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.)