The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy - Volume 3 Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 31 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy.
This section contains 570 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)

Volume 3 Summary

he story continues in the parlor where the gentlemen chat. Dr. Slop is angry with Obadiah, who has tied too-tight knots in the doctor's medicine bag in order to carry it safely back. The doctor unties the knots with a knife, but cuts his thumb in the process. Tristram then proceeds with the Doctor's lengthy abuse of Obadiah.

Once the bag is open, Susannah arrives to request the doctor's assistance upstairs. The request offends the Doctor, who feels the mid-wife should come to him. Just before he takes his leave, the Doctor tests his forceps on Toby's hand and takes off Toby's skin. Tristram's father is aghast, wondering aloud what damage that will be done to his son. Soon afterwards, the doctor leaves with Susannah and almost immediately Tristram's father and Toby fall asleep. At this point, Tristram takes time out from the scene to write his preface. In his preface, he writes a discourse on wit and judgment.

Tristram's father wakes to the sound of Trim oiling the door hinges of the parlor. The men comment on the sound coming from the kitchen, and Trim tells them that the Doctor is in there creating a bridge. Toby presumes that the doctor is making a drawbridge for his battle scene and announces his great thanks. From here Tristram talks about the real draw bridge that his Uncle actually builds at his country house. Back in the parlor, Trim says the bridge is for Tristram's nose, which Dr. Slop has damaged with his forceps.

Tristram's father cannot believe his bad luck. He places great importance on noses and attributes his family problems to their traditionally-small nose. The reader hears his father's well-read opinion on the subject. At the end of the volume, Tristram promises to tell the reader one of nose scholar Slawkenburguis' tales.

Volume 3 Analysis

In this volume, Tristram makes the reader aware of time, an important theme throughout the novel. When Obadiah goes out to fetch the Doctor's bag, Tristram states that Obadiah comes back after a certain length of time, but that amount does not equate to the amount of time Tristram claims Obadiah was gone. (An hypothetical example: The narrator, Tristram, writes that Obadiah left at 2 and returned at 3, but Tristram says that Obadiah was gone two hours.) Tristram goes into a digression about how our concepts of time are different. This is a reminder that this book is consciously unconventional and refuses to follow any pattern. As concerns time, Tristram states that he will begin and finish where he wants. It is, after all, his novel. The placement of his preface in the middle of the volume proves this very point.

Obadiah's arrival begins a catalogue of injuries that are akin to a farce. First Dr. Slop cuts his hand opening his bag and then his forceps damage Toby's hand and then the newborn baby's nose. The nose injury sets off a series of disasters that continue over into volume 4. At first, everyone thinks Tristram will die, and then Susannah christens the baby the wrong name. Tristram's father is desperate to change the name, but the church lawyer claims the name has to stand. The fact that the child is born healthy just proves Tristram's love for embellishing every event. So much so, it has taken him a quarter of the novel to get to the first moment of his life.

This section contains 570 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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