, the stranger remarks to the sentry that he has been to the "Promontory of Noses" and is on his way to Frankfort but would be returning to Strasburg in about thirty days.
The sentinel cannot help but notice the stranger's nose, which is the biggest nose he has ever seen. The sentinel also sees that the stranger has a small knife that appears to have no sheath, and he worries that the stranger might cut himself. The stranger tells the sentinel that his knife needs no sheath as he must keep the knife ready to protect his nose.
This statement is better understood later after the townspeople get a glimpse of the stranger and comment on the size of his nose. It is so large that half the people think the nose must be synthetic, made of paper or metal or some other material. No person could grow such a nose as the one that this stranger has, some of the people comment. Other people argue that the nose has to be real because one of them saw it bleed.
To put an end to the arguing and guessing, some of the speculators want to touch the stranger's nose to prove whether it is real or not. The stranger is insistent, however, that no one will touch his nose, which is why he keeps his knife ready.
After the stranger leaves Strasburg, the townspeople are unable to sleep or eat or carry out any of their business. Thus the town falls to ruin. The intellectuals hold forums during which great debates occur similar, the author states, to the debates that happened during Martin Luther's time to debate whether Luther's beliefs were correct or not.
The story then moves with the stranger on his travels to Frankfort. All the while on the road, the stranger alternates his comments, directing them to his mule or focusing on one of his favorite topics, the object of his love, a woman...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
Book 4, Chapters 1-10 Summary
The subject matter of this group of chapters is somewhat disjointed as Tristram jumps from the topic of noses to that of writing a book. The reason for the focus on noses is because Tristram (the baby recently delivered at this juncture in the story) had his nose broken by the forceps the doctor used to help extract him from his mother's womb. Having a broken nose will mark Tristram for life, his father fears, bringing Tristram bad luck.
First, when Tristram (as the narrator) reflects on Slawkenbergius's story about the stranger with the enormous nose, he chastises Slawkenbergius for being so "whimsical" in describing Julia's love and criticizes the writer for using language that will be very difficult to translate.
The narrator then puts his attention on his father, Mr. Shandy, who is on the bed with his own nose pressed against the blankets. Mr. Shandy is so still, it is as if he were dead. He has been overcome with his grief over his son's broken nose.
As he grieves, he asks his brother Toby if there is any other man who has ever received "so many lashes." Readers can assume that Mr. Shandy is feeling sorry for himself, believing that his sorrow is greater than that of any other man's.
Toby takes his brother's word literally and consults Trim about an incident that occurred while they were in the army. The situation had something to do with two young men who were punished and given a whipping. The details of this incident are not forthcoming, but a discussion between Toby and Trim ensues about the act of men crying. There is a discussion about whether men should cry and under what circumstances this is appropriate. Trim concludes that whenever he thinks about the young soldiers being whipped, it makes him cry.
After Trim leaves the room, Toby tells his brother that upon his death, he plans to leave a "pension" for Trim. This upsets Mr. Shandy, who begins to talk about inheritance. Toby insists that he was given no inheritance but Mr. Shandy disagrees, reminding him that their uncle left Toby "a hundred and twenty pounds a year." To this Toby answers, "What could I have done without it?" However, Toby does not admit that he has just contradicted himself.
Mr. Shandy then returns to the misfortune of his newborn child with the broken nose. To counter this twist of fate, Mr. Shandy declares that his son will be christened "Trismegistus."
The narrator then...
(The entire section is 468 words.)
Book 4, Chapters 11-18 Summary
Mr. Shandy is talking to Toby when one of the housemaids walks by them. Mr. Shandy asks if the woman knows how his wife is doing. The maid offers only a vague answer or no answer at all to his questions before she walks away.
Commenting on the maid's attitude, Mr. Shandy tells Toby, who is unmarried, that one of the greatest perplexities of married life is the way all the female staff react when the mistress of the house is either ill or in bed due to pregnancy or birthing. When his wife is not feeling well, Mr. Shandy says, the other females in the house all grow an inch taller, so to speak. They become more confident in themselves and feel they have the right not to consider the husband and his needs.
Toby suggests that rather than the female helpers growing taller, maybe the situation is that the man of the house shrinks.
At this point, the narrator breaks into the story and asks someone to take his father and uncle to bed. They have been up too long for their health and the narrator does not know how to get them to retire.
Upon this request, a stranger announces that the father and uncle are gone; however, the stranger has not actually sent the men to bed but merely has drawn a curtain in front of the men, thus blocking them from the narrator's view. For this, the narrator offers his gratitude.
The narrator then discusses for the readers' sake that he fears he will never be able to write his entire autobiography as it seems that the more he writes, the more there is to write because he continues to age as he is in the process of writing.
Next, the narration of the central story resumes, with Mr. Shandy talking to Susannah, Mrs. Shandy's personal maid. Mrs. Shandy has sent Susannah to find Mr. Shandy so he might proclaim what the baby's name will be. Susannah announces that the baby is not doing well. She says the baby is having a "fit" and has turned "black" and is expected to die. A priest is present and ready to christen the baby and needs a name to do so.
Susannah also relates that Mrs. Shandy has suggested that the baby might be named Toby. Mr. Shandy considers this, especially since the baby is dying. It would be a waste of a good name to call the baby anything else. However, upon second thought, Mr. Shandy realizes that the child might live. Therefore Mr. Shandy tells Susannah that the name shall be "Trismegistus."
When Susannah returns to the...
(The entire section is 523 words.)
Book 4, Chapters 19-25 Summary
Mr. Shandy feels that he has been cursed and tells Toby why he thinks so. Mr. Shandy believes that he has been given a very unlucky son and wonders why this has happened. He wonders if it was his fault. Was he too old to have fathered a child? Were all his life energies so low because of his advancing age that he produced an inferior child?
Or was it Mrs. Shandy's fault? Did she do something wrong during her pregnancy? He recalls that Mrs. Shandy wanted to have the baby delivered in the city, under the care of a reputable doctor. Mr. Shandy refused to do this, preferring a delivery at home. He claims that his wife worried over this matter so much that the baby was harmed.
Toby states that Mrs. Shandy seemed to have taken her disappointment in the arrangement without any difficulty. Toby saw no stress in her, he says. However, Mr. Shandy states that his wife suffered in silence. She hid all of her emotions; because they were not noticeable on the outside, they must have done considerable harm to the child.
Mr. Shandy also worries that if the forceps the doctor used broke his son's nose, the child also might suffer from brain damage caused by applying pressure to the baby's skull with those same forceps. Then Mr. Shandy says that in spite of all of these circumstances his son has endured, the boy might still have had a chance at a decent life, but the final blow was the mistaken name bestowed upon him. If only he had been named something other than "Tristram."
The narrator breaks away from the storyline to relate the tale of Francis the First, king of France, who wanted to strengthen his country's relationship with Switzerland and so offered Switzerland the opportunity to be the "godfather" of his son at the child's christening.
Switzerland accepted this offer but insisted on having the right to name the boy. King Francis assumed that a proper name would be chosen and was shocked when Switzerland selected the name "Shadrach, Mesech, Abed-nego." Upon hearing this, King Francis insisted on having nothing to do with Switzerland except go to war with them.
In the following chapter, the narrator sounds as if he is defending his story, stating that he by no means means to insult the king of France nor anyone else in writing this novel. He merely wants to make people laugh or "to drive the gall and other bitter juices" out of the bodies of everyone who reads his book.
(The entire section is 478 words.)
Book 4, Chapters 26-32 Summary
The narrator relates part of the meeting of prominent community members who have come together to discuss the renaming of Tristram. However, first the reader's attention is drawn to an incident that occurs to one of the men, Phutatorius. The hot chestnuts had been brought to the table in a bag. When placed in front of Phutatorius, the bag, being excessively full, cannot contain all the chestnuts, and one of them falls unnoticed out of the bag and down the front of Phutatorius's pants.
At first, the warmth of the chestnut feels unusual but pleasant, but only for the first twenty or thirty seconds. After that, the heat becomes unbearably painful. When Phutatorius feels the pain from the hot chestnut, he has no idea why he is suffering so. He imagines a variety of possibilities, although he does not want to say anything to any of the men about his condition because the pain is occurring in a very private part of his body.
After a while, the pain is so strong that Phutatorius imagines that maybe it is not heat that he is feeling but rather that some creature has crawled into his pants and is biting him. When he imagines that some reptilian creature has crawled into his pants, the shock makes him jump involuntarily out of his chair. The jerky movement of jumping causes the chestnut to fall out of his pants and onto the floor.
When Yorick, another man in this group, sees the chestnut fall to the floor, he bends down to retrieve it, not knowing from where it has fallen. Upon seeing Yorick pick up the chestnut, Phutatorius concludes that it was Yorick who somehow slid the chestnut into his pants. This causes Phutatorius to resent Yorick and to threaten him (although nothing comes of the threat in this section of the novel).
The focus of the next section shifts to a scholarly discussion on whether or not Tristram's christening was valid. If it was invalid, then the child's name can be changed. This discussion begins after Phutatorius interrupts to asks for a treatment to "take out the fire" of his burn. The treatment depends, says one of the men, on whether the burnt area can be wrapped up or not.
If it can be wrapped, then Phutatorius should use a sheet of paper right off the press to wrap the affected area. The oils in the paper and the "lamp-black" of the ink are what will help cure the burn.
When a man named Gastripheres says that if it were his burn, he would just as soon wrap the...
(The entire section is 563 words.)
Book 5, Chapters 1-5 Summary
The narrator previously promised to write a chapter devoted to the topic of whiskers. Having made this promise, he decides it is now time to fulfill it, even though it is completely out of context for the rest of the story. The narrator does not worry about this, stating that he will leave it to those who will later review and criticize his story to figure out what it means.
So the narrator creates a new narrator, whom he describes only as an "old man." The old man then begins to tell a story about whiskers. In the old man's story there is a queen of "Navarre" and her court of females who become engaged in a discussion of whiskers and how handsome they are. A man without them is not worthy of their attention.
The women swoon at the sound of the word and even grow whiskers on their chins. This continues until any mention of whiskers is banned. "The curate of d'Estella wrote a book against them," turning everyone's mind against whiskers. Previously, the curate had banned the word nose. Although the power of the curate was such that he was able to ban the word whiskers from Navarre society, the narrator informs his readers that even though the ban was successful, no one in Navarre understood the reasons why the curate had done so.
Returning to the main plot of the novel, the narrator tells his readers that Mr. Shandy has received a letter telling him that his older son Bobby has died. At first, Mr. Shandy cannot accept this fact. He wonders how his son could die without having first been sick. Toby, however, reasons that if Bobby is dead, he surely must have been sick.
When Mr. Shandy finally allows the fact that his son is dead to sink in, he begins a varied and long recollection of all the philosophy books he has read on the topic of death and recites them.
First he concludes that everything and everybody living on Earth must die at some point. He even states that it is much easier to contend with his son's death than it would have been to accept that his son Bobby could never die. Then Mr. Shandy lists all the great philosophers who have died. He even recounts all the great nations that rose to their full glory and then crumbled in destruction. He says even the Earth itself will one day die.
Mr. Shandy also laments that it is far better to die than to live and go hungry or to live in thirst. It is also better to die than to suffer the human ailments of illness, sorrow, and a...
(The entire section is 550 words.)
Book 5, Chapters 6-12 Summary
The narrator previously promised a chapter each on the topics of chambermaids and button holes, but he changes his mind. In their place, he offers chapters on how some of Mr. Shandy's and Toby's staff react to Bobby's death.
Upon hearing that the older Shandy son has died, Susannah cannot believe the news. Once she regains her senses, she announces that the family must go into mourning. Upon hearing this, Corporal Trim, Toby's right-hand man, says, "I hope not."
Susannah misunderstands this and questions Trim about his statement. Trim explains that he hopes that the news about Bobby's death is untrue. If so, there would be no need to go into mourning.
Susannah tells Trim that the news is definitely true as she heard Toby reading the letter to Mr. Shandy. The family will definitely have to go into mourning, she announces, and then she loses herself to her thoughts.
Her thoughts are focused on Mrs. Shandy. Susannah is very concerned about her not in reference to the emotions caused by the death of her son but rather to the dark clothes that Mrs. Shandy will be required to wear during the period of mourning. Susannah mentally takes stock of Mrs. Shandy's wardrobe, recalling all the bright colors of Mrs. Shandy's favorite dresses, all of which Mrs. Shandy will have to forgo and instead wear black.
Trim, now assured that Bobby is truly dead, marks the moment of recognition by loudly rapping his walking cane onto the floor and throwing his hat down in an expression of disgust. When he cries out "are we not . . . all gone! in a moment!" Susannah bursts into tears. Shortly afterward, the scullery maid and Obadiah also feel the rush of sadness over Bobby's death.
The narrator then comments on how significant Trim's gesture of dropping his hat was. It was as if the hat itself had fallen dead. It was the dropping of the hat that brought forth the emotions of the people who had gathered around Trim as he spoke of Bobby's death.
Trim goes on, explaining that his main concern over this sad event is not how either Mr. or Mrs. Shandy will react but rather about his employer, Toby Shandy. Mrs. Shandy will be able to release her emotions through tears, Trim says. Mr. Shandy will get over his emotions by talking.
However, Toby will keep his emotions to himself. He will neither cry nor tell anyone about his feelings. Rather, he will only sigh very deeply when he goes to...
(The entire section is 544 words.)
Book 5, Chapters 13-25 Summary
Mr. Shandy, in his continuing efforts to comfort himself after the news of his elder son's death, has taken to reciting Socrates to Toby. Socrates, the narrator informs the reader, was a morose man, much more discontented than Mr. Shandy, and that is the reason Mr. Shandy finds reading the great philosopher's words so pleasing at this time.
However, as Mr. Shandy reads a line from Socrates stating that the philosopher had three children, Mrs. Shandy happens to pass by the open door of the room. She mistakes Socrates' words for her husband's and believes that Mr. Shandy is confessing to an affair that produced a third son.
Mrs. Shandy enters the room and states that if this is the case, then her husband has one more son than she knows about. Mr. Shandy, not in the mood to explain, walks out of the room, saying that in fact he has one less son (this a reference to the loss of his elder son).
Mrs. Shandy is left in the room with Toby, whose heart, as Corporal Trim has explained, is so much more sensitive than Mr. Shandy's. Toby stands up, takes Mrs. Shandy's hand, and leads her out of the room. With this gesture, the narrator interrupts the story to announce that had this story been a staged play, this chapter would mark the conclusion of the first act.
The narrator next tells about a new project that Mr. Shandy has become involved in. He has decided to write what he calls a "Tristra-paedia," or a book that will offer his son lessons in everything he needs to learn.
Mr. Shandy becomes so involved in his writing task that he barely notices his son during the first five years of the boy's life. After completing his book, however, Mr. Shandy finds the first sections unworthy and throws them away.
Moving forward to when Tristram is five years old, his nursemaid, Susannah, decides that the boy is old enough to urinate without her supervising his actions. So she places the bowl into which Tristram is to relieve himself on the window ledge and leaves the room.
When she hears Tristram scream out, she returns to find that there has been an accident and sees blood on the boy's private part. After a doctor has been called, Susannah is beside herself and runs to Toby's house to seek counsel in how to break the news of the accident to Mr. Shandy. Susannah feels it is her fault that the accident occurred because she left the room, believing that Tristram was old enough to take care...
(The entire section is 624 words.)
Book 5, Chapters 26-31 Summary
Hearing his son yell out, Mr. Shandy waits downstairs for someone to tell him what has happened. When Susannah ran down earlier from Tristram's room, she encountered Obadiah and quickly told him what had happened before she hurried over to Toby's house. So Obadiah is left to tell Mr. Shandy about Tristram's accident.
Once Mr. Shandy learns the details, he goes upstairs, where he finds his wife examining their son. After Mr. Shandy looks at his son, he turns around and quickly leaves the room.
Mrs. Shandy assumes that her husband has gone to get some kind of medication, but when Mr. Shandy returns with his arms filled with books, Mrs. Shandy thinks her husband is researching possible herbal remedies. However, Mr. Shandy tells his wife that if she is looking for an herbal cure, she will have to call Dr. Slop.
The only thing Mr. Shandy is interested in learning from his books is whether or not history approves of what Tristram has suffered, which the narrator insinuates is similar to a circumcision. After reading his volumes, Mr. Shandy discovers that it is not only Jewish people who approve of circumcision but also Egyptians, Syrians, Phoenicians, Arabians, and many other people from other cultures also follow the practice.
So Mr. Shandy concludes that if it good enough for all those people than it is good enough for his son. In other words, Mr. Shandy is less interested in his son's health and welfare than he is in how his son might be accepted in society.
Mr. Shandy says that if circumcision is such a common practice among so many people, there is no reason for him to be worried about Tristram's painful accident. He even comments that because of the accident, when Tristram is old enough to travel to Egypt to see the pyramids, he will fit right in with the people living there.
The narrator comments that this incident of Tristram's accident was not recorded by Mr. Shandy in the "Tristra-paedia" that he was writing. It is Tristram himself who later writes the chapter about his accident and adds the chapter to his father's book.
While later discussing the matter with Toby, Trim, and Yorick, Mr. Shandy references his son's accident as Tristram's strange way of practicing his religious beliefs. "Never was the son of Jew, Christian, Turk, or Infidel initiated" into religious rites as obliquely and "slovenly" as Tristram appears to do it.
Toby is the only one...
(The entire section is 454 words.)
Book 5, Chapters 32-43 Summary
As Mr. Shandy continues his research into health, he reads chapters from various books to Trim, Toby, and Yorick.
While reading, Mr. Shandy comes to a sentence that begins, "The whole secret of health" lies in the mastery of two different elements, "radical heat" and "radical moisture." The long discussion that follows this statement centers on a definition or explanation of what these two elements are and how they are applied to maintain one's health.
Mr. Shandy begins his discussion by criticizing "quacks." It is not clear if this is a reference merely to uneducated doctors or to all doctors in general. However, Mr. Shady believes that all of man's problems boils down to the ignorance of "quacks."
Next, a discussion ensues about a man names Verulam, who believed that human life is shortened by man's internal spirit, which burns man's life energies away. Another factor in man's early death is the external air surrounding a man, which dries up a man's body. It is these two forces by which a man's body is turned to ashes.
To extend life, according to Verulam, one must make sure that neither the internal heat nor the external dryness prevails. Verulam's recommendation was for each man to take three and a half grams of opiates each day to maintain the internal heat and to grease one's skin with an ointment so thick one could not scrape it off even with a spatula. The grease would maintain the radical moisture needed for health.
Mr. Shandy argues against the way doctors have since interpreted Verulam's secret of health. Instead Mr. Shandy recommends that for a child to maintain perfect health, the parent needs to teach the child never to run into a fire or into water.
Hearing Mr. Shandy's discourse, Trim is inspired to speak. He begins by relating an incident that took place while he and Toby were involved in a battle in Limerick, Ireland. During this siege, it rained so hard and so long that all the tents in the encampment were flooded. To keep dry, Toby and Trim devised a plan by which they dug a ditch around the outside of their tent to draw the rain water out. Then each night, they boiled wine mixed with cinnamon. If they hadn't done this, Trim is sure they would have died there.
When Mr. Shandy hears this reference, he does not understand how it relates to what he has been saying, so Toby tries to tie Mr. Shandy's and Trim's statements together. Toby relates...
(The entire section is 572 words.)
Book 6, Chapters 1-9 Summary
Mr. Shandy continues his focus on Tristram's future education. He believes it is time for him to take his son away from his mother's care and find male tutors for him. He is sure that a teacher's influence is very important in molding a young boy, so he wants to be very careful in choosing the right instructor.
Shandy produces a list of traits that he will look for in a potential tutor. These are very frivolous, such as this man should never wink nor squint, nor speak through his nose. He shall never fold his arms, never walk too fast or too slow, nor place his hands in his pockets. He shall never cut his nails in public, nor spit, nor drum his fingers on a table. He shall also never point to "excrement."
Upon hearing the qualifications that his brother believes will ensure that Tristram will have a qualified teacher, Toby thinks to himself that this is all nonsense. Before Toby can say anything, Mr. Shandy continues his list of what he thinks are positive traits. The teacher shall also be vigilant, inventive, and quick in answering speculative questions. He shall also be wise and learned. Before Mr. Shandy can add any more qualifications, Yorick asks "why not humble, and moderate, and gentle-tempered and good?"
After Yorick speaks up, Toby follows suit. Toby wants to know if this teacher should also be generous and brave. When Mr. Shandy hears these suggestions, he tells Yorick and Toby that this teacher will also have the characteristics that they have offered.
Upon hearing this, Toby offers another suggestion, telling his brother that he has a perfect candidate. Toby mentions the person by calling him Le Fever's son. After this, the narrator offers a flashback in the story so readers will know who Le Fever's son is.
Many years ago, while Toby and Trim were still enlisted in the army and were on their way to a new battle, they happened to meet Lieutenant Le Fever. One night, a landlord from an adjoining house came to the place where Toby and Trim were staying and asked them if they had an extra bottle of wine. The landlord had a soldier staying with him who was very ill and was not eating. The only item the soldier had requested was some wine. The landlord had none and there was none to be bought in the village. So Toby told Trim to take a couple bottles of wine next door.
While delivering the wine, Trim met the son of the soldier who was taking care of his father. The boy...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Book 6, Chapters 10-16 Summary
Toby, in an attempt to save Lieutenant Le Fever's life, went the next morning to the house where the sick man lay in his bed. Toby offered Le Fever everything he had. He was willing to buy Le Fever food and drink and to give him money. In other words, Toby said he would do whatever it took to save the man's life.
Le Fever was so grateful that he showed signs of improving, but this was short lived. When Le Fever died, Toby paid for a funeral and his friend Yorick delivered a sermon on mortality, which the narrator states was one of Yorick's best.
After Le Fever was buried, Toby sorted through all of the soldier's personal belongings. There was not much the soldier owned, so Toby use his own money to pay Le Fever's bills. In the end, all that was left was Le Fever's uniform, which Toby gave to Trim, and the soldier's sword, which Toby promised to keep for Le Fever's son, Billy.
When Toby and Trim returned home, they took Billy with them. Toby enrolled Billy in a good school, where the boy stayed until he is seventeen. When he reached this age, Billy decided he had had enough education and wanted to enlist in the army.
Billy went to Toby before leaving and asked if he might now have his father's sword. When Toby heard that Billy wanted to enlist in the army, he told the boy that he wanted to go with him. They would fight side by side, Toby said.
However, Toby had received a wound in his groin during his last battle and confessed that he was no longer fit. So Toby bid farewell to Billy, whom he had raised as if he were his own son.
Before Billy left, Toby gave him the sword, telling Billy that if luck was on his side, the sword would guard his life. Then Toby added that when Billy's tour in the army had ended, he wanted the boy to come back and share his home.
Toby also slipped Billy's father's purse into the boy's pocket. Inside the purse was a generous amount of money as well as Billy's mother's wedding ring.
Six weeks before Tristram's accident with the window, Toby receives a letter from Billy telling him that he has lost everything, including his health. The only possession he has been able to hang on to is his father's sword. He then asks permission to come back to Toby's home, which Toby agrees to.
This is why, when Toby hears his brother speaking of wanting to find a tutor for Tristram, especially when Yorick mentions that a good teacher...
(The entire section is 503 words.)
Book 6, Chapters 17-25 Summary
This section begins with a discussion about whether or not it is time for Tristram to wear "breeches." For young boys, the wearing of breeches (short pants that ended just below the knees) was a sign of maturity, a rite of passage, which signaled that the boy was now old enough to come under his father's care. Prior to wearing breeches, young European boys in the eighteenth century wore dresses.
Mr. Shandy believes Tristram is now old enough to wear pants. So he decides to have a conversation with Mrs. Shandy when they retire for the evening. Although Mr. Shandy thinks he is having a discussion about the matter with his wife, he really is talking to himself, as Mrs. Shandy agrees with everything that Mr. Shandy says. Mr. Shandy mentions various styles, different types of clasps, and other details that Mrs. Shandy is obviously not interested in.
Once he is decided that Tristram is old enough to wear breeches, Mr. Shandy does intense research into the fabric used for and the historically and socially accepted styles of breeches and then takes this information to the local tailor and supervises every cut and stitch that the tailor makes in preparing Tristram's beeches.
The narrator then informs his readers that he is dropping all other topics and earlier addressed characters and is going to focus only on Tristram's uncle Toby and Corporal Trim and their fascination with the battles that were then occurring in Flanders (part of which, today, makes up a major portion of Belgium).
Because of the wound he received in his last war battle, Toby is unable to participate in the military. His wound has not stopped him, however, from appreciating military strategy. To fulfill his desire to be involved in the wars that are occurring in Europe, Toby, with Trim's assistance, has built replicas of famous battles. The structures and fake battles are carried out in Toby's backyard.
Toby receives letters from soldiers and officers who are currently involved in the war in Flanders or reads newspaper accounts, and then he and Trim build miniature towns or countrysides to match the details Toby is sent in his correspondence with those who have witnessed the events.
Toby and Trim then construct villages in which the battles have been fought either from memory or from their imagination. They dress in uniform and hold military-type meetings in replica guard stations, discussing how the battle is...
(The entire section is 563 words.)
Book 6, Chapters 26-32 Summary
Toby had received a gift from a soldier friend of a Turkish cap and six Turkish water pipes. Toby had little use for these objects, although he appreciated the gesture of the giving of the presents.
One day while improvising "field pieces," which readers may assume are some type of miniature canons Corporal Trim and Toby made, Trim decides to put the water pipes to good use. He figures out that if he ties the six field pieces together with waxed strings of silk and then connects the water pipes to one another as well as to the miniature canons, he can, all by himself, fire the six weapons simultaneously.
After working on this project all night, Trim is quite satisfied with himself as well as anxious to get up the next morning to try out the new apparatus. Trim means to wait for Toby to come out to the field before he experiments with his newly conceived idea; he merely wants to see if the apparatus works.
So he begins tinkering with the trigger mechanism. Before he can stop himself, however, Trim sets off all six field pieces. Just as this is happening, Toby is walking across his yard toward the field. He sees the weaponry go off and cannot believe that Trim would begin a battle without him or without orders from him.
The narrator does not express Toby's exact reaction to this experience, just that Trim is very lucky that this is not the day that Toby writes his will. This is a reference to an earlier chapter in which Toby declared that he has written a will leaving all his worldly goods to Trim.
A short while after this incident, there is a lull in the wars in Europe. This break in action causes Toby to become somewhat depressed. Adding to his woes is his brother, Mr. Shandy, who insinuates that Toby is wrong for finding so much pleasure in his daily exercises of mock battle. Mr. Shandy finds it pathetic that Toby is saddened when there are no real battles reported.
The narrator states that Toby was not known for being eloquent. That gift belonged to Mr. Shandy. However, there were moments when Toby spoke very clearly and elegantly, putting forth an argument that was very pleasing as well as persuasive. One of these moments happens after Mr. Shandy has hurt Toby's feelings, criticizing the pleasure Toby finds in war.
Toby begins his argument by recognizing that if anyone in the world knows him, it is his brother. Mr. Shandy knows all of Toby's weaknesses and...
(The entire section is 548 words.)
Book 6, Chapters 33-40 Summary
The narrator discusses his style of writing. He first admits that his storytelling technique is quite different from other novels, requiring that he often must slip into the past of the story and then into the future of it to keep things tight and straight. With this in mind, he declares that he must begin this specific chapter "over again."
When the narrator starts over with the chapter, he discusses a completely different topic, that of the difference of opinion between Toby and Trim in how to conduct a battle.
Trim wants to return to the action of the war by demolishing the village they have so painstakingly constructed. He wants to begin by creating a breach in the ramparts, the main fortification of the town. Toby disagrees. If they create a break in the ramparts, Toby is sure the French soldiers, with whom they are supposedly fighting, would have easy access to the town.
Trim does not appear to think the French invasion would be regretted. Trim says, "Let them enter," if they dare.
Toby tells Trim that as a commander, he cannot think like that. He cannot do something and then declare, "Let them dare." That is not an appropriate military reaction. Rather, a commander must act with "prudence."
Toby's plan is to begin the demolition of the small forts at a great distance from the village. They will then work their way to the town, saving the breach in the town wall as the last effort. Once the enemy reaches the little town, the last fortress of the British, Toby and Trim will then embark for England. Trim, not completely understanding Toby's plan, responds by reminding Toby that they are already in England. Toby replies, "Very true."
The narrator next skips to another more personal detail in Toby's life, telling readers that Toby has become engaged in the courtship of widow Wadman. Although he is not ready to divulge further details, the narrator states that when he does, he will tell of the most elementary and practical aspects of love and "love-making" that has ever before been told.
The narrator than quotes Plotinus as having questioned if love was a gift of God or a curse of the Devil. He also quotes Plato as having written that love is all Devil, from "head to tail." Other philosophers, according to the narrator, have claimed that love is a disease, either in the brain or in the liver.
However, the narrator concludes, it is not yet time to write...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Book 7, Chapters 1-13 Summary
The narrator takes a break from the storyline and decides to record the details of a trip he takes as if he were a travel writer. He is going to France. He begins his story while he is on a ship crossing the channel. He is on the ship, and he is miserably sick. He is so sick that he fears he is going to die and asks the captain if he knows of anyone dying of seasickness. The captain assures him that he has never witnessed such a death.
The narrator attempts to describe how sick he is. He writes that he feels as if he were upside down, that all the cells in his body have "broke loose" and all his bodily fluids have mixed together. He also says that everything in his body is turning around as if he were caught in a giant whirlpool.
Finally the narrator reaches Calais in France. He is on his way to Paris. He writes that he does not know much about Calais. Having arrived at night and left in the morning before the sun rose, he cannot even justify describing it. However, this does not stop him from offering his views about the city.
Calais was once a small village, but when the narrator visits the French town, it has grown in size and now claims 14,000 citizens. There is but one church, which the narrator finds disturbing because the building would have to be enormous to hold its entire population for one service. Whatever its size, the narrator has read that the church is built in the shape of a cross and has eleven altars, the main one of white marble and almost sixty feet high.
At the center of Calais is a great square, although the narrator clarifies that the square is not really square as it is 40 feet longer measuring east to west than it is measuring north to south. It should not then be called a square, but rather a Place. Most of the streets of Calais end at the square. Had there been a fountain in the town (although there was not), it would have been perfectly placed in the square, the narrator writes.
Second in importance in Calais is the Town House, a "sorry building" in need of repair. Although it is not a great architectural wonder, this building does serve a purpose as it is where the town magistrates like to meet.
The last piece of information the narrator offers is that there are historic fortifications in Calais, which the narrator writes are the strongest in the world. Unfortunately, he is unable to visit them.
(The entire section is 441 words.)
Book 7, Chapters 14-23 Summary
The narrator is in Paris. He is not pleased with this city, even though he has read that it is the grandest city in the world. He finds the streets of Paris are so narrow that he has no choice of which side of the street to walk on, and a man pushing a wheelbarrow does not have room enough to turn around. The city is also too dark. The street lamps are not lit in the summer months, he is told.
Along the streets, he finds too many restaurants and barbershops. He claims that all the cooks in the world must have gotten together with all the hair cutters and decided to come to Paris because the French love to eat and to have the latest hair styles. He also claims that there are 500 hotels in Paris, which all look better in candlelight than in sunlight.
Upon leaving the city, the narrator wants to analyze Paris. He states that he is qualified to do so because he was there for three days. He had cut his stay short because he is suffering from a terrible case of "diarrhoea." Although he wants to tell readers about Paris, he says that he has no time to describe the character of the Parisians—not their intelligence, manners, customs, laws, religion, government, nor their commerce.
The narrator states that he does not like to hear visitors to France complain that the British move so much faster by horse than the people in France. However, he then comments that it is no wonder that French people travel so slowly. They have so much baggage, which is loaded upon the wagons, and they feed their horses barely enough to stay alive, which makes the animals so much smaller than those in Britain.
The story of the abbess of Andouillettes is next. The abbess suffers from a stiff joint in her knee. She has tried several different herbal potions, but nothing cures her. She also has prayed to all the saints in heaven, has touched sacred relics and even brought to bed with her the "thigh-bone" of a man (long dead) who had been "impotent from his youth," but none of these things have helped her.
So she decides to travel to Burgundy to soak in the healing, hot springs there. She takes the novice Margarita with her as a companion. Margarita suffers from a similar ailment, a stiffness in one of her fingers. The gardener of the convent acts as driver.
Along the journey, the driver, who often tires of sitting, walks along the side or at the back of the carriage, which is being pulled by two old mules....
(The entire section is 520 words.)