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When I first began reading Laurence Sterne’s novel I was frustrated. I understood what I was reading very clearly, I just didn’t believe any of the words on the pages. This of course isn’t something an individual should get upset about, but I did. I of course wasn’t throwing the novel across my room in disgust; I was simply rereading whole pages with a look of confusion on my face. At several points in the early chapters my face was completely stuck with a look of utter disbelief. I believe that my main frustration was formed from the idea that Tristram Shandy was very similar to a close friend of mine. Both get into ridiculous situations and they can never explain what occurs by being simply straightforward and direct. With all of these thoughts running through my head I realized very quickly that if I was going to get any enjoyment out of Laurence Sterne’s most famous piece I would simply have to believe what I was reading and question nothing that I read. This was a new concept to me but one that worked well for this particular novel.


Sterne writes ““Nay if you don't believe me, you may read the chapter for your pains” following his initial claims that he is telling the truth to the reader. Sterne understands and acknowledges that readers may have grown weary of his exaggerated writing style and he addresses these critiques. Stern writes that even though the reader may not believe what is being written in this novel they need to continue to read because Sterne himself believes in his work. This is powerful and emphasizes the mindset that Sterne had with this controversial novel, he believed in his work regardless or what others thought. In his mind regardless of whether the reader believed the words on the page they would respect the belief that Sterne had in himself to create a novel such as this one.


During the novel Sterne asks the reader to believe in him, his work then changes and he doesn’t care whether readers believe in him or his work. This back and forth interaction with the reader is tedious. Readers of the time period would’ve wanted a more straightforward plot and they simply weren’t receiving this from Sterne. I believe modern audiences feel the same way. Stern’s work is very similar to the boy who cried wolf in the sense that Sterne calls you over saying that what he claims is believable and the truth, you listen to him, walk over and realize that it’s another lie. Eventually even if he does need you for an actual truth you don’t even acknowledge him and he request falls on deaf ears. This is disappointing and when I was finished reading his novel I felt as though I didn’t fully appreciate the work because I was counting the number of things that couldn’t have occurred. I had to remind myself not to over think things when reading this novel which is something I’ve never done before. I do however think that Sterne achieved what he wanted to from his readership. Regardless of whether we believe in what Sterne is writing about we believed in him as an author and respect his vision.