Study Guide

The Red and the Black Part 1, Chapter 29

By Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)

Part 1, Chapter 29

The First Forward Step

  • Father Pirard calls Julien into his office and tells him that a letter from Father Chas-Bernard has told him about all the wonderful work Julien's been doing. In short, Pirard is pleased with him.
  • He promotes Julien to the role of teacher in the seminary. Julien's only response is to kiss the man's hand. This promotion will finally give Julien a chance to be alone with his thoughts from time to time.
  • While he's in the seminary, France brings in conscription to force young men into the army. Julien doesn't get called because he's in the seminary.
  • Julien does really well in the seminary's exams. A little too well, actually, because one clever examiner asks Julien what he knows about certain writers he's not supposed to know about, and Julien quotes all kinds of lines from them.
  • Basically, his knowledge is counted against him because these writers are considered profane by the church. So Julien ends up getting ranked very low on the exam lists.
  • Julien receives a letter from Paris containing five hundred francs. He figures that it's from Madame de Rênal.
  • Now for some backstory about the money. It turns out that a rich man from France named the Marquis de La Mole is in the middle of a land dispute with one of the local priests, a guy named Father Frilair who can't stand Father Pirard. In fact, Frilair is the one behind Julien's poor exam score because the guy hates Julien's mentor, Pirard.
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  • The Marquis wants to know what to do about Father Frilair, and he finds a friend in father Pirard. Over time, he comes to like Pirard quite a lot. Pirard eventually tells him about Frilair's mean way of tricking Julien into a bad test result.
  • Since the marquis has never been able to pay Pirard for his support, he leaps at the chance to give five hundred francs to the man's top student—Julien Sorel. So that's where the money has come from.
  • Next thing you know, de La Mole offers Pirard control of one of the most powerful parishes in Paris. He agrees eventually, but not before writing a letter to the bishop outlining all the dirty scheming his enemies in the church have done for years. He sends Julien to deliver the letter. He knows he's kind of sending Julien to the wolves. Julien still offers the man all the money he has to help him now that he's leaving.
  • When he delivers the letter, he charms the bishop with his knowledge of both religious and secular literature. The two of them have a long discussion, and the bishop is impressed with Julien's knowledge. Then Julien reveals how poorly he did on the exams and the bishop can't believe it.
  • The bishop gives Julien a book as a gift for his pleasant company. The next day, all the other students are envious of the book.
  • Meanwhile, it comes out that Father Pirard has taken a much better job in Paris. This humiliates his rival, Father Frilair.