by 1783-1842 Stendhal

Reviewer Rating:
3
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Review

Stendhal’s The Red and the Black is a coming-of-age novel of Julien Sorel.  Moments of dramatic, some may say melodramatic events, guide the narrative: Julien leaves his father’s home, Julien has an affair with his first employer’s wife, Julien climbs up in the world with the strong claws of his brains, Julien has (SPOILERS!) another affair with his second employer’s (unmarried) daughter, Julien shoots his first (and most beloved) lover, Julien is executed for this crime much to the bereavement of both of his short life’s loves.  However, the narrative has become a literary classic not for its inspiration for future soap operas, but for the bones and meat beneath these perhaps histrionic events.  Satire and mockery of the novel’s own time and place is, somehow, the base of some of the work’s timelessness and universality. The narrator mocks country people, city people, educated people, religious people, women, men, and the nature and habits of love.  The Red and the Black goes as far as to satirize itself and the limits of literature as a whole, as well as the readers of that literature.  By the end, the reader laughs at the protagonist, the author, love in general, and his or herself; and then the reader recommends the book to others.

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