Realist fiction


An omniscient third-person narrator tells the story.

Point of view 

Third-person omniscient


Flaubert intended Sentimental Education to provide a satirical view of the bourgeoisie, and this satirical tone permeates the novel. Although the narrator remains distant and simply recounts actions as they happen, Flaubert’s clear recounting of the often vapid society he writes about provides ample opportunity for mockery.


Simple past

Setting (time) 

The mid-1800s

Setting (place) 

Primarily Paris, with forays into Nogent-sur-Seine and Fontainebleau


Frédéric Moreau

Major conflict 

Frédéric pines for the married, unattainable Madame Arnoux, sacrificing any possibility of a meaningful relationship or fulfilled ambition so he can pursue her at every opportunity.

Rising action 

Frédéric develops various schemes to win Madame Arnoux. Each time he is unsuccessful, he shifts his interest to pursuing other women, embarking on unwise alliances and making repeated attempts to raise his social status.


Since the impossibility of Frédéric’s search for love is one of the main themes of the novel, there is no one clear climax. There are several anticlimaxes, including Frédéric’s desperate attempt to stop the Arnouxes from leaving Paris, Frédéric’s too-late arrival in Nogent to win over Louise, and the disastrous final attempt by Madame Arnoux to give herself to Frédéric.

Falling action 

After Frédéric fails to stop the Arnouxes from leaving Paris, the novel jumps ahead many years, during which time Frédéric moves on from his life, which had so far been spent in pursuit of Madame Arnoux. During this jump, he travels and has love affairs, although he is unfulfilled.


The appearance of new women often foreshadows Frédéric’s attempts to become romantically involved with them. He spots Madame Arnoux on the boat at the beginning of the novel and vows to pursue her. He crosses paths with Rosanette several times and eventually decides to pursue her. He schemes to win over Madame Dambreuse after realizing she is his ticket into the society he aspires to.