Tuesday, November 15, 2011

For Credit: Follow-Up to Discussion Today

Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman, as pictured by Hollywood
Please feel free to post here with any questions, reflections, or further thoughts from class today.


  1. I thought that the point made "falling in love" in our century versus the eighteenth century was a very interesting argument. We are very critical of the idea of finding a soulmate in the eighteenth century. Some of our points were centered around their idea of courtship and marrying for convenience. When we talked about Widow Wadman's initial relationship with Uncle Toby, we found it to be very material based and "business like", and later, we found it to be based around lust. While we are very critical of the ways in which people found love in these eighteenth century novels, Professor Wilcox brought up a very interesting point about about finding love in society today. I like how you mention that everyone magically falls in love at the age of 25-27 in America, what are the chances that everyone finds their soulmate at the same age? While we think our society is more sentimental and in touch with our inner selves, I think that a great deal of marriages are based around societal pressure in our own century.

  2. I also really liked the discussion about "falling in love." It's such a vague concept, even nowadays, and when it's discussed in literature becomes so unrealistic that it's difficult to discern fact from make believe. I mean, in all honesty, how does one fall in love (I wouldn't be here if I knew, huh)? Especially now in college when, as everyone says, this is the time to find your future husband/wife. How do we do that. When I was younger, the whole finding-someone-that-liked-you-too, amazed me. It still amazes me.

    Of all the novels we have read, I think Tristam Shandy really deals with this concept the best. It's not something that just falls out of the sky, though some passages of TS make it seem that way. It's also not something that is perfect, like how some Jane Austen books make love seem. My favorite passage so far out of TS is the passage about Uncle Toby's nervousness in seeing Widow Wadman. We've all felt that at some point in our lives - do we look okay, does this outfit make me look fat, etc. It's nice to see that the author took a more realistic look into life.

    My real question is, however, how did the author come up with the topic for the book and how did he get away with it? Considering the book is pretty much all about sex, I find it difficult to believe (well, perhaps not, the book is wildly confusing) that the church/clergy would allow such literature to be circulating.

  3. I too found the discussion about marriage interesting in class the other day. In most of the novels that we read (this one being the exception) love is fundamentally linked to virtue, which can not be talked about but proved. Any person can talk about how virtuous they are and so forth but to show your virtue by reacting (or not reacting) to certain situations shows the kind of person your are. As for most Americans getting married at the ages of 25-27 I agree with Dayna that it is probably based on the pressures of society rather than people finding their "life-mate". I mean what is a soul-mate and how does one go about finding one? I think that what happens as we grow up, leave college and experience the real world we realize that their are no such things as soul-mates but only connections, and the connections formed with a specific person become stronger with time.

  4. I noticed we did not talk about the king of Bohemia much, which I found interesting. I think that the story was meant to help characterize Toby. This moment, along with a couple others, shows us that Toby believes that there is a proper way for everything. This is why he constantly interrupts Trim's story, correcting him to make the story right. The story must make sense to him. This is also why Toby finishes Trim's love story by saying Trim made an exclamation of love. Toby knows that this is how the proper love story climax goes. This might also be why Toby ends things with Widow Wadman. He thought she was a proper mistress and humane in asking after her wounds, but realizing she was only interested in sex was too much for him, and possibly improper for a lady of her stature in his mind.

  5. This is a random observation but I think that from the picture itself, Hollywood in my opinion has done a good job with the appearence of Uncle Toby. I feel that usually when books get changed into movies, they are well off from the original context and create a completely new visual image of characters for the audience. It is interesting to see that Uncle Toby is the well fitted man in a miliatary outfit that I would have imagined.

    Uncle Toby also claims to think of love as a "joyous" thing (518) which I think really is depicted in this moment. The way the character is placed looking directly into hte eyes of Widowed Widman. I think that this portrayal is a very good iage to have of Uncle Toby.

  6. Something about Trim's story of Tom and his marriage to the Jew's widow keeps bringing me back to reconsider it. Aside from the fairly straightforward analog with Toby's circumstances, namely that relationships with widows take a turn for the worst sooner or later, the way that Trim describes Tom very much also describes Toby.

    But on to the other point that I find troublesome. The Jew's widow, more so than Widow Wadman, is known only in the terms of how her husband and his estate define her. Having retained the sausage shop and being competent to run it herself, the Jew's widow (JW, for short) is self sufficient and therefore presumably does not need and may not even want a new husband, who would necessarily constrain her freedom and options in that day and age, barring a sexual desire as Widow Wadman's. But even allowing for such as desire to outweigh the potential costs of marriage, I can't ignore the only other defining characteristic of JW and what that would have meant in Sterne's period: she was the Jew's widow.

    Jews in that era were, so far as I know, still stereotyped by many European Christians to be unscrupulous and greedy businessmen and money lenders, and given that people of the time usually married within their own religion, as well as social class, the Jew's widow can also be read as the Jew Widow, implying that JW married Tom explicitly to ruin him to her own gain. I can find no text explicitly stating what happened to Tom after his marriage, but given other portions of that passage mentioning religion and JW's having already mostly decided upon pursuing the marriage even before Tom proposed it, it seems as though her motives for such were more complicated than Tom's, at least.

    This whole train of thought may be really off-base, and the section discussed in class between Trim and Toby on the nature of the souls of black people being no different than those of whites suggests that Stearne was less bigoted than many of his contemporaries, but I still wonder if that bit of implied antisemitism is really there, or just my mind playing tricks on me from residual themes of other novels this semester.