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Frédéric buys painting supplies and asks Pellerin to teach
him to paint. He takes Pellerin to his room, where discussion about
politics and art ensues among Deslauriers, Senecal, and Pellerin.
When Frédéric and Deslauriers are alone, they plan their future
and, in the days that follow, enjoy a comfortable domestic routine.
Frédéric, who is supporting them financially, cannot pay all his
bills, in part because he buys so much art at Arnoux’s shop.
Frédéric attempts to visit Madame Arnoux alone, but he
is unsuccessful. Meanwhile, he grows closer to Arnoux and continues to
attend dinner at his home. Deslauriers, tired of being left alone while
Frédéric dines with the Arnouxes, begins having friends over, including
Hussonnet, who brings Dussardier. They all talk about women.
Deslauriers tries to get Frédéric to invite him to Arnoux’s
house, but Frédéric is embarrassed by Deslauriers’s scruffy appearance
and avoids the issue.
Frédéric does poorly on his law school exams, but his
spirits rise when he learns that Arnoux will be out of town. Frédéric
vows to visit Madame Arnoux, and he spends all his money on new
clothes. He tosses a coin three times to help him decide whether
he should visit her, and each toss fates that he should. However,
when he rings the bell at the residence, Arnoux answers—Madame Arnoux
is out of town. Frédéric and Arnoux have an awkward conversation,
and Frédéric accidentally breaks the ivory handle of a parasol lying
near him. Frédéric assumes it is Madame Arnoux’s and apologizes.
For three months after this, he wallows in boredom and misery.
Frédéric continues to ingratiate himself with Arnoux,
and Arnoux frequently takes him to dinner. One night, Frédéric returns the
favor by taking him and Regimbart out. Regimbart complains about
everything. Arnoux reveals that Madame Arnoux has returned home.
Frédéric visits her the next day, but the encounter is
dull and awkward. Nevertheless, she allows him to join her when
she runs an errand, and they walk arm in arm. Before he can tell
her he loves her, she dismisses him. Still energized by the encounter,
Frédéric extols Madame Arnoux’s virtues and connects her to everything
in Paris. However, he thinks that it is unlikely that she will become
Deslauriers tries to get Frédéric’s mind on something
else, so he takes him to a dance hall called the Alhambra. There,
Deslauriers, Hussonnet, Dussardier, and another friend named Cisy
all dance with women. Frédéric, however, spots Arnoux with a woman named
Mademoiselle Vatnaz. He sits with them and ignores his friends.
On the way home with Deslauriers, Deslauriers claims he can go home
with the first woman he sees—and he succeeds, leaving Frédéric to
wander the streets in despair and loneliness.
One day, Frédéric receives two dinner invitations: one
from Monsieur Dambreuse and one from Arnoux for Madame Arnoux’s name
day. They are for the same day. Deslauriers convinces him to accept
the one from Dambreuse. Frédéric still wants to get Madame Arnoux
a gift for her name day, so he buys a parasol to replace the one
he broke. He receives a letter canceling the dinner at the Dambreuses,
so he attends the celebration for Madame Arnoux.
At the party, he gives Madame Arnoux the parasol and apologizes
for breaking the other one, but she doesn’t understand what he is
talking about. Arnoux quickly shuts him up. Later, Frédéric gets to
talk to Madame Arnoux more intimately. Before he leaves, Arnoux
presents Madame Arnoux with a bouquet of roses he picked and wrapped
with a paper he pulled quickly from his pocket. Madame Arnoux reacts
strangely to the flowers and tries to leave them behind when everyone
leaves in the carriage, but Frédéric retrieves them. As they travel
toward Paris, she throws them out the door. Only Frédéric sees her
do it, and he sees her crying a little while later.
Frédéric determines to win Madame Arnoux. Even Deslauriers
is stunned at his vehemence. He tries to visit Madame Arnoux, but
she isn’t home. He goes to see a pantomime and runs into the Dambreuses,
who chat with him.
Frédéric goes to visit his mother. She reveals that his
inheritance is smaller than he had expected because she owed so
much money to Monsieur Roque, who has now married his housekeeper.
Frédéric laments his future now that he will not have
a large inheritance. He is sure the Arnouxes will not want to speak
to him anymore. He briefly comforts himself by claiming that poverty
will enhance his creativity and actually attract Madame Arnoux.
But when he tells his mother he is returning to Paris, she convinces
him instead to take an office job, at which he fails miserably.
Frédéric vows that the Arnouxes should forget him and that he’ll
never go back to Paris.
Frédéric dreams idly about possibilities for his future,
but he is aimless. Deslauriers writes that his friend Senecal is
now living with him.
Madame Moreau’s neighbor, Monsieur Roque, tries to befriend Frédéric.
Roque has married Madame Eleonore and had a child with her, but
he actually loves a woman named Catherine. The whole group lives
together in some sort of ambiguous arrangement. The child, Louise,
likes Frédéric, and he often spends time with her.
Frédéric’s wealthy uncle Barthelemy arrives for a visit.
It seems very unlikely that the uncle will make Frédéric his heir.
Madame Moreau is devastated, and Frédéric gives in even more to
small-town life. However, one day he receives a letter announcing
that Uncle Barthelemy has died and made Frédéric his heir. Frédéric
is now rich, and he immediately thinks of Madame Arnoux. He plans to
return to Paris and become a minister (a person involved in politics).
Before he leaves, he learns that Madame Eleonore has died,
but Louise does not seem too upset. She is, however, upset at having
to say goodbye to Frédéric.
Although Frédéric and Deslauriers are good friends, they
have very different views of the world: Frédéric, for all his romantic
angst, is a pessimist and a realist, whereas Deslauriers is an optimist
and, in some ways, more romantic than Frédéric. The two spend a
great deal of time discussing their dreams and futures, but Frédéric
often finds the talk frustrating since he doubts they’ll ever achieve
all they hope to. Deslauriers, however, refuses to write off their
possibilities so quickly: “Who knows?” he asks, acknowledging the
fact that no one can predict the future. When Frédéric is ignored
in his attempts to befriend the Dambreuses, Deslauriers simply tells
him to try again. Although Frédéric has many exhilarating moments
when he envisions a future with Madame Arnoux, he more often declares that
it’s pointless to pursue her. However, Deslauriers takes a more optimistic
view and tells Frédéric that wanting something badly enough is the
way to go about getting it. This ambitious and autonomous view suggests
that Deslauriers believes that we are in control of our own destiny.
Fate and luck appear at key moments as Frédéric pursues Madame
Arnoux and loses and then regains his fortune, but they are not
always kind. Before he actually tries to visit her, he flips a coin
so fate can decide what he should do, and he decides that fate has
determined he should go; when he arrives at the house, she isn’t even
home. On a night when he wants to see Madame Arnoux but is committed
at the Dambreuses, luck is with him and the Dambreuses’ dinner is
canceled. The thought of actually forming a relationship with Madame
Arnoux is so fantastical and farfetched, in fact, that Frédéric
knows that he would need to overcome fate. He is not confident that
he himself can control his actions or shape his future. His powerlessness
becomes even more evident when he learns that his mother has lost
his inheritance. In what seems like a stroke of bad luck, he is
suddenly poor. However, he becomes instantly rich again when his
uncle dies and makes him his heir. Frédéric does indeed seem subject
to the whims of fate, but all too often he uses the idea of destiny
to relieve himself of responsibility for his own life.
Fate plays a role in nudging Frédéric and Madame Arnoux
closer together, at least temporarily, when Arnoux wraps roses for
his wife in a paper he pulls randomly from his pocket. We can assume
that the paper he pulls is likely a love letter or another sort
of incriminating document, perhaps from Mademoiselle Vatnaz. This
chance occurrence exposes Arnoux’s probable affair and leads to
an intimate moment between Frédéric and Madame Arnoux in the carriage,
when she throws the roses out the door. In this case, fate operates
on someone else—Arnoux—and Frédéric reaps the benefits. Shortly
after this fortunate twist of fate, however, Frédéric learns that
his inheritance will be much less than he expected—the whims of
chance are not faithful.
As Frédéric becomes more overwrought and obsessed with Madame
Arnoux, the city of Paris seems to change character depending on
his mood and the state of his pursuit of her. When he is bored and
discouraged, Paris seems as empty and ugly as he feels: the Seine
is “blackened here and there with smudges from the drains”; he sees
“a clump of old trees”; the Latin Quarter’s college is “forlorn”;
and, in a crowd, he can’t stand the “vulgarity of their faces, the
stupidity of their talk.” When things are going smoothly—such as
after the shared moment in the carriage, when Frédéric and Madame
Arnoux share the secret of the discarded roses—Frédéric believes
that Paris had never been so beautiful. Paris is always there, faithful
and ever-present; but Frédéric proves to be a fickle lover, changing
his feelings as quickly and violently as he changes his mind about
his chances of finding love with Madame Arnoux.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Sentimental Education!