The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy - Volume 5 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 660 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)

Volume 5 Summary

After a brief digression on whiskers, Tristram looks at the reactions to his brother's death. Tristram's father, as usual, takes it philosophically, but Suzanne runs to the kitchen most upset. A moment later, Tristram's mother overhears the word wife when she walks past the parlor door. She presumes that Toby and Tristram's father are talking about her, and she stays by the door to listen.

Tristram promises to come back to this scene before moving to the kitchen. In the kitchen, Suzanne relays the news about Bobby's death to Trim, Obadiah, the cook and Jonathan the coachman. Trim is not overly upset, but seeing Suzanne's feelings, he begins to feel sorry. At this point, as Tristram states, Trim goes on a harangue about Bobby's death. In the middle of the speech, Tristram returns to his mother who heard nothing that she expected and now finds herself listening to her husband talking about Socrates.

Tristram's father decides to concentrate on his newborn son and begins writing a book on how to educate him. Tristram remarks that his father spent so much time on the book that he neglected the first few years of Tristram's life. At the age of five, Tristram is in his bedroom with Susanna, sitting under a sash window. Unfortunately the window falls and circumcises him. Susanna runs from the incident, thinking she was to blame, taking refuge with Trim. Trim tells her it was not her fault as he had taken the lead from the window to use for Toby's fortification. He goes as far to say that himself and Toby are nothing but murderers.

However, Tristram claims he felt little pain and when his father sees that he is fine, he gives orders to get Dr. Slop and goes back downstairs. In the presence of Trim, Toby and Yorick, the father reads from his book. Dr. Slop joins them after he has finished with Tristram and Tristram's father reads some more.

Volume 5 Analysis

Everything in this novel is self-conscious, but Tristram even goes so far as to point out to the reader when he is foreshadowing an event. So much so that feels it likes an advertisement. In reality, Sterne released this novel in nine volumes over a number of years, so in many ways, his witty and stylistic techniques work to promote the book. In the previous volume, Tristram talked about writing a chapter about whiskers and here includes the chapter as promised.

Such a lighthearted chapter, made more so by its serious tone, lends an element of farce to his brother's death. In this volume, Tristram looks at the reaction of Bobby's death on the household, but apart from Susannah, no one is really that upset. Tristram does not give his opinion on his family's reaction, but Susannah's tears amidst such indifference gives her the appearance of being overly sensitive. When Trim goes on a harangue on Bobby's death, it is just another example of a character hiding his superficiality behind opinions. Tristram's father emphasizes this further by deciding to dedicate his life to writing a book on how to educate his newborn son. However, he shows more interest in the intelligence of his own ideas than Tristram's education.

Ignoring reality, though, is a major theme of the novel. Tristram articulates it here when a falling sash window circumcises him. Susannah, presuming it is her fault, runs away from the scene and the 5-year-old Tristram has to scream to get any attention. Even then, his father just looks in on his son before consulting a book. Trim does defend Susannah, putting the blame on himself, but the defense is really to honor himself as a soldier. In fact, Trim's defense of Susannah leads Toby into a story about the war. Interestingly, Tristram claims he was not hurt, though the reader begins to wonder if this is not just denial and a way of surviving the eccentricities of his family.

This section contains 660 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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