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The Red and The Black

The Red and The Black

by Giuseppe TovarNovember 18, 2013


In The Red and The Black, by Stendhal: Julian Sorel is the son of a carpenter, who hates him. However, he receives an education in the church and is a strong reader. Julian goes to work as a tutor to the children of M. de Rênal (mayor of Verrieres).  Julian falls in love with Mme Rênal. They have loving relationships. Fouque, his friend, and a bourgeois upstart, offers to take him into his business, Julian rejects the proposition. Then, M. de Rênal receives letters about his wife’s infidelities. Julian Sorel leaves the house of the M. de Rênal to continue with his ecclesiastical career (in spite of missing Mmme. Rênal, and the fact that she is madly in love with him).

Julian goes to a to a seminar in Besançon, wher he outshines everyone, but the rest of his classmates start to be envious. He gains the protection of the director of the seminar: father Pirard (a man who confronts the conservatives within the Church).  Pirard gets a post as secretary of a marquis in Paris. Before departing for the big city, Julian returns to the house of Rênal and successfully enters without being seen. He is Reacquainted with Mme Rênal and the two spend a beautiful day together locked in a room.

Julian goes to work as secretary to the marquis of La Mole. La Mole has two children: a man and a woman: Matilde is a smart, hysterical girl, who loves reading. She is very beautiful and she has many men trying to court her. She falls in love with Julian, but tries to hide this feeling because of the social distance that separates them. Julian starts to appear in society achieving some noteworthiness despite his humble status among the nobles in those places. He gains respect in the house of La Mole and the friendship of the marquis. Matilde expresses her feelings and he falls in love with her. Then, she falls out of love because she conquers him so very easily. She admires the old fashioned romances between queens and warriors, impossible relationships seem most romantic to her. She begins to show contempt for Julian. Her parents arrange a future marriage between her and a great nobleman of Paris. Julian suffers much. The marquis, who -of course- ignores all this, instructs Julian to lead a mission related to a plot that is being organized by the most important noblemen of Paris to ally themselves with other noblemen across Europe. Julian succeeds in that missionand meets a Russian prince that gives him advice on how to regain Matilde. Julian returns to Paris and follows those recommendations. Matilde falls in love with him again. Julian tries to pretend, however, that he is not in love with her, to keep the girl interested in him. They talk about philosophy and start to have sexual relations. She becomes pregnant. The Marquis finds out and becomes enraged, due to the difference of social classes and the dishonor that such a thing implies for his family. She is madly in love with him, and will now do anything so they can be married and have their son. When the couple is about to see their dreams fulfilled: where Julian is given an acceptable surname, pretending to be of some important lineage with a handsome annual income and  the rank of lieutenant; La Mole receives a letter from Mme. Rênal in which she tells him about how she was seduced by Julian, and persuades him to reject this young man as his son-in-law, because according to her he is only a petit bourgeois who only wants to climb the social ladder. La Mole cancels the preparations for the marriage of his daughter and Sorel. Julian, unexpectedly, purchases a firearm, and during mass fires two shots at Mme. Rênal. They arrest him and take him to jail. The woman, however, does not die. In prison, Julian receives daily visits from Fouque and Matilde. A few days after Mme.  Rênal appears. Julian feels that he loves her, and has only loved her and apologizes. She apologizes, also, for having  sent the letter to La Mole. They both feel happy to be together again.

However, Julian’s situation is not simple, he is going to have a child with Matilde and be executed for attempted, premeditated murder. However, his only thoughts are of Mme Rênal. In the end of The Red and the Black, Stendhal writes that the jury finds Julian, who does nothing to defend himself, guilty. Julian is then executed, and is buried in a cave that he had known during a trip to house of his friend Fouque. Matilde takes responsibility for all the funeral arrangements. Three days after Julian’s execution, Mme. Rênal dies a sudden death in the arms of her children.


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About The Author
Giuseppe Tovar
  • Erik
    November 18, 2013 at 5:15 am

    The Red and The Black, by Stendhal is a novel that provides a photograph of French Society of the nineteenth century, after the fall of Napoleon. The first thing to note is that the Revolution did served for very little, nobles and the clergy continue to maintain their privileges, and social prestige always depends upon the degree of nobility or clerical charge that has been achieved, and the income that this entails. The only thing that the revolution achieved are the elections to certain public offices, which are perfectly rigged so that the powerful or their protected get those offices.

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