From Rosanette’s house, Frédéric hears gunshots, and he goes down to the street. The revolution has reached a climax and the insurrection is getting stronger. The monarchy of King Philippe is disintegrating. Frédéric is unmoved by the dead and hurt men around him. He goes to the Place du Carrousel and joins others who are storming the palace, which the king has just vacated. He spots Hussonnet, and the two men go on together. Masses of people begin streaming into the palace, destroying it as they go. They throw the throne out the window, and men on the street burn it. Frédéric and Hussonnet eventually leave and sit in the Tuileries gardens, watching people go by. Frédéric spots Dussardier, who is fighting for the cause. He is elated that the Republic has triumphed.
Frédéric tries to visit Deslauriers the next day, but Deslauriers has left to fulfill his new role as a provincial commissioner. Frédéric goes to see Rosanette, who approves of the Republic. They walk together in the city.
One day, Frédéric sees Pellerin marching in the streets, demanding a new stock exchange that will deal with art. Regimbart, watching from the crowd, scoffs at the idea and goes on to complain about the state of France and the reactionaries, who are becoming more active. People begin to worry about their property.
Dambreuse mourns the fall of the monarchy, since the revolution has put his fortune in danger. He supported the monarchy and is worried that his property might be attacked; he believes that Frédéric can help him. He visits Frédéric and claims to be happy with the Republic. Dambreuse suggests that Frédéric run for the National Assembly, hinting that his influence could help him—if Frédéric helps him one day too. Frédéric grows excited about the idea of running, imagining himself as a deputy. Frédéric tells the plan to Deslauriers, Mademoiselle Vatnaz, and Rosanette, all of whom approve. However, Dambreuse is appalled by the speech Frédéric writes, although he keeps his opinion to himself.
Frédéric sets out to deliver his speech in public, at a forum moderated by Senecal. When Frédéric presents himself as a candidate, Senecal objects, stating that Frédéric didn’t support a democratic newspaper. He dismisses Frédéric. Regimbart next approaches the platform and introduces a patriot from Barcelona, who gives a speech in Spanish. Frédéric, angry, leaves and goes to Rosanette. But Rosanette, sitting by a fire and mending a dress, suddenly blames him for the revolution and the Republic that has resulted.
Mademoiselle Vatnaz and Rosanette argue frequently about the role of women. Mademoiselle Vatnaz supports a more active role for women in government and society, whereas Rosanette claims they should simply marry and have children. But their quarrel is forgotten when Rosanette sees that Mademoiselle Vatnaz has a gold sheep charm. This upsets Rosanette, and she reveals that she is in love with Delmar, who had given the charm to Mademoiselle Vatnaz. She assures Frédéric that she is simply bemoaning her financial problems since the prince left and that she really loves him. Rosanette gets a new apartment that Frédéric helps to furnish. Frédéric spends almost every night there, but one morning he meets Arnoux on the stairs—he is apparently still her lover.
Arnoux stops supporting Rosanette financially and now considers himself her real love. He thinks Frédéric is supporting her and feels as though he’s playing a trick on Frédéric. He asks Frédéric questions about why he never visits Madame Arnoux anymore, and Frédéric lies and says he’s tried but she hasn’t been at home. Arnoux is actually glad Frédéric has stopped visiting.
One night, Arnoux asks Frédéric to fill in for him at the guard post. He returns unexpectedly, having just wanted to spend some time with Rosanette by himself. The men stay at the camp, and Arnoux sleeps with his gun. Frédéric fantasizes about making the gun go off so that Arnoux would die.
The next day, Frédéric meets Dambreuse and Martinon on the street. Dambreuse has just run for election to the Assembly, which angers Frédéric. But Dambreuse claims he had been forced to run. Although he had supported the Republic, he was now starting to try to undermine it. The workers are struggling with poverty, and the government is asking all young men to join the army or go work in the country. Unrest is brewing as workers and the bourgeoisie turn against each other. Dambreuse talks of a new friendship between him and Arnoux. Later, Frédéric gives Rosanette a choice: him or Arnoux. Rosanette says she’s not in love with Arnoux.
Frédéric decides that he and Rosanette should leave Paris, and they go to Fontainebleau. There, they spend a great deal of time walking around the gardens and forests. Immersed in nature, their feelings for each other deepen. He learns about Rosanette’s childhood, and she tells him she tried to kill herself. They move past this and enjoy their time together.
Frédéric learns that Dussardier has been wounded, and he wants to leave immediately for Paris. Rosanette tries to stop him, and he finds her selfish. Once in Paris, it takes Frédéric a long time to reach Dussardier, as he is treated with suspicion. When he finally finds him, Mademoiselle Vatnaz is there, nursing him. Dussardier worries that he is fighting against something that is just. Meanwhile, the fighting in Paris is worsening. Roque arrives to join the fighting, and Louise accompanies him, hoping to see Frédéric. Roque worries himself sick about her.
The Dambreuses invite a large group to their home, including Frédéric, the Arnouxes, Cisy, Martinon, Monsieur Roque, and Louise. Martinon asks Monsieur Dambreuse for permission to marry his niece, Mademoiselle Cecile, although Madame Dambreuse had wanted Cisy to marry her. It is clear that Martinon is Madame Dambreuse’s lover. Louise is happy to see Frédéric, who had been avoiding her. The guests discuss the state of the city and worry about the rebels. They are all happy to be enjoying their luxuries, which they had feared losing after the fall of the monarchy. Frédéric sits next to Madame Arnoux at dinner, but she barely speaks to him. Cisy tries and fails to win back Cecile’s attention. Martinon embarrasses Cisy by bringing up the duel he almost fought with Frédéric, and then Frédéric is embarrassed when Roque begins asking questions about the portrait of Rosanette, which he and Louise had seen at Frédéric’s house when they tried to visit him. Everyone realizes that Rosanette is his lover.
Fumichon, an industrialist, speaks passionately about the right to own property. Arnoux tries to argue that there are two types of socialism, but Fumichon dismisses him, saying he would strangle Proudhon (a socialist who claimed that “property is theft”). Hussonnet arrives, bringing Dambreuse a reactionary pamphlet. Talk turns to the rift between the workers and the bourgeoisie.
Louise, watching Madame Dambreuse act flirtatiously with Frédéric, reveals to Madame Arnoux that she is in love with him. Madame Arnoux tells her he has deceived other women and not to trust him. Madame Dambreuse teases Frédéric about Louise’s obvious infatuation; he is flattered. Frédéric feels comfortable and confident at the party and makes a good impression on the guests. Before he leaves, Louise corners him and makes him swear he loves her. She tells him to ask for her hand in marriage, but Frédéric explains that marriage is not wise for him right now. Later, he goes to Rosanette’s.
That night, Louise and her maid, Caroline, sneak out to go see Frédéric. But his concierge tells them he hasn’t slept at home for three months. Louise is heartbroken.
As the revolution topples the monarchy and the Republic prevails, Frédéric gets caught up in the political situation and engages with the world outside of his personal affairs. The new Republic brings with it the possibility of socialism, which terrifies the bourgeoisie (middle class) who fear they will lose their wealth and property. The workers and the bourgeoisie had wanted to overthrow King Philippe’s reign, but now the bourgeoisie and the workers are separating and beginning to fight against each other. Rosanette, who has no wealth of her own, resents Frédéric for his support of the Republic, fearing that she’ll die poor. She believes France was better off with a king. Although Frédéric will grow closer to Rosanette and continue his involvement with her, their political differences create a bitter undercurrent that places them on opposite sides of a political dividing line.
Mademoiselle Vatnaz and Rosanette, one a spinster and the other a woman of ill repute, embody very different ideas about the role of women in society. Mademoiselle Vatnaz adamantly supports giving women more rights and power, and she supports the Republic and socialism in the hope of furthering her cause. Her views run to the extremes—for example, she believes that the institution of marriage should be abolished. Rosanette, meanwhile, believes that women are meant to be lovers, mothers, and wives, and the two women argue vehemently. Despite their radically different viewpoints, the women share one thing in common: the actor Delmar. A lover or former lover of both women, Delmar and their affection for him trumps their political opinions as the root of their most bitter arguments. These very different women, Flaubert seems to suggest, are not so different in matters of the heart.
When Frédéric and Rosanette spend time alone in Fontainebleau, they achieve a happy equilibrium away from the politics and romantic intrigue of Paris. Without any outside forces to create obstacles, jealousies, or rivals, Frédéric feels peaceful with her; when he suspects he is not too smart, he dismisses the thought. He displays a kindness with Rosanette that he has not yet displayed with any other woman, avoiding plots and conniving. He has the woman he wants, and he does not need to use trickery to keep her. However, this apparent love is not as pure as this description suggests. Rosanette in some ways has taken on the qualities of Madame Arnoux. Before their trip, Frédéric saw her sitting by a fire, sewing, as he so often saw Madame Arnoux do. Without an audience or her array of admirers, Rosanette is calmer and more demure. It is possible that Frédéric is using Rosanette as a kind of stand-in for Madame Arnoux, transferring his love out of necessity. She is twenty-nine, which Frédéric considers old, and he vividly imagines a happy future with her, just as he did with Madame Arnoux. Stand-in or not, however, he seems utterly convinced that he loves her, although it is curious that this devotion becomes possible only when they are outside of their real life in Paris.
The party at the Dambreuses’ repositions Frédéric as a favored member of society, but to maintain this status he must extricate himself from Louise. Louise, who had seemed so youthful and appealing when Frédéric was in Nogent, wilts and loses her beauty when she is in the sophisticated company of Madame Dambreuse and Madame Arnoux. Out of her element, she is shocked to see Madame Dambreuse flirting with Frédéric, which leads Madame Arnoux to warn her not to trust him. Her obvious love for Frédéric makes him feel superior and self-confident, and it increases his social standing in the eyes of Madame Dambreuse. He dismisses her deftly at the end of the party, standing up for the women there when she claims they are spiteful, and although he swears he still loves her, he is certain he is cut out for better things. He heads immediately to Rosanette’s house, leaving Louise, with her pure love for him and her father’s fortune, behind.