Study Guide

The Red and the Black Part 1, Chapter 18

By Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)

Part 1, Chapter 18

A King in Verrières

  • Word spreads through Verrières that a foreign king is going to visit the city in a week. The town decides to assemble a group of its best and brightest to be the king's official "Honor Guard."
  • The mayor chooses a political ally to be the leader of the guard, even though the man can't ride a horse properly.
  • Decorators start pouring into the de Rênal house in preparation to host the king. Julien is sad to see that Madame de Rênal becomes too obsessed with decorating to think about their affair.
  • The mayor has to crawl back to Father Chélan to ask him to participate in the visit. He does this because Chélan has a powerful friend in Paris named Marquis de La Mole who will redirect the king's visit to Father Chélan's house if the mayor doesn't include the old priest.
  • When the day of the king's visit arrives, peasants pour into Verrières from the surrounding mountains.
  • When the Honor Guard rides through town, people are outraged to see Julien Sorel, a carpenter's son, riding among them. He's just a peasant, and there are lots of qualified high society folks who didn't make it into the Honor Guard.
  • This was the mayor's decision, though.
  • Julien feels like a hero in Napoleon's army as he rides around on his horse.
  • The king's parade reaches a church where the king wishes to visit a holy statue. Julien runs inside, throws on some priestly robes, and joins Father Chélan in welcoming the man.
  • The bishop is late in entering the church, so Julien zigzags through a bunch of doorways until he finds the dude. The reason the guy is so late is because he's really young and doesn't quite know what he's supposed to say at the religious ceremony he's about to lead.
  • Julien is impressed by the authority wielded by the bishop at such a young age. He starts thinking about joining the clergy again instead of the military.
  • Julien follows the king's procession into an inner chapel, where a statue of Saint Clement is housed.
  • That night, the Marquis de La Mole distributes ten thousand bottles of wine among the peasants of the area to mark the festivities.