Literature Study GuidesTristram ShandyVol 9 Chapters 1 11 Summary

Tristram Shandy | Study Guide

Laurence Sterne

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Tristram Shandy | Vol. 9, Chapters 1–11 | Summary

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Summary

Tristram resumes his story of Uncle Toby's "amours" right where he left off, with Mrs. Shandy wondering how Toby will fare in his meeting with the Widow Wadman. Toby, meanwhile, makes his way to Mrs. Wadman's residence in a squashed wig, a beaten-up hat, and an ill-fitting coat. He worries Mrs. Wadman will reject him or even be offended by his attempt to court her.

Trim attempts to encourage Toby by telling a story about his brother Tom, who married the widowed owner of a sausage-shop in Portugal. Tom and his wife, Trim says, met quite casually when he came to her shop to buy a pound of sausages. Little by little, however, he worked his way into her good graces by helping out around the store.

Toby and Trim circle the Widow Wadman's house as if preparing to besiege it. Walter and Mrs. Shandy continue to watch them under the pretext of going out for a walk. When they get to Mrs. Wadman's door, Toby and the corporal do an about-face and march away again, to the great puzzlement of the onlookers. Observing their odd movements, Mrs. Shandy wonders whether the two men intend to build an actual fort on Mrs. Wadman's property.

Analysis

Things are not looking great for Uncle Toby, who would probably be suffering from first-date jitters even if his wig and breeches weren't so shabby. Tristram has repeatedly, though only incidentally, mentioned Toby's inexperience in matters of courtship, and Walter has rather indelicately accused Toby of not knowing "the right end of a Woman from the wrong." His chivalrous and naïve demeanor sets him at a disadvantage before the Widow Wadman, who is much shrewder and more cunning than he.

Perhaps because of his nerves, Toby defaults to his stereotypically "soldierly" behaviors even more energetically than usual. He does not walk to the Widow's door; he marches, carrying his cane like an infantryman wielding a pike. Corporal Trim, to his credit, recognizes this awkward performance as a kind of distress call and tries to reassure Toby, but his efforts culminate in an unintentionally lewd tale about love and sausage-making. Notably, Trim's advice on courting directly contradicts the suggestions given by Walter in his "Letter of Instruction" (Vol. 8, Chapter 34), where Toby is counseled to "avoid all kinds of pleasantry or facetiousness." Trim—equally simplistically—insists that "all womankind ... love jokes," and "the difficulty is to know how they choose to have them cut." Toby, as it turns out, will be too keyed up to follow anyone's advice on making conversation.

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