Study Guide

Sentimental Education Chapter 17

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Chapter 17

A Strange Betrothal

  • Deslauriers visits Monsieur Dambreuse and convinces him that his legal insights can be of benefit to the businessman. And just like that, he has a job.
  • Deslauriers has to meet with Monsieur Roque and asks Frederick how he should explain his absence and avoidance of eager young Louise. Remember her?
  • Frederick just says that she's young enough to wait.
  • Madame Dambreuse is lavishing all sorts of gifts on Frederick: a cigar-holder, an inkstand, and a thousand little things for daily use. You know, so he can't possibly forget her.
  • Unfortunately, in order to feel attracted to her, "he found it necessary to evoke the images of Rosanette and Madame Arnoux." Ouch.
  • Monsieur Dambreuse dies suddenly, but instead of mourning, Madame Dambreuse tells Frederick: "what a riddance!" Not the nicest thing to say about your dead husband, but hey.
  • Turns out, the "niece" Cécile is really his "bastard" daughter. Thank goodness she has an enormous inheritance coming her way.
  • Madame Dambreuse tells Frederick that she only wants to be with him, and asks him to marry her.
  • Meanwhile, Monsieur Dambreuse's body is still warm in the next room. Frederick starts adding up the fortune—now this is exciting to him. He feels some twinges of guilt about crunching the numbers next to Dambreuse's corpse, but whatever…
  • He busies himself by making the elaborate funeral plans. All sorts of important people deliver eulogies, and no expense is spared.
  • The next day, he visits Madame Dambreuse, who is hysterical: she has lost the will that dictates that she'll inherit everything. That's right—it all goes to Cécile.
  • Frederick is bummed, but he pledges that he loves her anyway.
  • He has to go to Nogent to prepare for his candidacy, but first he goes to visit Rosanette, who has just given birth to a boy.
  • He looks at his son, "a yellowish-red object." How sweet.
  • Frederick spends several days with Rosanette at the maternity home, but the place is noisy and boring. Clearly, this guy is not taking to fatherhood.
  • A letter from Deslauriers informs our guy that he's slacking on the whole candidate thing. Others have stepped in, and there's no longer a chance for him to win in the Assembly.
  • When he returns to Madame Dambreuse and shows her Deslauriers's letter, she's enraged that he wasn't really in Nogent as he claimed he'd been.
  • Apparently Deslauriers had been to visit her. Man, that guy gets around. Fredrick, needless to say, is pretty suspicious.
  • He finds himself living a double life with Madame Dambreuse and Rosanette, which for the time being, is an amusing game.
  • The baby is in the countryside with the wetnurse, and the only emotion our guy feels for the baby is pity.
  • One day, Madame Dambreuse gets an anonymous letter telling her that Frederick is living with Rosanette. They have a spat but, in the end, she believes him. He wants to know her, but she's not spilling the beans.
  • He starts to find her annoying—surprise!—the way she plays the piano, the way she treats her servants, forcing Frederick to go to church with her.
  • Meanwhile, political opinions are coming from all directions. People support different styles of leadership, but everyone wants the government to be decentralized. Reactionaries gather at the salons of unmarried women. Rosanette starts to have parties, too, and Hussonet reports on them.
  • Frederick and Rosanette move to a new house and style it up with new furnishings. She clearly thinks they should get married and has hopes that she will be made a respectable society lady. He, on the other hand, is jealous of her lovers—past and maybe even present—and finds her annoying. Basically, he wants her to die. So there's that.
  • Deslauriers visits and says that he has been to Nogent to inquire about buying a lawyer's office.
  • Soon, new debts are revealed. Turns out Rosanette owes Mademoiselle Vatnaz heaps more money. Maître Athanase Gautherot, a process server, shows up at Rosanette's to claim the money and asks for the paintings.
  • Frederick gets rid of him—for now—and swears he will find the necessary funds to prevent the seizure.
  • Rosanette decides to cash in on some shares that Arnoux gave her but finds out they're worthless. Now she's ticked. Frederick says he will go see Arnoux, but first he goes to Regimbart, who has split with Arnoux over politics.
  • Arnoux, in another stranger turn, has become a Jesuit and now sells religious objects.
  • Frederick heads over to see him, but he bails when he sees Madame Arnoux.
  • He returns to Rosanette empty-handed. She flies into a rage, accusing him of protecting Madame Arnoux.
  • One day a "bill sticker" shows up to advertise the sale of all of Rosanette's possessions. He accepts a few francs to tear off the part of the poster that shows her name. Mademoiselle Vatnaz is behind all of this, which of course enrages Rosanette.
  • Mademoiselle Vatnaz has her own bitterness. After all, she had been forced to work humiliating jobs in order to survive. Turns out Dussardier had been covering up her deceptions, which led her to fall in love with him. She asks him to marry her, but it's a no-go. He tries to persuade her to drop the charges against Rosanette, and that's a no-go, too.
  • Dussardier feels guilty about his actions and tries to make amends with Frederick by giving him the 4,000 francs to bail Rosanette out of her mess. Rosanette still wants to appeal the actions by Arnoux.
  • Rosanette loses her case against Arnoux, but Deslauriers tells her she may be able to win on a different charge and passes her along to Sénécal.
  • Meanwhile, Deslauriers has been spending a fair amount of time in Nogent with Monsieur Roque, under the pretense of arranging "negotiations for the purchase of an office."
  • He imitates Frederick as much as possible in an effort to win over Monsieur Roque—and Louise. Deslauriers lets it slip that Frederick is "in love with somebody, that he had a child, and that he was keeping a fallen creature." Man, that guy has a big mouth, doesn't he?
  • Louise is devastated—and so is Madame Moreau. After all, her son is a scandal, and she's outraged that he's going to marry Madame Dambreuse.
  • Rosanette finally wins her case with the help of Sénécal.
  • Frederick goes to report the good news, only to find out that the baby has died.
  • As opposed to, say, caring, Frederick believes the baby's death is a bad omen.
  • They hire Pellerin to paint the baby's portrait as a memorial. Pellerin tells them that Arnoux has been brought very low by Rosanette's victory, which has forced him to move his family out of Paris—unless he can get a hold of 12,000 francs.
  • And with that, Frederick races out of the house.

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