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Tristram Shandy | Chapter Summaries

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Timeline of Events

  • March 1718

    Tristram Shandy's misfortunes begin when he is conceived.

    Vol. 1, Chapter 1
  • November 5, 1718

    The narrator is born into this "vile" and "scurvy" world.

    Vol. 1, Chapter 5
  • That evening

    The narrator is baptized "Tristram" by mistake.

    Vol. 4, Chapter 14
  • Soon afterward

    Bobby, the elder Shandy son, dies suddenly.

    Vol. 4, Chapter 31
  • Almost immediately

    Walter Shandy, Tristram's father, sets out to write a Tristrapedia for his surviving heir.

    Vol. 5, Chapter 16
  • Circa 1723

    Tristram is accidentally circumcised by a falling window.

    Vol. 5, Chapter 17
  • Shortly thereafter

    A tutor is sought for the young Tristram.

    Vol. 6, Chapter 5
  • About the same time

    Dr. Slop scandalizes the Shandy family by gossiping about Tristram's injury.

    Vol. 6, Chapter 14
  • A few weeks later

    After much deliberation, Walter decides to put Tristram in breeches.

    Vol. 6, Chapter 15
  • 1759

    Tristram, now much older, sets out to write his autobiography.

    Vol. 1, Chapter 1
  • Circa 1765

    His health failing, Tristram takes a long trip to France.

    Vol. 7, Chapter 1
  • Later that year

    Tristram sets aside his autobiography to tell of his Uncle Toby's "amours."

    Vol. 8, Chapter 1

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Title Page and Dedication The title page to Vols. 1 and 2 is, for the most part, typical for an English novel of its time. It is distinguished onl... Read More
Vol. 1, Chapters 1–12 Tristram Shandy decides to tell his life story from the very beginning, starting with the moment of his conception. At s... Read More
Vol. 1, Chapters 13–20 Getting back to the village midwife (from Vol. 1, Chapter 7), Tristram describes her as a highly respected person within... Read More
Vol. 1, Chapters 21–25 The story snaps back to the day of Tristram's birth, with Uncle Toby and Walter sitting in the parlor and wondering abou... Read More
Vol. 2, Chapters 1–10 Tristram reminds his reader of the matter at hand: his Uncle Toby's war injury, which led to Toby's developing an unusua... Read More
Vol. 2, Chapters 11–19 Dr. Slop, it is now revealed, has forgotten his bag of medical instruments, so Obadiah must go and fetch them. Meanwhile... Read More
Vol. 3, Chapters 1–10 Tristram continues, at his leisurely pace, to describe the conversation taking place in the downstairs parlor while he w... Read More
Vol. 3, Chapters 11–20 The next chapter is a facing translation of the excommunication formula: Latin on the left and (rather inexact) English ... Read More
Vol. 3, Chapters 21–30 Corporal Trim enters the parlor, having completed a little project for Uncle Toby's model siege works—a pair of mortars ... Read More
Vol. 3, Chapters 31–42 For the past four generations, Tristram informs the reader, the Shandy men have been cursed with short, flat noses. This... Read More
Vol. 4, Slawkenbergius's Tale Vol. 4 opens with a tale from Slawkenbergius's book De Nasis (Of Noses). Tristram prints a few pages of the "original" L... Read More
Vol. 4, Chapters 1–11 Having shared Slawkenbergius's Tale with the reader, Tristram returns to his description of Walter, still abject from th... Read More
Vol. 4, Chapters 12–21 Still making their way down the stairs, Walter and Uncle Toby remark on the way the women of the household seem to becom... Read More
Vol. 4, Chapters 22–32 Tristram pauses to apologize for anything in his writing that might be misconstrued as controversial. His book, he insis... Read More
Vol. 5, Chapters 1–11 Tristram complains loudly of the "pitiful—pimping—pettifogging" nature of other authors, who imitate original works (inc... Read More
Vol. 5, Chapters 12–22 In attempting to get his story back on track, Tristram gets drawn into an exploration of the literary sources of Walter'... Read More
Vol. 5, Chapters 23–33 With Toby leading the way, the group arrives at Shandy Hall. Walter, as Tristram now pauses to remind the reader, often ... Read More
Vol. 5, Chapters 34–43 Tristram describes his father's bizarre theories on health and medicine, which are framed as an attack on the medical te... Read More
Vol. 6, Chapters 1–10 Tristram begins the new volume by expressing gratitude for having safely navigated the "wilderness" of his story so far.... Read More
Vol. 6, Chapters 11–20 Tristram continues telling the story of Lieutenant Le Fever and his son. When Le Fever died, he says, Uncle Toby and the... Read More
Vol. 6, Chapters 21–30 Tristram interrupts his tale once more to describe the model fortifications Uncle Toby is building at Shandy Hall. Whene... Read More
Vol. 6, Chapters 31–40 Uncle Toby is disappointed by the Treaty of Utrecht, but Walter believes his brother merely wants an excuse to keep buil... Read More
Vol. 7, Chapters 1–11 Tristram jokingly recalls a visit from Death, whom he plans to escape by traveling to France. After a long and nauseous ... Read More
Vol. 7, Chapters 12–22 Still preoccupied with his own mortality, Tristram sets out for his next stop at four in the morning. "So much of motion... Read More
Vol. 7, Chapters 23–33 Tristram concludes his tale of the abbess and the novice. Panicked at the mules' refusal to move, the novice offers a su... Read More
Vol. 7, Chapters 34–43 The French commissary informs Tristram that he owes money for the remainder of his carriage trip, even though the carria... Read More
Vol. 8, Chapters 1–10 After once more paying tribute to the beauty of the French countryside, Tristram sets out to "write [his] Uncle Toby's a... Read More
Vol. 8, Chapters 11–20 Tristram describes love and lust as dreadful conditions that make a person agitated and indecisive. "Alphabetically spea... Read More
Vol. 8, Chapters 21–30 Continuing his tale, Trim tells of the leg massages administered by the Beguine to help his knee wound heal. The anecdot... Read More
Vol. 8, Chapters 31–35 Walter Shandy warns Toby to be careful in his courtship of Mrs. Wadman, since, according to Plato, there are two kinds o... Read More
Vol. 9, Chapters 1–11 Tristram resumes his story of Uncle Toby's "amours" right where he left off, with Mrs. Shandy wondering how Toby will fa... Read More
Vol. 9, Chapters 12–22 Feeling that his story has gotten too linear and plot-driven, Tristram promises half a dozen pages of digressions to mai... Read More
Vol. 9, Chapters 23–33 Invoking the "Spirit of sweetest humor" to give him strength amid his failing health, Tristram supplies the missing chap... Read More
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