Fragmentation in The Life and Opinion of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman written by L. Sterne

Essay by Swetlo September 2008

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Fragmentation in The Life and Opinion of Tristram Shandy, GentlemanSterne's novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy is known as one of the earliest and the best examples of postmodernist fiction. Fragmentation is characteristic of postmodernism.I will focus on the fragmentation and later on I tried to parallel the novel to the technique related to fragmentation - collage.

For me the most visible and interesting feature of postmodernism in the novel is fragmentation. What does it mean in literature? Fragmentation is a broad term for literary techniques that break up the text or narrative. (, 15.4.2006) In Tristram Shandy fragmentation could be found in narrative structure, characters and themes. Chronology and plot are interrupted and re-ordered. Sterne abandoned formal categories of structure (i.e. exposition, complication, crisis, climax, and resolution). He did not follow linear chronological line. Nonlinear narrative is related technique to fragmentation. Many digressions make the story quite strange and chaotic but later on very readable.

( I have dropped curtain over this scene for a minute - to remind you of one thing, - and to inform you to other.) Many flashbacks and unfinished sentences, which seem to be vain, create a sense of discontinuity. (There was a certain king of Bo - - he --- ) Also the running motifs occurring from time to time may function as fragments, but their presence usually joins previous topics together.

Time scheme is also unconventional. There is mix of present time and past events.

As Tristram claims himself "in a word, my work is digressive, and it is progressive too, - and at the same time". (Volume I Chapter 22).

Tristram´s role of narrator and character intersect each other, but the role of the narrator is much more important than character. Narrator - Tristram intentionally plays with the...