The Red and the Black | Study Guide

Stendhal

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The Red and the Black | Book 2, Chapters 21–25 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 21: The Secret Note

The Marquis takes Julien to a secret meeting of highly influential Ultras. His job is to take notes, memorize a condensed version of these notes in a memo created by the Marquis, and then deliver the memo to an important personage—a duke.

Chapter 22: The Discussion

Debate takes place over many hours, and Julien is sent out of the room from time to time. Even if there is some danger in his mission, Julien decides he is happy to "atone for all the suffering my foolish actions may one day cause" the Marquis. The Ultras are discussing how they might convince foreign powers to aid them in keeping rebellious elements in France at bay. The Marquis says the nobles ought to have some fighting forces of their own at the ready before expecting any help from outside.

Chapter 23: The Clergy, Woodlands, Liberty

A cardinal says if the Ultras expect the clergy to stand behind them, the Royalists should give them back the woodlands they took during the French Revolution. After the meeting adjourns in the early hours and the Marquis composes his memo, he warns Julien enemy spies may try to stop him from delivering his message. When he gets to the inn, Julien escapes being drugged. After he goes to bed, the Abbé Castanède, "chief of police for the Congregation for ... the northern frontier," breaks into his room with another man, and Julien pretends to be asleep. They find nothing in his trunk.

Chapter 24: Strasbourg

When Julien gets to his destination, he delivers his message to the duke and is told to go to Strasbourg and wait several days before returning for his response. In Strasbourg, a depressed Julien runs into an old Russian friend, Prince Korasoff, and confides his romantic woes without revealing names. The Prince offers to marry him to his cousin, a rich heiress. Julien declines but takes his friend's advice about courting another woman to make Mathilde jealous. The Prince even promises to send him a series of ready-made love letters for the woman he has in mind, who is a religious prude. The letters were written to a devout English Quaker.

Chapter 25: The Department of Virtue

When he returns to Paris, Julien asks help from Comte Altamira, a friend of the widow Madame de Fervaques. Comte Altamira takes him to Don Diego Bustos. This gentleman previously courted the widow with no success. Bustos gives Julien his best advice and lets him borrow a few of the letters the widow sent him. Julien also reminds himself to take Prince Korasoff's advice to neither speak to Mathilde nor even look at her. Mathilde is preparing to marry the Marquis de Croisenois, she but still expects Julien to sigh over her. She is surprised by his neglect.

Analysis

Chapters 21–23 are taken up with the intrigue of the Ultras, who are courting foreign intervention in France's affairs of state. According to a note in the Gard translation of the novel, some scholars think Stendhal is referencing rumors in the liberal press in 1829 that Ultra extremists were afraid of an uprising and therefore were talking to foreign monarchs about helping to keep the upper classes in power.

Interestingly, Julien doesn't think twice about helping the people who he has deemed his enemies in their quest to hold onto political power and keep the masses in their place. His loyalty to his employer, the Marquis de la Mole, seems to have overshadowed any feelings of solidarity he might have had with the working or middle classes. True, he has vowed to stay in character as a hypocrite to further his own interests, but the narrator does not make any remarks to indicate Julien felt animosity for these people who would invite foreigners in to help them rule the state. He is only surprised they would allow him to listen to what they have to say, which he thinks may put him in some danger. His willingness to take on this risk, however, to atone to the Marquis for any suffering his actions may one day cause him, foreshadows his break with his benefactor, which will occur not long after this meeting takes place.

When Julien gets to Strasbourg and runs into his Russian friend, Prince Korasoff, he finally has a chance to share his love woes, and he gets some advice about how to win his mistress back. Julien's refusal to marry Korasoff's heiress cousin shows that his motivations, while not magnanimous, are also not mercenary. He wants to conquer, not be given easy money.

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