Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Required Blog Post: Krista DeMeuse

Tristram Shandy expresses his dismay at the reading habits of many readers in the Chapter XX of Volume I of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentlemen, saying “I wish it may have its effects;-- and that all good people, both male and female, from her example, may be taught to think as well as read.” (Sterne, 53). At this point, the narrator seems to be imploring the readers to go beyond just reading his story (and really all novels) at a surface level and really think about what the author is saying with his/her words. However, at the very end of the novel, in the ninth volume, Tristram’s mother asks what the story is about and the response is “A COCK and BULL, said Yorick—And one of the best of its kind, I ever heard” (Sterne, 588). What do you make of these two scenes in connection with one another (considering the fact that the footnote defines a cock and bull as a “Story without direction, rambling, idle, often incredible; […] associated with prose […] satire)? From the passages we have read, do you think there really is some sort of moral or message that Sterne is trying to deliver with Tristram Shandy? Or is he merely making fun of readers and scholars who seem to find every instance in a novel as a lesson from which they can learn?


  1. I really like to think that there is a message or moral to the story... but considering I haven't found the meaning... it's hard to say. I do feel like he is making fun of readers... putting himself in a superior position where he knows everything and the readers are left to be clueless. But I am thinking that "someday" when I finish Tristram Shandy or... reading through the whole thing... it might eventually make sense to me. I think some books just need intense study.

  2. I do think that there is a moral and a meaning as well. I think that in a way Sterne is being very critical on himself and that is one of the reasons why his perception of all that is being written is so twisted. It is like he is trying to convey this message of a disoriented world through Tristram Shandy, warning readers that there are answers to everything, one just has to make sense of it. Unfortunately, I haven't completed been able to make sense of the text either so I am just going off my perceptions.

    However, I do think that there is a moral of discovery. I am not sure the discovery of what but of something. We see this even when he uses bizzare words to mean or correlate to something completely different.

  3. Yorick's simplistic assessment of the novel suggest two opposite conclusions which Sterne'sreaders can take away: first, that much to Tristram's dismay, his readers fail to grasp exactly what he wants them to, his readers, rather than heeding his plea to read between the lines and think critically and conscientiously about what they have read, take it exactly at face value as bland entertainment and miss the point entirely. Sterne is articulating here that much of his material will go right over the heads of most of his expected readership.

    Second, that perhaps that IS the way that Sterne intends his readers to look at it, namely that the novel is meant to be simply enjoyed and those people who insist on peering too deeply into the novel searching for hidden meaning deserve the mocking of readers in general which Sterne includes.