The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy - Volume 6 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 745 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)

Volume 6 Summary

Dr. Slop and Susannah attend to Tristram's wound. The two of them do not get on and fighting and bickering breaks out between them. Meanwhile, Tristram's father is discussing with Toby how to educate his son. Toby mentions Le Fever's Son would make a good tutor to Tristram. Toby is Le Fever's guardian, and Le Fever is currently making his way back from the war to Shandy House.

The mention of Le Fever leads Tristram into a story about how Toby became the boy's guardian. Tristram describes how Le Fever's father took ill in the village inn. Toby gets word of him and hearing he is a war casualty and a good man, sends Trim to find out more. Trim comes back with the news that the man is dying and his son cries at his bedside. Toby refuses to accept the man will die and tries to help him recover. Unfortunately, nothing can be done for him, so the boy moves in with Toby, who puts him through school.

Tristram's father thinks Le Fever will make a great teacher for his son. Later on, in bed with his wife, he holds what he calls his "beds of justice." The topic is whether Tristram should wear breeches to make him seem more manly, but despite his efforts to start an argument, his wife agrees to everything. After a few more digressions, Tristram takes up a new topic in the book.

He starts telling the reader about his Uncle's fortifications on his bowling green and follows Toby and Trim's love for recreating the battle scenes, including the building of towns and churches. To Toby's horror, the war ends and so does his hobby. Tristram's father and Yorick question why Toby is so upset and that war is actually a bad thing. In reply, Toby enters into a dialect on the virtues of war that impresses Tristram's father so much he writes it down.

Without his hobby Toby becomes bored. However, this boredom lifts when he meets Widow Wadham. Susannah surprises everyone when she returns with news of the couple's forthcoming marriage. Tristram ends the volume illustrating his plot digression with lines. He tells the reader he will write the next volume in a completely straight line.

Volume 6 Analysis

This volume is the turning point in the novel. Tristram moves away from the events surrounding his birth and early life to concentrate on developing the character of his Uncle Toby. This development has more of a serious tone, the wit moving away from the farce of the previous volumes into something more surreal and eccentric. For example, Toby builds huge battle scenes on his bowling green including building churches and houses. In fact, his hobby makes his character less silly than he seemed earlier, Tristram making obvious his respect for his uncle. He articulates this respect by showing his father becoming more responsive to Toby's ideas. First, Tristram's father accepts his brother's offer of Le Fever as his son's tutor and then shows his appreciation of Toby's pro war speech, the only time in the novel Tristram's father appreciates an opinion opposite to his own.

The move towards Toby's character, and particularly the positive side his character, leads Tristram to explore the negative aspects of his parents' relationship. At one point, his father holds his bed of justice, which means a discussion with his wife in bed. Unfortunately, while the father tries desperately to give their conversation meaning, the mother shows no interest. However, while this is amusing, the humor is tinged with sadness, foreshadowing the darker and more conventional volume that follows. Tristram's decision to concentrate almost entirely on Toby therein shows as much of an embarrassment of his parents relationship as it shows the love he has for his Uncle.

At the end of the volume, Tristram introduces Widow Wadham and the narrative for the rest of the novel. Using illustrations, he then talks about how so far he has told his story with so many digressions, that the narrative resembles a squiggly line. He draws a straight line and promises the reader that this is how the story will continue. This is the first the narrator thinks about the readability of his style. In light of the next chapter, where Tristram flees from death and moves away from his father in this volume, the reader is beginning to get the impression Tristram has uncovered things he does not like.

This section contains 745 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
Follow Us on Facebook