Sentimental Education | Study Guide

Gustave Flaubert

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Sentimental Education | Part 1, Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

The events in this chapter take place between September 1843 and December 12, 1845.

Frédéric is devastated by the loss of his fortune. He feels the Arnouxs will consider him "a boastful rogue" for bragging about an inheritance he will never receive. But he decides he can live a good life as a poor artist in Paris; he can find "art, learning, and love" only in the city. He tells his mother he's going back, but she begs him to stay, and, eventually, he gives in.

Frédéric takes the job with Monsieur Prouharam, who is disappointed in his performance. Frédéric feels he will never see Madame Arnoux again and decides not to write to her. Miserable and missing the city, he writes to Deslauriers. His old friend is living in their apartment and getting tired of his friend Sénécal.

The Moreaus' neighbor, Roque, comes over often. Roque aspires to be an aristocrat. He lives with his housekeeper Catherine and his daughter Louise. Frédéric and Louise begin spending time together. Madame Moreau finally gets Uncle Barthélemy to visit, hoping Barthélemy will give Frédéric money, but Barthélemy refuses. One day Roque, who is friends with Monsieur Dambreuse, invites Frédéric to accompany him to the Dambreuses' house. Frédéric declines the invitation, worried what the Dambreuses will think when they find out he lives in Nogent.

Frédéric slowly grows accustomed to country life. He attends Mass and plays cards with his mother, and his love for Madame Arnoux becomes "tranquil and resigned." On December 12, 1845, Frédéric receives a letter telling him he has inherited his dead Uncle Moreau's fortune. Frédéric is thrilled knowing he can return to Paris. He tells his mother he plans to pursue a diplomatic career. Before Frédéric leaves for Paris, Louise says an emotional goodbye to him.

Analysis

This chapter shows Frédéric's tendency to believe fate and luck control his fortune. He lets others make decisions for him and pursues professions he thinks will appeal to Madame Arnoux. He lets his mother talk him into staying in Nogent, then follows his uncle's money back to the city.

In a society where honor and public appearances are crucial, Frédéric's first concern is "disgrace or dishonor." His loss of money will reveal his secret—he doesn't really belong in the bourgeoisie. Fear of disgrace keeps him from accepting Roque's invitation and possibly finding an opportunity in Paris through Monsieur Dambreuse. He is even more concerned that he can't play the heroic role he's imagined with Madame Arnoux. He worries the thrifty Sénécal, who hates the middle classes, will mock her furniture in his old apartment.

Frédéric's initial determination to stay in Paris as an impoverished intellectual reveals a romantic view of the world. He idealizes a life he has never had to live. His complaining tires Deslauriers, who is working hard to survive in Paris. Meanwhile, Frédéric doesn't work much at his own job. The narrator mentions, "It cost [Frédéric] very little to make extravagant resolutions." He doesn't take real risks or make real sacrifices, but Frédéric becomes more sympathetic when he befriends Louise, a loner and outcast who admires him. She indulges his love for romantic stories, and the books they read together, love stories and melancholy poetry, are standard texts of Romanticism. However, Louise doesn't represent the world Frédéric wants. Her father is a man Frédéric fears becoming—a country man with lofty, unrealized ambitions and an unpleasant personality. The Nogent community considers Paris sinful and threatening to morals; however, Frédéric can't adopt this attitude.

The "funereal sweetness" of Frédéric's love for Madame Arnoux represents the slow death of his ambitions. The silence between Frédéric and his mother makes him recall the silence between himself and Madame Arnoux. It's another recognition that he can't have the life he wants. This rude awakening is often considered part of growing up. For a while, Frédéric seems to be maturing.

Yet, when his fortune turns around, he reverts to fantasy, imagining sumptuous riches. At first he resolves to do nothing at all in Paris. Then, he picks a diplomatic career to satisfy his mother's desire for his political achievement—and his own desire for wealth. Louise's sorrow and her mother's death are footnotes to Frédéric's own good fortune. He sees everyone else as supporting characters in his own drama.

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