Study Guide

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman Book 1, Chapter 18

By Laurence Sterne

Book 1, Chapter 18

  • Mrs. Shandy is a good sport about the whole giving-birth-in-the-country thing. She plans to use the midwife, who's gotten plenty of experience by now.
  • Never mind that a nearby doctor has written a book about the evils of midwifery—we're trying to stay positive here.
  • Mr. Shandy wants everything to go well, but he really doesn't want to go up to the city because he has some pretty strong opinions—gentlemen belong in the country, and men tell women what to do. Charming fellow.
  • So, he insists on having a doctor—the "man-midwife" (1.18.11). They compromise: the midwife will attend the birth, and the doctor will hang around just in case things get out of control.
  • Tristram interrupts himself. He mentioned a woman's name earlier, Jenny, but he insists that we can't judge yet whether he's married or not. Jenny could be his child, his friend, or even his mistress.
  • Yes, he insists to the skeptical reader, true friendship is possible between a man and a woman. Join the debate, Tristram.