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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman


by Laurence Sterne

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman Fate and Free Will Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

The ungracious Duchess has pelted me with a set of as pitiful misadventures and cross accidents as ever small HERO sustained (1.5.1)

Tristram's personification of Fate as a Duchess is funny: a hoity-toity lady "pelting" a little boy like she's attacking him with rotten tomatoes. Queen of Hearts, is that you? Fate doesn't seem abstract in this characterization—it seems like someone really has it in for Tristram.

Quote #2

I wish I had been born in the Moon, or in any of the planets (except Jupiter or Saturn, because I never could bear cold weather) for it could not well have fared worse with me in any of them (though I will not answer for Venus) than it has in this vile, dirty planet of ours (1.5.1)

Since the stars and planets are said to control our destiny, he imagines that he could have a different fate if he'd been born on a different planet—although he only leaves himself Mars and Mercury as an option. (Uranus wasn't discovered until 1781—a couple decades after Tristram Shandy.)

Quote #3

with the help of a little plain good sense, and some years' full employment in her business, in which she had all along trusted little to her own efforts, and a great deal to those of dame Nature,—had acquired, in her way, no small degree of reputation in the world (1.7.1)

Genetic determinism before DNA: Tristram explains that the midwife gains the trust of the village not by herself but through "Nature," which in Tristram Shandy is closely aligned with (or maybe even identical with?) fortune and fate.

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