The Red and the Black | Study Guide


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The Red and the Black | Quotes


Since he was ... extremely polite—except on the occasions when one talked about money—he passed, rightly, for the most aristocratic figure in Verrières.

Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 3

The narrator notes M. de Rênal, the mayor of Verrières, is nothing like a nobleman although he has aristocratic pretensions. He has become rich through manufacturing—he owns a profitable nail factory—and he "married up" with a woman more genteel than he. He is a materialistic bourgeois who spends most of his time thinking of money. His upper-class pretensions disappear only when the conversation turns to money. When the narrator says the mayor passes "rightly" for an aristocratic figure in Verrières, he is indicating there are no upper-class figures in this little town.


Who could have guessed that this girl-like visage ... concealed an inextinguishable will to die a thousand deaths rather than fail to make his fortune?

Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 5

The narrator refers to Julien Sorel, a 19-year-old who is fine-boned, pale, slight, and exceedingly handsome. But his appearance belies his fiery nature, and he is determined to make his way in the world, no matter what. He has decided at this early age to practice hypocrisy to get ahead in society.


Did I let myself down in any way? Have I played my part well?

Julien Sorel, Book 1, Chapter 15

These are Julien Sorel's thoughts after his first experience of intimacy with Madame de Rênal. When he realizes she cares for him, he determines it is his "duty" to seduce her, and he approaches his seduction as if he is waging a battle. The narrator says Julien is like "a soldier coming off parade"—more concerned with how he appears in his role as lover than in the act of lovemaking.


I'm damned ... who wouldn't be terrified at the sight of Hell? But in my heart I don't repent.

Madame de Rênal, Book 1, Chapter 19

Madame de Rênal reproaches herself when her youngest son becomes seriously ill, thinking God is punishing her for adultery, and she tells Julien they must stop seeing each other. She also comes close to confessing to her husband. When the boy recovers, she is still remorseful but cannot keep herself from Julien. She believes God will damn her to hell for her illicit love, but she loves Julien more than God.


The tedium of matrimonial life inevitably kills off love, even when love has preceded marriage.

Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 23

The narrator is musing on Madame de Rênal's situation, which is not unlike that of other well-to-do women. Even if she had loved her husband before marriage—which she didn't—she would have grown bored eventually. The narrator clearly has a jaded view of marriage and believes it cannot sustain passion.


Here then is this hell on earth from which I shall not be able to escape!

Julien Sorel, Book 1, Chapter 25

Julien Sorel has this thought just before he gets up the courage to knock on the seminary door and begin his new life in the Church. Julien feels no religious calling, but he believes he can best rise in the world by becoming a priest. Still he expects life as a novice to be very unpleasant, and he is not wrong.


Resolutions that had been fortified by a year of constancy had not been able to resist his valor.

Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 30

When Julien Sorel comes back to see his lover, Madame de Rênal, after being separated from her for 14 months, she cannot resist his charms. Although she has grown pious and determined not to sin, all it takes is a few hours with Julien for her to succumb to his sexual advances; she is too in love with him to refuse.


For it is essential to be amused ... that's the only real thing in life.

Marquis de la Mole, Book 2, Chapter 7

The Marquis de la Mole makes this comment while he is laid up with gout and comes to depend on Julien Sorel to keep him entertained. As is typical of the upper class, the Marquis believes he is entitled to entertainment and fun. For such aristocrats amusement is the reason for living; they would be lost without distractions to fill their inner void.


Every day on meeting her again it was almost as if they asked one another: Well, are we friends or foes today?

Narrator, Book 2, Chapter 10

When Julien Sorel and Mathilde de la Mole begin squaring off as possible romantic partners, she treats him alternately with interest and haughtiness. He realizes he must act proud and refuse to take note when she lapses into a superior tone with him, or he will have lost his advantage. They are forever teetering between friendship and enmity.


From the moment she decided that she loved Julien she was no longer bored.

Narrator, Book 2, Chapter 12

Mathilde de la Mole is used to everyone flattering her; this began when she was still a child at school. She is bored by it and by the conventionality of the men who come around as suitors. Julien Sorel is fiery and does not submit to her; this makes him interesting. Mathilde also wants to feel a "grand passion," and Julien is a likely object of affection. When she sets her sights on him, her boredom disappears. However, when she is too certain of his affection, she loses interest until he withdraws again.


The truth is their raptures were somewhat willed. Passionate love remained more of a model for imitation than a reality.

Narrator, Book 2, Chapter 16

When Julien Sorel and Mathilde de la Mole first consummate their relationship, neither really loves the other. Julien has accepted Mathilde's challenge to come to her room; at first he is fearful and suspicious, thinking she has set a trap, and afterward he is awkward. She is also awkward and senses she has given away too much too soon, but she feels she must go through with the lovemaking. Both are playing at passion to justify their assignation.


While he cursed Mathilde's nature he loved it a hundred times more; it seemed to him he held a queen in his arms.

Narrator, Book 2, Chapter 29

Julien Sorel has won back Mathilde de la Mole by pretending to court another woman. Mathilde has already sworn her undying love and rejected him a few times; now she says she is in love again, but Julien doesn't trust her. He curses her fickle nature even as he embraces her.


Monster! ... Lovable! ... The day you found her lovable you should have fled.

Marquis de la Mole, Book 2, Chapter 33

After Julien Sorel says he slept with Mathilde de la Mole because he found her lovable, the Marquis de la Mole calls Julien a monster for betraying his trust. He feels Julien should have left rather than begin an affair with Mathilde, who is supposed to marry someone else. Moreover, Julien's relatively low social position makes him an inappropriate match for a Marquis's daughter.


I can give you fifty thousand francs ... to smooth it over with the little people.

Mathilde de la Mole, Book 2, Chapter 38

Mathilde de la Mole haughtily makes this remark to the Vicar-general, Frilair; the "little people" are those lowly people who will decide whether Julien is guilty of attempted murder. Mathilde's statement shows her outsize sense of entitlement, which she seems to think puts her interests above the law.


You must know that I have always loved you, that I have never loved anyone but you.

Julien Sorel, Book 2, Chapter 43

Julien Sorel confesses his love to Madame de Rênal when she comes to see him in jail; he wants her to know Mathilde means nothing to him, even if she is carrying his child. He has told her he loves her before, but now he feels the power of his love. Before he was too out of touch with his own feelings and caught up in preserving his own pride and honor to fully give his heart to anyone. Finally, at the end of his life, he gives it to Madame de Rênal.

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