Study Guide

The Red and the Black Sex

By Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)


Julien's grand ambitions in The Red and the Black usually center on thoughts of heroism and leadership… but he knows from the books he's read that no adventure is complete without a few romantic intrigues (read: getting busy) along the way.

The first time he ever has sex with Madame de Rênal, he thinks of it as a duty he needs to perform in order to be the hero he's sketched out in his mind. Little does he know that this fling will one day blossom into true love. Awww. But then he shoots her. Awww?

Questions About Sex

  1. How does Julien seduce Madame de Rênal? What does it tell us about him?
  2. When does Julien first decide that he wants to have sex with Mathilde de La Mole? What brings about this decision?
  3. How does Julien escape from Madame de Rênal's room each time he has sex with her? Are there any close calls? When and how?

Chew on This

In The Red and the Black, Stendhal suggests that it's none of no one else's business if two people want to have sex, even if one of them is married.

In The Red and the Black, Stendhal shows us that sex will always have consequences, regardless of whatever morals we bring to it.