Sternes Yorick in A Sentimental Journey Essay

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Sentimental Journey

Q1: How did you react to A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, on its own, or in comparison to previous works on the course? (eg. I enjoyed reading...)

I enjoyed reading Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy and found it to be altogether very humorous. Yorick is the kind of person I sometimes imagine myself to be so I could very easily identify with him -- from his initial reaction to the monk begging for donations (Sterne 16) -- Yorick refuses and then instantly regrets being so discourteous to the monk -- to the way in which he procures a passport in Versailles, unwittingly coming off as the king's jester. There are many humorous episodes like this throughout the book, so it was a pleasure to read and a nice diversion from my own life -- which has too few such humorous episodes. Even expressions like "the deuce take it!" are humorous and remind me of reading Gogol, the 19th century Russian writer, whose characters are similar to Yorick in that there is a high degree of innocence about them while at the same time there is something not quite so innocent about them too. In short, the book was an amusing read because it rings true to life and was a nice glimpse into life during that time in history and also a nice reminder that humanity does not really change much from century to century or place to place.

Q2: In what ways does Yorick resemble your idea of a tourist, and in what ways does he diverge from your idea of a tourist?

My idea of a tourist really derives from my own experience as a tourist -- which is that of a very uninformed foreigner trekking about in unknown lands, not having the slightest idea about what local customs are or what laws and regulations I'm expected to follow -- and very much just relying on the knowledge of those I am traveling with to get by. So in this sense, Yorick does seem very much like a tourist to me -- but at the same time, he also has a good idea of where he is and what he is doing and even knows people in the places he travels.

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For example, when he goes to see Maria in Moulines, whom Shandy describes in his book (Sterne 138), there is a sense that Sterne is really giving us an anecdotal sequel to some events that occurred in Tristram Shandy -- which is fine because a follow-up is always nice -- but some of the felicity with which a tourist should be expected to go about his travels is lost and the adventures of Yorick seem to be but a continuation of some previously begun narrative. In this sense, I found Yorick to diverge from my idea of a tourist -- especially since the scene really feels somewhat arbitrary and forced and is very quickly recounted: "Tho' I hate salutations and greetings in the market-place, yet, when we got into the middle of this, I stopp'd to take my last look and last farewel of Maria," writes Sterne (142) even though hardly anything at all has passed between Yorick and Maria. I felt like a real tourist might have made more of the encounter and stayed a little longer. No doubt the brevity of the meeting had something to do with Sterne's desire to conclude the novel quickly.

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Works Cited

Sterne, Laurence. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. PDF.

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