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2012 Group Reads - Archives > The Red and the Black - Book Two: Ch.26-35

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message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver Chapter 26 Moral Love

Chapter 27 The Best Positions in the Church

Chapter 28 Manon Lescaut

Chapter 29 Boredom

Chapter 30 A Box at the Bouffes

Chapter 31 Making Her Afraid

Chapter 32 The Tiger

Chapter 33 The Torment of the Weak

Chapter 34 A Man of Spirit

Chapter 35 A Storm


message 2: by Lynnm (last edited Jun 09, 2012 01:06PM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments My goodness...I didn't see that coming at all. Though in looking back, some clues were there.

I thoroughly enjoyed these chapters. Julien, with his love game with Madame de Fervaques, copying out the Russian letters. As someone wrote in the last section, maybe we are getting a lesson on the art of French seduction. ;) Mathilde, stepping up to her father, demanding that he accept her affair with Julien, trying to manipulate him into giving her at least some money. I thought her letter to her father was brilliant: appealed to his affection for her; the fact that she would have to leave for another country if he didn't recognize the marriage and/or give them money; his own respect for Julien because of his intellect and achievement; and the fact that she initiated the affair, not Julien (which is true).

At first I thought she had succeeded, when the Marquis got him the lieutenant commission and the name to go with it: Julien Sorel de la Vernaye.

But as soon as the letter came from the Marquis to Mathilde that said, "I do not yet know what your Julien is," I had a feeling things weren't going to end well for Julien and Mathilde.

But again, did not see the Madame de Renal angle. Watch out for a woman scorned...jealousy, thy name is woman, and did she ever make him pay for falling in love with woman his own age.

And never thought that he would try to kill her. When he bought the pistols - because he had talked about suicide on a number of occasions - I thought he was going to kill himself.

I may not completely understand the ins and outs of French politics of that time, but what I do understand is that no matter what country you are in and no matter what time period you live in, the ultra-rich stay together and rarely let someone who grew up poor into their society, no matter how smart they are. They will close ranks, and that is what is happening here.

It is easy to say that Julien brought this on himself - too ambitious, etc. But for all his flaws, Julien just wanted more than to be a carpenter. (Not that there is anything wrong with being a carpenter - I come from a very blue collar family.) He wanted to be involved in some institution where he had a bit of control over life (either the church or the military) and hoped that someone like him could have some influence.

But as most people who come in from the outside, he didn't completely understand their ways, and in the end, it will probably crush him. (Not a spoiler - haven't read past these chapters - just my humble guess.)


message 3: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Good review. Thx, Lymmn.

I was fascinated by Stendhal's ability to convey the ups and downs of love -- the infatuation, the doubts, the hopes, the stratagems, the reconciliation, the jealousy, .... Especially, that he portrayed them as often not necessarily being logical (in the sense of being supported by what was actually happening, especially on the basis of attitudes and emotions of the other person) and as vacillating or changing so quickly.


message 4: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Stendhal was a bit of a Don Juan so he was probably writing from experience and observation!:)


message 5: by Silver (new)

Silver MadgeUK wrote: "Stendhal was a bit of a Don Juan so he was probably writing from experience and observation!:)"

While reading this book, I was thinking that it actually would have been appropriate if we had done Don Juan as a side read, while discussing this book. Particularly considering how much Stendhal had quoted from Don Juan within this book.


message 6: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Yes, I thought that too:).


message 7: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments A bit ironic considering the controversy, but yes. ;)


message 8: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 10, 2012 10:08AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments A side read would have been just the job!:) But we didn't then know that R&B would top the poll.

I think there were a lot of clues, especially from Matthilde, that someone's death was on the cards.

In Stendhal's time it was very unusual for someone of humble origins to marry into or work their way into the upper echelons of society. However, in our time we have seen a number of 'commoners' marry into royal families, Kate Middleton being the latest, so maybe the times they have a'changed? However, the saying 'clogs to clogs in three generations' may still apply and we have yet to see the final outcome - Diana and Fergie didn't do too well:(:(.


message 9: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments MadgeUK wrote: "'clogs to clogs in three generations' ...."

Don't know that one. Meaning?

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O214... -- what one site says.

A more American view is probably that it takes perhaps three generations for a family of non-professional origins to become largely a family of professionals -- that the inter-generational learning and connections are important and supportive.


message 10: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 10, 2012 10:08AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I think Americans might say 'shirtsleeves to shirtleeves in three generations'. Or are you suggesting that America, being a more upwardly mobile society, that people are less likely to revert?


message 11: by Lynnm (last edited Jun 10, 2012 10:47AM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Lily wrote: "more American view is probably that it takes perhaps three generations for a family of non-professional origins to become largely a family of professionals -- that the inter-generational learning and connections are important and supportive."

Yes, the first generation usually comes to the country with a trade (or no trade skills, only the ability to farm), the second generation usually has a solid blue collar job, and finally the third generation goes to college and gets a "professional" job.

Sadly, those inter-generational connections have lessened because families are physically all over the place as people think nothing of up and moving for jobs.

Madge - today, the U.S. is only slightly more upwardly mobile than Britain. The above applies to immigrant families. Of western nations, Britain is last, but the U.S. is second to last. The American Dream is now mostly myth. Usually, if you are born to the upper class, you stay there. If you are born into the middle class, you stay there. If you are born into the lower class, you stay there. And sadly now if you are born into the middle class or are in the middle class, you might move down rather than up as the middle class mimicks the incredible shrinking man.


message 12: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 10, 2012 11:02AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I think the American Dream has always been a myth Lynn, just as the belief that London's streets were paved with gold was. Upward mobility has always been fraught with difficulties. In Jude the Obscure we saw how difficult it was for Jude and in Trollope's novels we see how difficult it was for the Victorian merchant classes. And Recessions always bring downward mobility of the sort we are seeing now:(.

The French aristocracy and the other aristocracies of Europe lost their heads. Somehow, and cleverly, the British aristocracy clung on to theirs!

The Napoleonic wars brought a lot of upward mobility to the lower and middle classes of France, created many jobs and broke down some class divisions but it did not take long for the restored Bourbon monarchy to undo all the good that the Revolution and Napoleon had done. Julien's own rise and fall is perhaps mimicking this.

Conversely, in the UK the Napoleonic wars were times of hardship and instability but the following Regency period was a time of prosperity and the flowering of art, music and literature.


message 13: by Lynnm (last edited Jun 10, 2012 01:00PM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments MadgeUK wrote: "I think the American Dream has always been a myth Lynn, just as the belief that London's streets were paved with gold was. Upward mobility has always been fraught with difficulties. In Jude the Obs..."

To some extent, yes, I think you are right. But there have been times that the American Dream was very possible. I think of the people who went west in the 1800s - the availability of land, and the settling of new towns/cities. And for certain people, the 1950s was definitely a time when some people could really move up the socio-economic ladder. But must emphasis the fact that it was certain people - the "Other" was left out.

It is also surprising to me that the people of England didn't revolt when news of the French Revolution crossed the Channel. They certainly had enough reasons to do so.

What is it about middle class Brits and Americans that we allow the top financially to trod all over us with only a whisper of protest? Here in the States, I think it is the hope that we too may someday be rich, false as that may be. What is the average Brit's excuse? They certainly don't have the false delusions that their American counterparts have.


message 14: by Lily (last edited Jun 10, 2012 06:39PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Lynnm wrote: "Yes, the first generation usually comes to the country with a trade (or no trade skills, only the ability to farm)..."

Careful about them words! Many of those peasants out of Europe helped fuel the revolution that permits less than 2% of the population to be engaged in agriculture today and basically feed the remainder of the population. (A vast system of Land Grant colleges and of inventions and of improvement in genetic knowledge certainly were also part of the revolution -- some of those were not independent of each other, just as the first fueled some of those accomplishments.)

It does concern me that the lust for education that fueled much of the first generation of immigrants in nurturing their children seems sometimes to be lost, even though many of that next third generation do seem to take college education for granted, for better or for worse. But the passion for excellence....?


message 15: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 10, 2012 11:11PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Lynn: Those Americans who went west and made fortunes were no different to other immigrants in other countries who uprooted themselves and made fortunes. In other words it isn't an American Dream, it is a dream fuelled by poverty and determination everywhere. In the UK today, for instance, a large number of the children of first generation Asian immigrants are our wealthiest people. This isn't because the UK is a fabled land of opportunity but because those individuals were driven by their particular cirumstances:-

http://www.luxuriousmagazine.com/2011...

It is perhaps a dream realised by bringing skills/products to a host country that weren't there before. The iconic British fish and chip shops were, for instance, brought here by 19C Polish immigrants.

I think Brits do have similar delusions, it is just that we don't shout about it as much. The reverence for royalty, the cult of celebrity are just as strong here in pursuit of dreams and serve, as religion has done in the past, to keep the people in their place in the hope of a better life to come. Our calmness is also something to do with the 'stiff upper lip', cultivated by the aristocracy and copied by the middle classes at the instigation of Beau Brummell during the Regency. He introduced a cult of stylish dressing and of behaviour which became fashionable and which has remained in subsequent centuries, although today alas! the manners have almost disappeared:(. The wartime 'Keep Calm and Carry On' posters, and their current revival, are the latest manifestation of Brit admiration for stiff upper lipness.

http://bellatryx.blogs.ie/2005/08/19/...

The French of course are more renowned for having wobbly upper lips:) (All the better to kiss you with perhaps?)


message 16: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Lily wrote: "Lynnm wrote: "Yes, the first generation usually comes to the country with a trade (or no trade skills, only the ability to farm)..."

Careful about them words! Many of those peasants out of Europe..."


So true, Lily. You know, when I wrote the post, I thought, farmers have wonderful skills! But then I thought, sadly, people don't think of it that way so left it in the "no skills" category.

Particularly since I can't even get the grass on my lawn to grow nicely, I shouldn't have done that!


message 17: by Lynnm (last edited Jun 11, 2012 07:06AM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Lynn: Those Americans who went west and made fortunes were no different to other immigrants in other countries who uprooted themselves and made fortunes. In other words it isn't an American Dream, ..."

True. But I think both the U.S. and the U.K. (and other countries as well) provide unique opportunities for immigrants. There are some countries where people could work hard all their lives and never have any opportunity to be rewarded for their hard work. Hence, the Dream, and why people risk life and limb to come to the U.S. and the U.K.


message 18: by Lynnm (last edited Jun 11, 2012 07:08AM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments MadgeUK wrote: "I think Brits do have similar delusions, it is just that we don't shout about it as much. The reverence for royalty, the cult of celebrity are just as strong here in pursuit of dreams and serve, as religion has done in the past, to keep the people in their place in the hope of a better life to come. Our calmness is also something to do with the 'stiff upper lip', cultivated by the aristocracy and copied by the middle classes at the instigation of Beau Brummell during the Regency. He introduced a cult of stylish dressing and of behaviour which became fashionable and which has remained in subsequent centuries, although today alas! the manners have almost disappeared:(. The wartime 'Keep Calm and Carry On' posters, and their current revival, are the latest manifestation of Brit admiration for stiff upper lipness."

Thanks for the explanation.

It always comes down to the stiff upper lip. :-)

I can't remember the name of the movie, but it is one Emma Thompson was in the last couple of years. She demonstrates the British stiff upper lip to an American - amusing. (I hate it when I can't remember a movie's name - I can't even remember the name of the American actor in it - and a very famous American actor to boot.)


message 19: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 11, 2012 07:45AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Hence, the Dream, and why people risk life and limb...

The thing is, it has ever been thus. Once it was 'go East Young Man' , then it became 'Go West'. In Thackeray's Vanity Fair you may remember that Joseph Sedley was a 'nabob' who had made his fortune with the East India Company, in other English novels fortunes are made in the Caribbean. The colonisation of America turned the tables and fortune hunters began to look to the 'Wild West', especially as it was publicised as an empty wilderness, largely ignoring the Native Americans already settled there:(. I rather think that my grandchildren will be looking East again, to China and India, indeed my eldest grand-daughter is already doing so.

But we have already strayed too far from Julien seeking his fortune in Paris!


message 20: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Lynnm wrote: "...I can't remember the name of the movie, but it is one Emma Thompson was in the last couple of years. She demonstrates the British stiff upper lip to an American - amusing. (I hate it when I can't remember a movie's name - I can't even remember the name of the American actor in it - and a very famous American actor to boot.)"

Lynnm -- Do either of these help? (I'm no good at all with movies.)

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000668/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Tho...


message 21: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Is this it - Last Chance Harvey:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_T4Dk...


message 22: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Last Chance Harvey...that's it. :-)


message 23: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments I keep trying to think of something to say about R&B, and just don't seem to come up with anything I consider would be interesting. I did blanch a bit at the suggestions on how to woo a woman by making her jealous. Why do we as humans act that way? Because if someone else wants something, it seems more valuable? Because we are competitive? Because ....


message 24: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Lily wrote: "I keep trying to think of something to say about R&B, and just don't seem to come up with anything I consider would be interesting. I did blanch a bit at the suggestions on how to woo a woman by m..."

I feel the same way, Lily. I've run out of things to say about TR & TB.

That's not to say I'm not enjoying it. In fact, I will miss Julien. But I don't have too much else to say. But I still have six chapters to go - I'm sure I'll find something to say about the ending when we get there.


message 25: by Lily (last edited Jun 15, 2012 08:13PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Yes, I enjoyed it, too. But it sort of seems, what is there to talk about? (I do have the Norton edition, but haven't read very much of the commentary, except one that talks about the ending in particular.) I have finished reading -- some time ago now. It became one of those stories that I wanted to keep reading, so it was also enjoyable in that sense, too, i.e., the "what is going to happen?" suspense.

I probably like Julien's Parisian sweetheart best, even if she is a bit loopy at times. She took a lot of risks for a love that seems sincere -- at least....more later, I can't remember what would be a spoiler here, which is the downside of not having paced my reading.


message 26: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments As ever, I got embroiled in the politics but I know that y'all would find that boring:). There are some interesting psychological aspects of the novel, paeticularly with regard to the 'why' of the murder which could be discussed when we officially reach the end.


message 27: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments MadgeUK wrote: "As ever, I got embroiled in the politics but I know that y'all would find that boring:). There are some interesting psychological aspects of the novel, paeticularly with regard to the 'why' of the..."

I would love a political discussion regarding the book if I felt more comfortable discussing French politics of that time.

I never find political discussions boring.But you knew that already from our chat room discussions. :-)


message 28: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments No, we are of like minds there Lynn:)


message 29: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Lynnm wrote: "I would love a political discussion regarding the book if I felt more comfortable discussing French politics of that time...."

That's where I'm at.


message 30: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments Lily wrote: "Lynnm wrote: "I would love a political discussion regarding the book if I felt more comfortable discussing French politics of that time...."

That's where I'm at."


Same here. I feel that I would have gotten a lot more out of the novel if I had a better understanding of Stendhal and his political concerns. Frankly, I found Julien irritating and found it difficult to believe that two such different women would fall madly in love with him. I mostly wanted to tell him to grow up.


message 31: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 17, 2012 04:24AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Have you read any of the background material that some of us have posted Kim? I usually post some background stuff in Background & Resources before we begin reading so that folks can mug up on locations, politics etc., and other useful links have been posted during the discussion. As the novel was intended by Stendhal to be a piece of political propaganda and a criticism of the Bourbon regime/aristocracy and the church (the 'Throne and the Altar'), it is important to see the characters as being representative of a particular class/type, as well as being lovers etc. Julien represents the striving working class, Mdme Renal the provincial middle class and Mathilde the aristocracy, for instance, and their views and actions form part of the wider concerns of French people in general at this period, post-Revolution>Napoleonic>Bourbon Restoration. In the love triangle Julien represents the love the people first had for Napoleon Bonaparte and the way that enabled them, like Julien, to prosper, Mdme & Mnsieur Renal represent the middle-class, their support for the Restoration and their worries about the instability which followed Napoleon's capture, Mathilde and her father represeent the aristocracy and their 'facing both ways' approach to both the Revolution, the Restoration and its imminent collapse. the various member of the catholic clergy represent the good and the bad, particularly the corruption in the church at this time and its constant flirtation with Mammon.

Julien, like the French people, chose 'the throne and the altar' over the principles of the Revolution - Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite! - and was, like the Republic, doomed. Both upper class women chose to flirt with him (the people/the working class) but lacking an understanding of the principles of the Revolution, were also doomed.

In the end, only the power of human love remained and to some extent I suppose this represents 'Fraternite' and the hope, on Stendhal's part, that something good will come out of all the suffering. Julien as Christ on the cross perhaps (although Stendhal was an atheist)? There seems to be an allusion to Christ's death and resurrection when Julien walks to the guillotine, feeling the sun and fresh air on his face, remembering the woods of Vergy and wishing to be buried in the cave there.

Just some random thoughts!


message 32: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments Yes, Madge, I did read some of that material. However, reading a few online articles does not give me a real appreciation for the complexity of politics in a period I know very little about and I lack the time and the inclination to acquire an in-depth knowledge of a period I'm not otherwise that interested in. I liked the novel well enough and agree that it has something to say which is not limited to its place and time. That said, neither it nor its author are destined to figure among my favourites.


message 33: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I don't think you need in depth knowledge of the period, just a general appreciation of what was going on. Most of the novels we read in RR need us to know something about history and one of the reasons they are deemed classics is that they often speak to our own period's concerns. We are seeing a lot of 'uprisings' now, for instance, where people lives are being changed by strong differences of opinion - thrones and altars - and also where the power and corruption of religion is a factor.


message 34: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Have you read any of the background material that some of us have posted Kim? I usually post some background stuff in Background & Resources before we begin reading so that folks can mug up on loc..."

I did read it, and I do understand these basics. But it is the nuances in the history that I'm missing, and I think that you need that for true understanding.

Which leads to the question of whether or not a person from the outside can ever deeply understand another person's or nation's history.


message 35: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I think you can gain a good understanding of history by reading about it but it is much more difficult IMO to understand their politics and 'where people are coming from' in that regard.


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