Tristram Shandy Book 3, Chapters 23-31 Summary

Laurence Sterne

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 nose, a story further explained in the next chapters.