The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy - Volume 4 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 683 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)

Volume 4 Summary

The fourth volume begins with Slawkenburguis' story. It tells the account of a man with a big nose who travels to Strasborg for a nose convention. The man's nose and his polite manner shock the residents of the city and a discussion of the nose's virtue leads to a debate between the Catholic and Protestant churches.

This tale has little significance on the remainder of the volume as Tristram returns to his Father in the parlor. His father decides that because of the misfortune of Tristram's nose he must give the child a strong name, finally deciding upon Trismegistus. Following a discussion with Toby on the virtues of the name, Susannah interrupts to say the child has gone black in the face, and the curator needs to baptize the child before its death. Tristram's shocked father gives Susannah the name Trismegistus, and she rushes back upstairs, giving the curator a different name that makes no sense. They decide that Tristram's father must have meant Tristram. It soon becomes apparent the child will live and upon hearing the name now given to his child, Tristram's father is most upset. He decides to call for Yorick to see if they can change the name.

Yorick tells Tristram's father that he does not have the authority to change the name and they must go and see the Church lawyer Diduis. Tristram's father, Eugenuis, Yorick and Toby all head off to see him. During their discussion, Yorick drops a hot chestnut into the writer Phutatoruis's lap, burning his groin. Phutatoruis is unhappy with the incident and thinks Yorick did it on purpose. This incident dies down quickly and from the resulting discussion, Diduis decides they cannot change Tristram's name.

His father's spirits lift when he discovers his Aunt Dinah has left him a large sum of money. He wonders whether to use the money to fund a trip for his other son Bobby or to fix the Shandy's estate. Unfortunately, he then receives news that Bobby is dead. Tristram ends the volume teasing the reader of what he or she can expect in later volumes.

Volume 4 Analysis

The only relevance of the Slawkenburguis story is that it continues from his father's discourse on noses. The story itself is pointless, but Tristram tells it with such suggestion of metaphor, the reader searches for meaning. What does Slawkenburguis's tale have to do with Tristram's nose? It provokes many different thoughts, but really it is just another digression and, if anything, proves the narrator's need to say what he likes. If there is any meaning, it is that Tristram is trying to imitate his Uncle Toby and his Father because they continually digress in their discussions. In fact, with Tristram making so few appearances, the reader can see this novel as homage to his two close relatives, and Tristram's opinions and digressions are just part of the respect.

Tristram highlights his respect of his father by a discussion of his father's discourse on why he wanted to nameTristram, Trismegistus. A subject initially propelled by anger at his son's nose now turns into a complete digression on the importance of names. In Tristram's father's absence Toby and Trim trash Tristram's father's theory, saying in war the name of a man does not matter. This not only shows the difference between the practical Toby and his more philosophical brother, but also where Tristram inherits his love for digressions. Tristram's father addresses the important issue of the baby when he comes back. He is determined to change his son's name, but such determination soon changes to interests when he listens to the Church Lawyer's legal discourse.

When something bad really happens the father's response is matter of fact. For example, the father philosophizes endlessly on Tristram's nose misfortunes but he responds to his elder son's death by being thankful that he can use his inherited his money for rebuilding the Shandy estate. This shows the superficiality around a lot of Tristram's father's opinions and they how they serve to hide the lack of true meaning in his life.

This section contains 683 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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