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Sentimental Education

Part One, Chapteres 1 and 2

Summary Part One, Chapteres 1 and 2

Frédéric and Charles run into Monsieur Roque, a friend of Madame Moreau and steward to a man named Monsieur Dambreuse. Roque is not well respected because he lives with his housekeeper. They continue on. Deslauriers advises Frédéric to take advantage of Monsieur Roque’s connection to Monsieur Dambreuse and become his wife’s lover. He also advises Frédéric to do well in school, and that he’ll see him again soon. The men say goodbye.

Analysis: Part One, Chapters 1 and 2

The first few paragraphs of Sentimental Education provide relevant information about the seafaring setting in which the novel opens, but, more important, they function as a zooming camera lens that starts wide and then focuses in on the protagonist, Frédéric Moreau. The sweeping first sentence of the novel, with its grand pronouncement of the date and time and the striking image of a boat ready to set sail, immediately narrows to more specific images of people on board the boat. We see their baggage and hear the ship’s clanging bell. Flaubert then narrows further, to an anonymous young man standing on the deck, watching Paris slip away. Only after Flaubert describes the sights he is seeing—Notre Dame, the Ile Saint-Louis, the Cite—does he provide us with a name. This zooming-in of the opening paragraphs mimics the structure of the novel as a whole. Sentimental Education is a sweeping historical novel, and it is fitting that we see the big picture before we see one specific human being. Throughout the novel, this one individual will live against a larger, wider background of politics and social change.

The first two chapters contain several goodbyes. The novel actually opens with a goodbye, as Frédéric leaves Paris to return home. He sadly says goodbye to Monsieur Arnoux after meeting him and his wife onboard the ship. Before they actually part, Frédéric dreads the separation—almost as soon as he meets Marie, he feels a void open between them, since they will soon have to part. Once he returns home, he makes a temporary departure from his mother to visit Charles, and we learn of their own sad separation when Charles left school to move to Paris. Reunited briefly, they part again at the end of chapter 2. The frequency of separation in these early chapters, and the varying degrees of distress Frédéric feels every time, suggests that more goodbyes are in store for Frédéric.

In chapters 1 and 2, Frédéric has encounters with two men—Monsieur Arnoux and Deslauriers—that reveal Frédéric’s tendency to be easily impressed and influenced by other men. When he first talks to Monsieur Arnoux, he is immediately struck by Arnoux’s wealth, confidence, and masculinity. Arnoux discusses such things as tobacco and women, mistresses and celebrities, and he offers fatherly advice. Arnoux’s higher social station intimidates Frédéric, but he still follows Arnoux belowdecks, even though he has no money to spend. Arnoux seems to all but ignore him, but still Frédéric vows to befriend him somehow. Frédéric is just as struck by his friend Deslauriers, who, though seemingly just as much of a dreamer as Frédéric, impresses Frédéric with his confidence and gall. Frédéric trusts Deslauriers so much that he feels shaken after they meet and talk. Frédéric’s father died before he was born, and the intensity of Frédéric’s reaction to and trust in other men suggests that he is in some ways searching for a father figure.