I noticed in recent passages, that the most tender moments of connection between two people are those between Toby and Trim. Tristram seems to view homo-social relationships much more positively than he does romantic relationships. The affair between Widow Wadman and Toby is difficult, largely because Toby is so slow to pick up on Mrs. Wadman’s affection. Also, the way she goes about seducing him is compared, openly, to battlefield combat. On the contrary, Toby and Trim’s dialogue is never characterized by that same combative win/loss approach.
The relationship between Tristram’s father and mother is a difficult one as well. His father blames his mother for the supposedly botched conception of Tristram and he is always speaking apparently without consideration for the feelings of his wife—who seems to be always sitting in the corner of the room biting her lip.
Trim’s amour with the fair Beguine seems like a more romantic one but understanding it as so gets complicated. First, the woman claims that she is taking care of Trim out of her love for Christ. This replaces Trim as the actual object of her affection. Also, (though the passage is somewhat cryptic and censored) Toby says outright “It was not love.” (pp519)
The interactions between Toby and Trim are the most amicable ones in the story and they seem to have the most genuine affection for each other. In fact, the two are a highly functional household and something like a family unit. In Volume VIII, Trim says he thinks that he was meant to be wounded in battle so that he would wind up in the service of Toby “where I should be taken so much better care of in my old age.” Toby replies, “It shall never, Trim, be construed otherwise.” Tristram then notes, “The heart, both of the master and the man, were alike subject to sudden overflowings.” (pp 115).
The novel’s attitude towards romantic relationships can be called cautious at best. But it does provide an alternative where men can find life-long companionship and even something functioning less like a master-servant relationship and more like a traditional family. Do you think it is a major concern for Sterne to make a statement about the nature of relationships? If so, what do you think is his general attitude toward them?