(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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 debates. Informed by Susannah, the maid, that Mrs. Shandy is about to deliver her child, they send for the midwife. As an extra measure of safety, they also send for Dr. Slop, a bungling country practitioner whom Mr. Shandy admires because he has written a five-shilling book on the history of midwifery.

Uncle Toby, who has been called the highest compliment ever paid human nature, was a soldier until he was wounded during the siege of Namur in 1695. The wound, the exact position of which is to play a large part in Tristram’s story later on, has forced him to retire to the country. At the suggestion of his faithful servant, Corporal Trim, he has built a large and complicated series of model fortifications and military emplacements on a bowling green behind Shandy Hall. Uncle Toby now spends all his time playing soldier and thinking about this miniature battlefield. Mr. Shandy is not impressed with his brother’s hobby and keeps him from discussing it by violently interrupting him, so that he can continue, or start, one of his own long and detailed digressions on obscure information.

As the two brothers await the arrival of the midwife and her rival, Dr. Slop, Mr. Shandy asks a rhetorical question on the subject of Mrs. Shandy’s preference for a midwife rather than a male doctor. When Uncle Toby suggests naïvely that modesty might explain her choice, Mr. Shandy launches into a long discussion of the nature of women and of the fact that everything has two handles. Given his naïveté, it is impossible for Uncle Toby to understand such affairs.

By the time Dr. Slop finally arrives with his bag of tools, the midwife is already in attendance...

(The entire section is 1280 words.)

Tristram Shandy Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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.)

Tristram Shandy Chapter Summaries

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 504 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 559 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 465 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 483 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 559 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 485 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 511 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 510 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 606 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 508 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 464 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 540 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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,...

(The entire section is 441 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 450 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 512 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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 entire section is 468 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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.


(The entire section is 523 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 478 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 563 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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 entire section is 550 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 544 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 624 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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,...

(The entire section is 454 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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."


(The entire section is 572 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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."


(The entire section is 504 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 503 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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....

(The entire section is 563 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 548 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 505 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 441 words.)

Tristram Shandy 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...

(The entire section is 520 words.)