Study Guide

The Red and the Black Part 1, Chapter 7

By Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)

Part 1, Chapter 7

Elective Affinities

  • Julien does a good job as a tutor, but he can't get over the inequality between the mayor's house and the kind of poverty he (Julien) grew up with. He thinks it's unjust and harbors a secret hate for the mayor.
  • Some days later, Julien runs into his brothers. They beat him up out of jealousy and leave him lying half-conscious on a path. Minutes later, Madame de Rênal finds him while walking and thinks he's dead.
  • Julien finds Madame so beautiful that he actually dislikes her. He assumes that a woman that beautiful could never be a good person.
  • Meanwhile, Madame de Rênal's chambermaid Elisa falls totally in love with Julien. Julien overhears her one day arguing with a male servant, who apparently used to have his eye on Elisa before she decided she liked Julien more.
  • This just makes Julien pay even more attention to his appearance, since he's a proud kid.
  • Madame de Rênal wants to improve Julien's appearance even more by giving him clothes as gifts. Her husband thinks this is a silly idea, though.
  • As time passes, Madame becomes more and more affectionate toward Julien.
  • One day, Julien walks in on Madame while she bursts into tears. He asks what's wrong, but she just says she'd like him to go for a walk with her and her children. She takes his arm and leans against him.
  • She tells him that she's like to give him some money for new clothes. She adds that she would prefer for him not to tell her husband about it.
  • Yup, you can probably see where this relationship is headed.
  • Julien surprises us by rejecting Madame's offer and saying that he won't dishonor his boss by taking gifts behind his back.
  • Madame goes to her husband and tells her about what happened. He can't believe that a servant would reject an offer like hers.
  • He meets with Julien and forces him to accept a gift of a hundred Francs.
  • Madame takes Julien for another walk one day and leads him to the town bookstore. She buys a bunch of books that are supposed to be for her children, but she knows they're all ones that Julien wants to read.
  • Julien convinces the mayor to take out a subscription to the bookstore through one of his servants. This will give Julien access to all the books he wants.
  • All this time, Madame de Rênal thinks constantly about Julien.