A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy

A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Starling

The poor starling, trapped in his cage and only able to utter a few plaintive words, "I can't get out," is a symbol of Yorick in the Bastille. Yorick himself will be detained in this French prison if he cannot obtain a passport.

The Silk Purse

The fille de chambre's silk purse symbolizes her genitals. In this instance and in others, Sterne addresses Yorick's sexual desires by suggestively calling attention to otherwise innocent objects and ideas.

The Handkerchief

The handkerchief that Yorick uses to wipe away Maria's tears is a symbol of the sentimental -- a major theme of the novel and a major element of Yorick's personality. This handkerchief is a cloth both symbolically imbued with meaning and literally sodden with tears, nature's wellspring of emotion.

The Portmanteau

Yorick's portmanteau, which he kicks aside, is a symbol of "this world's goods." As often happens in A Sentimental Journey, such material possessions can distract one from fostering camaraderie and understanding with one's fellow man.


Sterne uses the motif of music -- La Fleur's fife-playing, the farm family's music and dance -- throughout the novel in order to demonstrate humanity in its purest, finest, and most authentically benevolent state. Music is delicate, light, and conducive to pleasantness and fine feeling: it can promote the sentimentality that Yorick values.