Study Guide

The Red and the Black Pride

By Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)


Julien Sorel is more than just proud. He's downright vain, and he'll do almost anything to keep the world from putting him down. Other characters in The Red and the Black are quick to notice that Julien is a dangerous guy when his pride is hurt. On several occasions, he nearly gets himself killed because he didn't like the way someone looked at him.

And of course, he does end up getting killed. You could even say that his pride is what gets him beheaded. If he were willing to act humbly in front of the Verrières jury, he might have been let go. But the fact is that he insults every single person who can influence his fate, and they eventually turn on him. Whoops.

Questions About Pride

  1. Are there any moments in this book when Julien overcomes his pride? Where and why?
  2. Who is the first to notice that Julien has a huge amount of pride? How does he/she try to deal with it?
  3. How does Julien's pride conflict with the pride of people like Monsieur de Rênal, Marquis de La Mole, or Mathilde? Try to support your arguments with evidence from the text.
  4. How can we read Julien's story as a tragedy brought on by pride? How could he have avoided his fate at the end?

Chew on This

In The Red and the Black, Stendhal warns us that no matter how good we are, pride will eventually bring us down if we let it.

In The Red and the Black, Stendhal shows us that it's better to die with pride than to live with fear.