the light fantastic

vague ramblings re: early british lit

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Sentimental Journey

Sterne's novel is incredibly funny because his mocking voice behind every action and thought of earnest Yorick. In one case, Yorick states that he is only mean when he is 'between love's and hopes that he quickly fall in love because it causes him to be most generous, yet laments the fact that his heart is locked up. This was clearly depicted in his treatment of Father Lorenzo with and without the lady's presence.

Yorick also speaks with contempt of the beggars who approach him as he walks to his chaise. He counsels every traveller to spare a few coins for them, yet boasts that no man would give as little as he does. And instead of spreading the wealth among all of the men and women, he selects a few to give charity based on whimsical ideas such as one man's politesse and another's generosity of his snuffbox. And he has the nerve to say that his taking a pinch of the man's snuff box bestowed him a greater honor and pleasure than the money he received. Being so sure of his misconceptions, Yorick is easily be a character that could be despised, but the only redemption is Sterne's voice of irony and the sheer audacity of Yorick's claims that make this a comic novel.

Sterne makes it clear that this work is a novel, and not a travel journal as would be suggested by the title. Yorick's preface as he 'rides' in the Desobligeant is exactly how Sterne means the book to be read. There is an illusion of movement and certainly there is a great deal of emotions and revelations, but in the end, the journey merely was rocking side to side, and not a step from where it first started. Yorick's grand ideas and mannerisms which he himself intends to be read as a procedure manual on travelling is nothing but excited writing in a still carriage, or Sterne's dramatic irony in a slim novel, both of which has nothing to do with worldwide travels and even more little to do with the epiphanic sentiments.


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