The Red and the Black, by Stendhal



The Red and the Black was Stendhal’s major work when it was published in 1830. The book is a character study of Julien Sorel, a carpenter’s son and an ambitious young man who uses seduction as a tool for advancement. He does not see any path for success in the military despite his admiration for Napoleon. That just leaves the church because in Sorel’s time that is the best way to gain power.

The army is symbolized in the novel by the color red and the church by the color black. The novel examines careerism, political opportunism, the climate of fear and denunciation of materialistic values in the Restoration of France.

Sorel is employed as a tutor for the mayor’s wife, Mme de Renal. At the same time, he is training to become a priest and he decides to seduce the mayor's wife, because he thinks that it is his duty.

M. Chélan, the town priest and Julien's mentor, sends him to the Besançon seminary to avoid any further scandal. The director of the seminary, M. Pirard, likes Julien and encourages him to become a great priest. Julien does very well at the seminary, but only because he wants to make a fortune and succeed in French society.

He then goes to Paris where he seduces the aristocratic Mathilde who is the daughter of his second employer. The book ends with Sorel’s execution for the attempted murder of Mme de Rênal after she had jeopardized his projected marriage to Mathilde

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Stendhal Quotes

“A good book is an event in my life.” ...

“One can acquire everything in solitude except character.” ...

“There are as many styles of beauty as there are visions of happiness.” ...

“I love her beauty, but I fear her mind.” ...

“A novel is a mirror walking along a main road.

“A melancholy air can never be the right thing; what you want is a bored air. If you are melancholy, it must be because you want something, there is something in which you have not succeeded.
It is shewing your inferiority. If you are bored, on the other hand, it is the person who has tried in vain to please you who is inferior.”

“A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.”

“After moral poisoning, one requires physical remedies and a bottle of champagne


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