Study Guide

The Red and the Black Gender

By Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)


It's clear that Julien Sorel lives by a different set of rules than the women he seduces. For starters, Julien can just pick up and leave town when his affairs create scandal. He can also leave his lover Mathilde pregnant with a child while he runs off to shoot his former lover, Madame de RĂȘnal.

Julien hardly cares, though, about the unique challenges faced by women in The Red and the Black. As far as Julien's concerned, there's only one gender that matters, and that's the Julien Sorel gender. That doesn't stop Stendhal, though, from highlighting some of the especially destructive parts of Julien's masculine pride.

Questions About Gender

  1. What do you think will happen to Mathilde de La Mole once this book is over? Why?
  2. Name some of the places where this book connects Julien's pride to his idea of "manliness." Do you think Stendhal is criticizing men in general, or just Julien?
  3. How are Mathilde and Madame de RĂȘnal's behavior influenced by their ideas of femininity and what is "proper" for a woman?

Chew on This

In The Red and the Black, Stendhal shows that men and women face unique challenges, and both should do their best to adapt to those challenges.

It is impossible to connect the gender roles in The Red and the Black to today's society because the book's story takes place a long time ago.