Study Guide

Sentimental Education Politics

By Gustave Flaubert

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So the days slipped by with the same tiresome experiences, and enslavement to contracted habits. He turned over the pages of pamphlets under the arcades of the Odéon, went to read the Revue des Deux Mondes at the café, entered the hall of the Collége de France, and for an hour stopped to listen to a lecture on Chinese or political economy. (1.3.53)

Here's an early hint that Frederick just isn't interested in politics. In the midst of a revolution, this guy is totally unaffected by a lecture on politics. He's just passing the time.

And it was not the love of drinking that attracted Citizen Regimbart to these places, but the inveterate habit of talking politics at such resorts. (1.4.145)

Wait, someone in Sentimental Education who's into politics? Mark the calendar! Regimbart is always up for a good debate; in fact, he seems to care very little about anything else. Does Flaubert think this guy is a better citizen than Frederick?

The anxiety about external truth is a mark of contemporary baseness; and art will become, if things go on that way, a sort of poor joke as much below religion as it is below poetry, and as much below politics as it is below business. (1.4.239)

Pellerin, artist extraordinaire… ish. He's always going on about aesthetics, and he thinks that art should take precedence over everything—especially politics.

"The picture-dealer, is it?" asked Sénécal. "A nice gentleman, truly!"

"Why, now?" said Pellerin. Sénécal replied:

"A man who makes money by political turpitude!" (1.5.9-11)

This brief exchange between Sénécal and Pellerin is a real eye-opener for Frederick. Why? Because he finally learns that Monsieur Arnoux isn't all that. In fact, the man is engaged in some pretty shady business.

He was anxious to possess an influence over a vast number of people, to make a great noise, to have three secretaries under his command, and to give a big political dinner once a month. (1.5.39)

Since Deslauriers isn't not included in Frederick's high rolling, he turns to politics for his thrills. Can you blame him?

Here and there glistened a bald pate; and the visages of many of these men, either purple or exceedingly pale, showed in their worn aspect the traces of immense fatigues: for they were persons who devoted themselves either to political or commercial pursuits. (1.7.327)

Monsieur Dambreuses's posse may not be a good-looking bunch, but they're really into the politics and absolutely doing something about their convictions. A little action in a book of inaction can be pretty refreshing.

"You'll have to stand me a dinner once a week. That's indispensable, even though you should have to squander half your income on it. People would feel pleasure in going to it; it would be a centre for the others, a lever for yourself; and by manipulating public opinion at its two ends—literature and politics—you will see how, before six months have passed, we shall occupy the first rank in Paris." (1.9.88)

Here are Deslauriers's big plans: he wants to take over a newspaper and turn it into a political publication. This guy has some big dreams—but first he needs a fat loan from Frederick.

There was no doubt about it. Dussardier had spent the day making enquiries. Sénécal was in jail charged with an attempted crime of a political nature. (2.11.112)

Sénécal's radical attitudes get him into a heap of trouble—and this is just the beginning for him. He makes a perfect foil for Frederick because of his fearless commitment to his political beliefs.

"What, then, are you doing?"

He was embarrassed by the question; then he told her that he was studying politics. (2.12.84-85)

Frederick? Studying politics? We think not. Why do you think he chooses politics as his made-up degree?

"Ah! I am stupid! Of course, 'tis this political outbreak that prevented her from coming!" (2.14.321)

When Madame Arnoux doesn't show up for their rendezvous, Frederick makes a startling realization: maybe the out-of-control riots do affect his life. Gasp!

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