Study Guide

The Red and the Black Dissatisfaction

By Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)


In The Red and the Black's portrayal of upper class France, there is a terrible disease that afflicts almost 99% of the population: boredom, plain and simple.

What do you expect from a whole class of people who never have to worry about money? All they need to worry about is killing time and finding new ways to entertain themselves. This can actually be a pretty exhausting thing to do, but don't go shedding any tears for them just yet. Stendhal ain't exactly painting these folks as the victims of this book.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. When do we first get a glimpse of Julien Sorel's dissatisfaction? How is it different from a rich person's dissatisfaction?
  2. What do you think it will take to satisfy Julian's ambition? Can anything satisfy it? Use specific evidence from the text to support your answer.
  3. What kind of dissatisfaction leads Madame de RĂȘnal and Mathilde de La Mole to have affairs with Julien Sorel? Could it have been avoided?

Chew on This

In The Red and the Black, we learn that nothing will propel a person to make bad decisions more than boredom.

Stendhal's The Red and the Black shows us that we'd all be a lot less dissatisfied is we followed our hearts and didn't listen to what other people say.

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