both failed, one to realize his dreams of love, the other to fulfill
his dreams of power. What was the reason?
“Perhaps it’s because we didn’t steer
a straight course,” said Frédéric.
“That may be true in your case. I, on
the other hand, was far too rigid in my line of conduct . . . I
was too logical, and you were too sentimental.”
Then they blamed chance, circumstances,
the times into which they were born.
This quotation appears near the end
of the novel, when Frédéric and Deslauriers mull over their choices
in life. They agree that they have both failed at what they set
out to do, but their analysis of the reasons behind their failures
suggests that neither man has truly achieved the ability to self-reflect.
Though they have a rudimentary understanding of where they went
wrong—Deslauriers should have been more flexible; Frédéric should
have been less sporadic—they are unable to transfer this basic observation
into true lessons learned. In other words, they realize that they
haven’t ended up where they had once hoped to, but they fail to
turn their many experiences into a valuable education that they
can draw from to improve their lives. As soon as they target the
root of their problems—being too logical and too sentimental—they
quickly move away from the personal and blame fate and chance. They
recognize their weaknesses, but they fail to take responsibility
for their choices and their lives. The title of the novel, Sentimental
Education, seems to therefore be ironic, since no education
has truly been achieved on any significant level.