Study Guide

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman Book 1, Chapter 23

By Laurence Sterne

Book 1, Chapter 23

  • Now Tristram wants to talk some nonsense (as if he hasn't all along).
  • A little background: Momus was the Greek god of mockery and blame. According to Lucian, Momus wanted humans to be created with a window that would look into their souls, so everybody could see exactly what they were thinking and feeling.
  • Yeah, let's all be grateful that advice was ignored.
  • Tristram thinks that would have had two ridiculous consequences. First, people would have had to pay tax on their windows (windows were taxed in England until 1851). Second, writing a man's character would have been too easy. All you'd have to do is peep in the window and write down exactly what you saw. Instead, writers have to approach character indirectly.
  • Tristram's preferred method is to talk about his uncle's hobby-horse. Aha, the pieces are coming together.

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