Study Guide

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman What's Up With the Title?

By Laurence Sterne

What's Up With the Title?

At first glance, the title (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman) seems like a joke. Tristram Shandy hardly appears in his narrative at all, and when he does he mostly complains about how hard it is to write his story. But by the end of the novel he's actually managed to give us a lot of information about his opinions.

And what about that "gentleman" word tacked onto the end? Tristram's not overly preoccupied with social status. A "gentleman," in the middle of the eighteenth century, meant a guy who didn't have to do much of anything. His money came from the rents on his land rather than from working a job or investing in any kind of stock market. By adding the word "gentleman" to the end of the title, Tristram distinguishes his book from novels that might be about men who have adventurous, exciting lives. If you're looking for action, go find that Robinson Crusoe dude.

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