Short summary - Sentimental Education - Gustave Flaubert

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Sentimental Education
Gustave Flaubert

In the fall of 1840, eighteen-year-old Frederic Moreau was returning by steamer to his hometown of Nogent-on-Seine. He had already received his bachelor's degree and was soon to go to Paris to study law. Dreamy, scientific and artistic, "he found that the happiness that the perfection of his soul deserves lingered." On the boat, he met the Arnu family. The husband was a gregarious fellow of about forty and owned the Art Industry, an enterprise that connected a newspaper devoted to painting and a shop selling paintings. His wife, Maria, struck Frederick with her unusual beauty. "It was as if a vision appeared to him ... He had never seen such a delightful dark skin, such an enchanting body, such thin fingers." He fell in love with Madame Arnoux with a romantic and at the same time passionate love, not yet knowing what it was for life.
At Nogent, he met Charles Delorier, his college buddy. Due to poverty, Charles was forced to interrupt his education and serve as a clerk in the province. Both friends were going to live together in Paris. But so far only Frederick had funds for this, whom his mother lent. In college, friends dreamed of great deeds. Frederic is about becoming a famous writer, Charles is about creating a new philosophical system. Now he predicted an imminent revolution and regretted that poverty was preventing him from deploying propaganda.
Having settled in Paris, Frederic went through a set of ordinary secular entertainments, made new acquaintances and soon "fell into complete idleness." True, he wrote a novel in the spirit of Walter Scott, where he himself was the hero, and Madame Arnoux was the heroine, but this occupation did not inspire him for long. After several unsuccessful attempts, chance helped him enter Arn's house. Located in Montmartre, the Art Industries was something of a political and artistic salon. But for Frederick, the main thing was his insane love for Madame Arnoux, to whom he was afraid to confess his feelings. Delorier, who had already arrived in Paris by this time, did not understand his friend's hobbies and advised him to achieve his goal or to throw the passion out of his head. He shared a shelter with Frederick, lived on his money, but could not overcome the envy of his friend - the darling of fate. He himself dreamed of big politics, of leading the masses, reaching out to the socialists who were in their youth company.
Time passed, and both friends defended their dissertations, and Charles with brilliance. Frederick's mother could no longer send her son the necessary amount, besides, she was getting old and complained of loneliness. The young man had to leave the capital, with which all his affections and hopes were connected, and get a job in Nogent. Gradually he "got used to the province, plunged into it, and even his very love acquired a drowsy charm." At this time, Louise Rock, a neighbor's teenage girl, became Frederick's only joy. Her father was the manager of a large Parisian banker, Damrez, and successfully increased his own capital. Three more years passed in this way. Finally, an elderly uncle Frederick died, and the hero became the heir to a considerable fortune. Now he was able to return to Paris again, promising his mother to make a diplomatic career there. He himself, first of all, thought of Madame Arnoux.
In Paris, it turned out that Arnoux had already a second child, that the "Art Industry" began to bring losses and had to be sold, and in exchange to start trading in faience. Madame Arnoux, as before, did not give Frederick any hope of reciprocity. The hero was not pleased with the meeting with Delorier. He did not have a career as a lawyer, he lost several cases in court and now he too clearly wanted to join the inheritance of a friend and spoke too evil about people in some position. Frederick settled in a cozy mansion, finishing it in the latest fashion. Now he was wealthy enough to enter the capital's elite circles. However, he still loved old friends, some of whom were completely indigent - for example, the eternal loser, the ardent socialist Senecal or the republican Dussardier - honest and kind, but somewhat limited.
Frederick was by nature soft, romantic, delicate, he was not very prudent and sometimes he was really generous. Not devoid of ambition, he nevertheless could not choose a worthy use for his mind and abilities. Now he took up literary work, then for historical research, then studied painting, then pondered a ministerial career. He did not complete anything. He found an explanation in his unhappy love, which paralyzed his will, but he could not resist the circumstances. Gradually, he became more and more close to the Arnu family, became the closest person in their house, constantly communicated with her husband and knew everything about his secret adventures and financial affairs, but this only added to his suffering. He saw that the woman adored by him endures the deception of not devoid of charm, but a vulgar and ordinary businessman, such as Jacques Arnoux, and for the sake of the children keeps her husband faithful.
Heart melancholy, however, did not prevent the hero from leading a secular life. He attended balls, masquerades, theaters, trendy restaurants and salons. He entered the house of the courtesan Rosanette, nicknamed the Captain, Arnu's mistress, and at the same time became a regular with the Damrezes and enjoyed the favor of the banker herself. Delorier, who was still forced to settle for thirty sous dinners and work the day, was angry at his friend's absent-minded life. Charles dreamed of his own newspaper as the last chance to gain an influential position. And one day he directly asked Frederick for money. And although he needed to withdraw a large amount from the capital stock, he did it. But on the last day he took fifteen thousand francs not to Charles, but to Jacques Arnoux, who was threatened with trial after an unsuccessful deal. He saved his beloved woman from ruin, feeling guilty before a friend.
There was confusion in society on the eve of the revolution, and so did Frederick's feelings. He still reverently loved Madame Arnu, but at the same time he wanted to become Rosanette's lover. “Communication with these two women was like two melodies; one was playful, impetuous, amusing, while the other was solemn, almost prayerful. " And at times Frederic dreamed of a connection with Madame Damrez, which would give him weight in society. He was a child of light - and at the same time he already managed to feel the coldness and falsity of his brilliance.
Having received a letter from his mother, he again left for Nogent. Neighbor Louise Rock by that time had become a rich bride. She loved Frederick from adolescence. Their marriage was, as it were, tacitly resolved, and yet the hero hesitated. He returned to Paris again, promising the girl that he would not leave for long. But a new meeting with Madame Arnoux canceled all plans. Rumors of Frederick's plans reached her, and she was shocked by this. She realized that she loved him. Now he denied everything - and the passion for Rosanette, and an early marriage. He swore eternal love to her - and then for the first time she allowed him to kiss her. They actually confessed their love for each other and for some time met as true friends, experienced quiet happiness. But they were not destined to get close. Once Madame Arnoux had already agreed to meet with him, but Frederic waited in vain for her for several hours. He did not know that Mrs. Arnu's little son fell seriously ill at night and she took it as a sign of God. Out of anger, he brought Rosanette to specially rented rooms. It was a February night in 1848.
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They were awakened by gunfire. Out on the Champs Elysees, Frederick learned that the king had fled and a republic was proclaimed. The Tuileries doors were open. "Everyone was seized by a frantic joy, as if the vanished throne had already given way to boundless future happiness." The magnetism of the enthusiastic crowd passed on to Frederick. He wrote an enthusiastic article for the newspaper - a lyrical ode to the revolution, together with his friends began to go to workers' clubs and rallies. Delorier begged from the new authorities to appoint a commissar to the province. Frederick tried to run for the Legislative Assembly, but was booed as an aristocrat.
In secular circles, there was a rapid change in political sympathies. Everyone immediately declared themselves supporters of the republic - from the frivolous Captainess to the Council of State, the Damrezes and the Archbishop of Paris. In fact, the nobility and the bourgeois were only worried about the preservation of their usual way of life and property. The proclamation of the republic did not solve the problems of the lower classes. In June, a workers' rebellion began.
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At this time, Frederic, already cooled to politics, was experiencing something like a honeymoon with Rosanette. She was flighty, but natural and spontaneous. In Paris, barricades were built, shots rang out, and they left the city, lived in a rural hotel, wandered through the woods all day or lay on the grass. Political unrest "seemed to him insignificant in comparison with their love and eternal nature." However, having learned from the newspaper about the injury of Dussardier, Frederic rushed to Paris and again found himself in the thick of things. He saw how the uprising was ruthlessly suppressed by the soldiers. “With triumph, stupid, bestial equality has declared itself; the same level of bloody meanness was established, the aristocracy raged in the same way as the rabble ... the public mind became clouded. " Inveterate liberals have now turned into conservatives, and radicals have found themselves behind bars - for example, Senecal.
These days Louise Rock, dying of anxiety for her lover, came to Paris. She did not find Frederick, who lived with Rosanette in another apartment, and only met him at a dinner at the Damrezes'. Among the ladies of the world, the girl seemed to him provincial, he spoke to her evasively, and she bitterly realized that their marriage was canceled.
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Delorier's commissioner career ended ingloriously. “Since he preached brotherhood to the conservatives, and respect for the law to the socialists, some shot at him, while others brought a rope to hang him ... He knocked on the doors of democracy, offering to serve it with a pen, speech, his activities, but everywhere was rejected ... ”
Rosanette gave birth to a child, but he soon died. Frederick gradually cooled to her. Now he is having an affair with Madame Damrez. He deceived both, but in return their love for him only grew stronger. And Madame Arnoux always lived in his thoughts. When the banker Damrez - one of the largest bribe-takers of his time - died of illness, the widow over her husband's coffin herself proposed to Frederick to marry her. He understood that this marriage would open up many opportunities for him. But this wedding was not destined to come true. Again it took money to save Arnu from prison. Frederick borrowed them from the new bride, naturally, not to mention the purpose. She found out and decided to take revenge with her usual cunning. Through Delorier, she used old promissory notes and obtained an inventory of Arnoux's property. And I also came to the auction when things were going under the hammer. And in front of Frederick's eyes, despite his desperate request, she bought a trinket, with which he had dear memories. Immediately after that, Frederic broke up with her forever. He also broke with the Captain, who truly loved him.
The unrest in Paris continued, and one day he accidentally witnessed a street brawl. Before his eyes, he was killed by a policeman - with a cry "Long live the republic!" - Dussardier. "The policeman looked around, looked around everyone, and the stunned Frederic recognized Senecal ..."
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... Frederic traveled, had more than one romance, but never married, and "the acuteness of passion, all the charm of feeling were lost. Years passed, he put up with this idleness of thought, sluggishness of the heart. " Twenty years later, he saw again Madame Arnu, who now lived in the province. It was a sad meeting of old friends. Frederic also met with Delorier. He at one time married Louise Rock, but soon she ran away from him with some singer. Both friends now led the humble life of respectable bourgeois. Both were indifferent to politics. Summing up their lives, they admitted that "both of them did not succeed - both the one who dreamed of love and the one who dreamed of power."