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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy Characters & Character Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 39 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 1,649 words
(approx. 6 pages at 300 words per page)

Characters

Walter Shandy

Walter Shandy is Tristram's unconventional father. His habit of philosophizing and arguing about every subject usually finds him at odds with everyone else in the room. However, he seems to enjoy such conflict and even looks to create it. When he is arguing with his wife in what he calls his "beds of justice," he cannot accept that his wife agrees with his every word so continues to make his point even though continues to say that he is completely right. In fact, there seems to be little affection between Walter and his wife. For example, at one point when his parents go for a walk, Tristram describes his mother's arm as twisted into his father's arm. However, Walter's philosophizing on every subject often isolates him from the other characters. The first example is when he hears of his son Bobby's death. Upon the news, he decides, almost with relief, that he can now spend his money on fixing up the Shandy Estate. It is not that Walter does not have good intentions, it's just that he gets caught in his own ideas. For example, he writes a book on how to educate his son, Tristram but then spends so much time on the book that he ironically neglects his son's education. Moreover, he seems so pleased that he has written a book that he spends a great deal of time reading his theories aloud to his friends.

Away from his opinions, Walter's main goal in life is to serve the name of his family. He is distraught when Tristram is born with a flat nose and talks about how his family's problems stem from having small noses. His book is designed to help Tristram continue, and even heighten, the name of the Shandy family. In accordance, the one person Walter has complete affection for is his brother Toby. When Toby injures his groin in battle, Walter, without hesitation, takes him in, nursing his brother back to health. Often Walter softens to his kind-hearted brother, and Tristram explains that his father would never have taken anyone else into the family home.

Uncle Toby

Toby's good and modest nature seems at odds with his love of war. However, Tristram presents this as nothing more than naive patriotism. Toby feels that war is a necessity, but this opinion certainly does not take away from his generous spirit. One example of his humanity is when he hears of Le Fever's illness. Toby does not know Le Fever, but when he meets him, he cannot believe that such an honorable person will die.so Toby does everything in his power to prevent Le Fever's death. In the end, he assumes care of Le fever's son.

Toby sustains an injury to his groin whilst fighting as a captain in the British army against the French. His brother, Walter, takes him in, and Toby's servant, Trim, nurses Toby back to health. Toby develops a new lease on life when he finds a hobby mapping out how and where he was injured. When Trim suggests they rebuild the battle scenes on his bowling green, Toby demands the doctors give him back his health. It is not long before Toby is out of bed and walking on crutches.

Tristram details the touching relationship between Trim and Toby, more that of friendship than master and servant, as they reenact all the battle scenes from the war. Toby's hobby finishes when the war ends, but he immediately he falls in love with Widow Wadham. Unfortunately, Toby knows nothing about women and acts upon the feeling by developing a plan to win over the widow that is akin to a war strategy.

Toby's other close relationship is with his brother Walter. They are complete opposites; Toby's practical outlook quite at odds with his brother's philosophic ramblings. However, despite the continual arguing between the two, they cannot live without each other. Tristram accentuates this by writing about Walter taking in his injured brother and by having Toby present whenever Walter has a problem.

Tristram Shandy

Tristram is only a main character in that he is the narrator. He appears very little in the story itself apart from the one volume he dedicates to his travels around France. In general, we only get to know him from what the other characters say, in particular his father. As narrator, he is witty and opinionated with a genuine love for all the characters, apart from his mother, who he often criticizes. It is through our knowledge of his family that the reader is able to paint a picture of Tristram as a person. For example, his own philosophical ramblings are similar to his father's and he pays homage to his brother, Bobby, by taking a trip his brother would have taken but for his early death.

Tristram's Mother

Tristram's mother is a source of frustration for his father and perhaps for this reason, Tristram does not look upon her favorably. At the beginning, she interrupts her husband's lovemaking with a question about the cuckoo clock and then exacerbates him further by insisting on having the mid-wife deliver her baby rather than her Husband's choice of Dr. Slop. Tristram suggests that his father and mother were not the perfect match as she constantly frustrates her husband by showing no interest in either arguing or providing stimulating conversation.

Yorick

Yorick is the village parson. The villagers often misunderstand him because he is very straight talking and therefore does not conform to a man of the church. In reality, he is a kind-hearted man even to the point where he lends his best horses to his villagers while he makes do with a decrepit, old horse. When he helps the midwife get a license, the villagers no longer have to borrow his horses to ride the seven miles to get the doctor. However, everyone feels the parson has committed a selfish act, thinking he only wants to keep his horses for himself. As his Shakespearean name suggests, he is a witty, but tragic figure. At the end of his life, Yorick dies a lonely man.

The Parson's Wife

Tristram only mentions her in the first volume, but she is important in that she persuades Yorick to finance the mid-wife's license.

Bobby

Bobby is Tristram's brother, whose death coincides with Tristram's birth. It is because of Bobby's death that Tristram's father places so much emphasis on educating his second son.

Aunt Dinah

Aunt Dinah is a source of embarrassment for the Shandy family as she married a lowly coachman. However, much to Toby's disgust, Walter loves to recount the tale to guests and actually inherits a large amount of money from her at the end of the second volume. Though he never meets her, Tristram thinks she one the only woman in the family with character.

The Midwife

The midwife is the person chosen by Tristram's mother to deliver him. Early in the book, Tristram describes her as a struggling widow with a large family, but through the kindness of the parson and his wife, she manages to get a midwife license.

Doctor Slop

Dr. Slop is Walter's choice to deliver Tristram. In the end, Walter calls him to the house to act as back up. At the home awaiting Tristram's birth, the doctor talks to Walter and Toby about religion and childbirth, showing a fondness for arguing. He sees himself as a figure of authority and is upset when he has to go upstairs to see the midwife, as he thinks she should come down to see him. His forceps are responsible for damaging Tristram's nose.

Susannah

She is the female of the household and helps deliver Tristram. She is a nosy, but goodhearted woman. When Bobby dies, she rushes to the kitchen in tears. However, she also spreads gossip about Toby and Widow Wadham.

Bridgette

Bridgette is Widow Wadham's servant and ends up having a relationship with Trim.

Obadiah

He is the male servant of the Shandy household.

Eugenuis

He is a close friend with Yorick and present at Yorick's death. Tristram asks him whether he should travel around Europe, sealing Eugenuis' role as an adviser.

Didius

The church lawyer. He refuses to give permission to change Tristram's name.

Lieutenant Le Fever

Le Fever is a soldier who takes ill in the local inn. Toby and Trim hear of his plight and try their best to return him to health. Unfortunately, he dies, but hands over responsibility of his son, Billy.

Billy Le Fever

Billy is the son of Lieutenant Le Fever. When his father dies, Toby puts Billy through school and then supports him when he becomes a soldier. While he is a soldier, he takes ill and returns to Shandy Hall. Toby recommends him for Tristram's tutor.

Corporal Trim

Corporal Trim is Toby's servant. Like Toby, he fought in the war, but had to go home after he damaged his knee. He now dedicates his life to Toby upon whom he dotes. Despite his lowly position as a servant, Trim comes across as an intelligent man who is not shy to give his opinion on any subject. He often has good-natured arguments with Toby, in particular claiming Trim's injury is more painful than Toby's. However in reality, he shares Toby's kindness and humanity. The one bane in Trim's life is the probable death of his brother, Tom. Talking about his brother often results in Trim crying. Towards the end of the book, Trim courts Bridgett.

Phutatorius

He is a writer who is present at the meeting where Walter Shandy tries to change Tristram's name. Yorick accidentally drops a hot chestnut in Phutatorius' lap, which Phutatorius believes Yourick does so intentionally.

Dr Slop's Forceps

Dr. Slop damages Tristram's nose with his forceps.

Walter's Book

Walter writes a book detailing how he will educate Tristram, reading it aloud to anyone who will listen.

This section contains 1,649 words
(approx. 6 pages at 300 words per page)
Copyrights
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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