Study Guide

Father Pirard in The Red and the Black

By Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)

Father Pirard

The first thing Stendhal ever tells us about Father Pirard is that the guy is really ugly. Even his pupil Julien has to admit,

Certainly, no one could deny that Father Pirard was the most respectable man in the entire room, but his blotchy complexion, racked by his pangs of conscience, at that moment did make him hideous. (2.4.58)

It's hardly a great first impression, because we find out later that Father Pirard is actually an okay dude, even if he is a little strict on his Bible teaching.

As Julien finds out, "After a very long examination, it seemed to him that Father Pirard's harshness was no more than a pretense" (1.25.43). The guy has a gruff exterior, but underneath he's got a heart of gold.

He honestly doesn't know what to do when Julien shows him affection, as the narrator tells us, "Father Pirard looked at him, astonished, like a man who many years ago lost the habit of dealing with tender feelings" (1.29.6). It's a shame that Father Pirard isn't more comfortable with showing his feelings for Julien. But hey, at least Julien knows deep down how the old man feels.

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