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Sentimental Education

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 5

They had 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.