Title page from the first edition of L'Education sentimentale
|Original title||L'Education sentimentale|
Sentimental Education (French: L'Éducation sentimentale, 1869) is a novel by Gustave Flaubert, and is considered one of the most influential novels of the 19th century, being praised by contemporaries George Sand, Émile Zola, and Henry James.
- 1 Plot introduction
- 2 Characters in Sentimental Education
- 3 Literary significance and reception
- 4 Allusions and references
- 5 Film, TV, or theatrical adaptations
- 6 Further reading
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The novel describes the life of a young man (Frédéric Moreau) living through the revolution of 1848 and the founding of the Second French Empire, and his love for an older woman (based on the wife of the music publisher Maurice Schlesinger, who is portrayed in the book as Jacques Arnoux). Flaubert based many of the protagonist's experiences (including the romantic passion) on his own life. He wrote of the work in 1864:
- "I want to write the moral history of the men of my generation-- or, more accurately, the history of their feelings. It's a book about love, about passion; but passion such as can exist nowadays--that is to say, inactive."
The novel's tone is by turns ironic and pessimistic; it occasionally lampoons French society. The main character, Frédéric, often gives himself to romantic flights of fancy.
Characters in Sentimental Education
The characters of Sentimental Education are marked by capriciousness and self-interest. Frederic, the main character, is originally infatuated with Madame Arnoux, but throughout the novel falls in and out of love with her. Furthermore, he is unable to decide on a profession and instead lives on his uncle's inheritance. Other characters, such as Mr. Arnoux, are as capricious with business as Frederic is with love. Without their materialism and "instinctive worship of power", almost the entire cast would be completely rootless. Such was Flaubert's judgment of his times, and the continuing applicability of that cynicism goes a long way in explaining the novel's enduring appeal.
Sequence of appearances
- Frédéric Moreau, the "hero", a young man from provincial France, who begins and ends a member of the middle class.
- Jacques Arnoux, publisher, porcelain manufacturer; also a speculator and a womanizer, "ill nearly all the time and [looks] like an old man" towards the end of the novel, and eventually dies a year before the novel's end.
- Mme Marie (Angèle) Arnoux, his wife, mother of two children, platonic affair with Frédéric, moves to Rome by the end of the novel. Always virtuous and honorable, completely devoted to her two children.
- Marthe Arnoux, their daughter
- M. Roque, land-owner and M. Dambreuse's unsavoury agent; father of Louise Roque.
- Louise (Elisabeth-Olympe-Louise) Roque, his red-headed daughter, a country-girl; is passionately in love with Frédéric for a time, marries Deslauriers, leaves him for a singer.
- Charles Deslauriers, Frederic's close friend. Extremely ambitious but unable to realize his ambitions, he has a jealous, competitive and somewhat parasitical relationship with the more prosperous Frederic. He is a law student and, after several different positions, he finishes as novel.
- M. Dambreuse, banker, aristocratic politician, timeserver, financier. Dead in the third part of the novel.
- Mme Dambreuse, his much-younger, very determined, exquisite wife, with whom Frederic has an affair and almost marries; after Frederic breaks with her, toward the novel's end, she marries an Englishman.
- Baptiste Martinon, law student, a rich farmer's son, a reasonably hard-working careerist ends up a senator by the end of the novel.
- Marquis de Cisy, nobleman and law student, a dapper youth, father of eight by the end of the novel.
- Sénécal, math teacher and uncompromising, puritanical, dogmatic Republican; supposedly dead by the end of the novel.
- Dussardier, A simple and honest shop worker. A committed Republican, he is an active participant in the protests and revolts throughout the book. He dies in the last of these protests we see, run through by Sénécal with his sword.
- Hussonet, journalist, drama critic, clown, ends up controlling all the theatres and the whole press.
- Regimbart, "The Citizen", a boozy revolutionary chauvinist; becomes a ghost of a man.
- Pellerin, painter with more theories than talent; becomes a photographer.
- Mlle Vatnaz, actress, courtesan, frustrated feminist with literary pretensions; vanishes by the end of the novel.
- Dittmer, frequent guest of Arnoux
- Delmas or Delmar, actor, singer, showman (may also be the singer introduced in Chapter 1)
- M. and Mme Oudry, guests of the Arnoux
- Catherine, housekeeper for M. Roque
- Eléonore, mother of Louise Roque
- Uncle Barthélemy, wealthy uncle of Frédéric
- Eugène Arnoux, son of the Arnoux
- Rosanette (Rose-Annette) Bron, "The Marshal", courtesan with many lovers, e.g. M. Oudry; for a time Jacques Arnoux; later she has a lengthy affair and little son who dies with Frédéric.
- Clémence, Deslauriers' mistress
- Marquis Aulnays, Cisy's godfather; M. de Forchambeaux, his friend, Baron de Comaing, another friend; M. Vezou, his tutor
- Cécile, M. Dambreuse's: Officially the "niece" of the Dambreuses, in reality M. Dambeuse's illegitimate daughter. Towards the end of the novel she is married to Martinon. Hated by Madame Dambreuse, but favored by her father, she inherits his fortune after his death (much to Mme. rage).
- Another "character": Mme Arnoux's Renaissance silver casket, first noted at her house, then at Rosanette's, finally bought at auction by Mme Dambreuse
Literary significance and reception
Henry James, an early and passionate admirer of Flaubert, considered the book a large step down from its famous predecessor. "Here the form and method are the same as in "Madame Bovary"; the studied skill, the science, the accumulation of material, are even more striking; but the book is in a single word a dead one. "Madame Bovary" was spontaneous and sincere; but to read its successor is, to the finer sense, like masticating ashes and sawdust. L'Education Sentimentale is elaborately and massively dreary. That a novel should have a certain charm seems to us the most rudimentary of principles, and there is no more charm in this laborious monument to a treacherous ideal than there is interest in a heap of gravel."
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, however, found it interesting, and made a map of the novel's social spaces, linking social organization to literary space. György Lukács in his Theory of the Novel found L'Education Sentimentale quintessentially modern in its handling of time as passing in the world and as perceived by the characters.
Allusions and references
Allusions to other works
Early in the novel, Frédéric compares himself to Young Werther (1774) by Goethe, René (1802) by Chateaubriand, Lara (1824) by Byron, Lélia (1833/1839) by George Sand and Frank of La Coupe et les Lèvres (1832) by Alfred de Musset, popular romantic protagonists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His friend Deslauriers also asks Frédéric to "remember" Rastignac from Balzac's Comédie humaine and in the second part Frédéric asks Mlle Louise Roque if she still has the Don Quixote.
Allusions to actual history, geography, and current science
The novel takes place between 1840 and 1867 and references many political and artistic events during that time. Primarily, the main characters discuss the conflict between the monarchists, imperialists, and republicans in the years following the revolution of 1830 in France.
Allusions in other works
- In the film Manhattan, Woody Allen's character names this novel as one of his answers to the question "Why is life worth living?"
- In the television series The Sopranos, an episode in season 5 was entitled "Sentimental Education."
- Mario Vargas Llosa's 2007 novel "The Bad Girl" makes several allusions to Sentimental Education. One of the characters takes the name "Madame Arnoux," and the narrator talks about reading Flaubert's works.
- In a season 5 episode of Dawson's Creek, Joey Potter's literature professor refers to Sentimental Education and the theme of the book.
- "Sentimental Education" is the title of a poem by the American poet Lawrence Joseph.
- Joyce Carol Oates has a story collection with the same title.
- The band Free Kitten has an album called Sentimental Education.
- Maxime Le Forestier (French Singer) wrote and composed a song called "L'Éducation Sentimentale" which described a not-so platonic night escapade of a man and his love.
- Martin Amis uses the phrase "Sentimental Education" in his novel The Pregnant Widow.
Film, TV, or theatrical adaptations
- L'Education sentimentale - 1962 West German production, only loosely based on the novel
- Sentimental Education - 1970 British mini-series
- L'Education sentimentale - 1973 French mini-series
- in Mr. Jealousy a 1997 film by director Noah Baumbach, the main character Lester Grimm, quotes from the last pages of the novel.
- Sentiment in Flaubert's Education sentimentale, Peter Cortland, 1966.
- "George Sand's criticism of ''L'Education sentimentale''". Pagesperso-orange.fr. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
- "Emile Zola's article on ''L'Education sentimentale''". Pagesperso-orange.fr. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
- "Henry James's discussion of Gustav Flaubert". Pagesperso-orange.fr. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
- James, Henry (1904). French Poets and Novelists. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 209–210.
- Eric Bulson, Novels, maps, modernity (New York and London, 2010), p. 10
- "The Allusions of Television". FlowTV. 2006-01-26. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
- "The Pleasure Principle - October 17, 2007 - The New York Sun". Nysun.com. 2007-10-17. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to L'Éducation sentimentale.|
- 1922 English Translation
- (French) Complete French text, by chapter
- (French) Complete French text, in HTML
- (French) Complete French text, in PDF
- (French) Various resources, French
- Manuscript photographs
- Proust on Flaubert
- Internal timeline of the novel
- Sentimental Education Map
- (French) Sentimental Education, audio version