Tristram Shandy Book 3, Chapters 32-42 Summary

Laurence Sterne

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 a traveling man with an enormous nose who causes a great stir among the local people of the towns he passes through as they debate whether or not the man's nose is real or false.