Study Guide

Sentimental Education Chapter 4

By Gustave Flaubert

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Chapter 4

The Inexpressible She

  • On his way to a lecture one December morning, Frederick notices some activity in the student district. He asks a young man named Hussonet what all of the activity is about but doesn't get much of a response. People have been demonstrating a lot lately, so something is being stirred up.
  • Political change is in the air—the people are demanding reform. (That's kind of important, so keep it in mind.)
  • Frederick runs into his friend Martinon, and the demonstration soon turns into a riot.
  • Frederick gets uneasy— Martinon, too. As he explains it: "He was afraid of being compromised, and uttered complaints. Men in blouses especially made him feel uneasy, suggesting a connection with secret societies" (1.4.2).
  • Rioters are shouting for and against various political and philosophical figures. There doesn't seem to be one main cause for the uproar.
  • A professor named Samuel Rondelot attempts to present his opinion, but the crowd turns on him because he's in a position of authority ("The guardians of public order were hooted and hissed" [1.4.37]); Frederick quickly retreats.
  • Soon, protestors are fighting the police. A young man named Dussardier gets arrested and loses a case on the way to jail.
  • Frederick and Hussonet head over to the jail and demand to see the young man. Instead, they get thrown into a cell with him. Great.
  • Hussonet tries to get Dussardier to play along with him that he's also a law student. He's trying to signal to Dussardier that they're there to help get him out. Though it takes Dussardier a while to catch on, he's touched when the Frederick gives him a pipe—"a beautiful pipe, made of white talc with a shank of blackwood, a silver cover, and an amber mouthpiece" (1.4.61).
  • They leave the jail and—natch—go enjoy a steak at a local café. Hussonet and Frederick begin talking, and Frederick discovers that his new friend works for L'Art Industriel, a company run by Monsieur Arnoux, the husband of none other than the hot woman on the boat—yep, that one.
  • Frederick really wants to start hanging out with this guy so he can get closer to Madame Arnoux, but he has to play it cool. He starts hanging out in the Latin Quarter a lot so they can "accidentally" meet.
  • One day, Frederick and Hussonet meet and go back to Frederick's apartment to, um, discuss their aspirations. Hussonet wants to become a big player in the theater world—he had "had heaps of plans," as he put it. The man goes on in a kind of snobby way about Frederick's poetry collection, but Frederick really just wants to figure out a way to get to Arnoux's place.
  • After flaking on a few meetings, Hussonet finally takes Frederick over to the Arnoux place. Success!
  • Arnoux's apartment above his shop is full of cool things including a bronze Venus, a candelabra, prints and pictures, precious engravings by contemporary masters, and the list goes on.
  • The office of L'Art Industriel is a real hangout spot for painters, bohemians, and nutters of all variety, all there to debate and discuss. The discussion that day turns to the relationship between money and art.
  • Frederick meets Regimbart ("a man of five feet nine inches in height, with rather heavy eyelashes" [1.4.101]) as well as Dittmer and Pellerin, a cheesy artist who puts "the signatures of the great masters at the bottom of [his] pictures" (1.4.108). Sneaky.
  • A brief appearance is made by a woman named Mademoiselle Vatnaz, a real piece of work who appears to be in some sort of heated discussion with Arnoux.
  • They leave the apartment, and Frederick goes for a walk with Pellerin. They head their separate ways but agree to see each other soon.
  • Pellerin is obsessed with aesthetics, but he's also irritated and inflamed by philosophical ideas. He is "tormented by the desire for glory, and wasting his days in discussions, believing in a thousand fooleries—in systems, in criticisms, in the importance of a regulation or a reform in the domain of Art—he had at fifty as yet turned out nothing save mere sketches" (1.4.129), and Frederick often finds him recovering from late nights at the theater.
  • One day, Frederick sees that Pellerin has done a sketch of Mademoiselle Vatnaz, so he asks about the curious woman. Pellerin tells him that Monsieur Arnoux has a lot of ladies on the side, but that his wife is a virtuous woman. Ah, scandal.
  • Frederick hangs out at Arnoux's a little more, where he often sees Regimbart.
  • "Citizen" Regimbart is basically a heavy drinker who doesn't care much for work; he plays billiards, dines in a café, ignores his wife, and talks politics. "[N]obody, even amongst his own friends, knew him to have any occupation, although he gave himself out as being up to his eyes in business" (1.4.145). Frederick endures his company anyway because he's friends with Arnoux.
  • Frederick develops some insight about Arnoux: he loves the arts, but he also seems like a shady character, maybe even too "sly in commercial transactions." He pulls little scams to make money but then gets people to like him by giving them cigars and a good time.
  • At a bar with Regimbart and Pellerin, Frederick hears about "Arnoux's dirty conduct." To them, he is "a brute, a mere tradesman, a wretch, a downright rogue!" (1.4.172)
  • Frederick defends him and then leaves the bar to go back to Arnoux's, pretending that he has left a notebook there. Now he gets offended by Arnoux's treatment of him and leaves the shop, vowing never to return.
  • His friend Deslauriers sends him a letter announcing that he'll be in Paris soon. Frederick is relieved; he thinks of Deslauriers as a better sort than the Arnoux bunch he's been hanging with. He thinks: "A man of this sort was worth all the women in the world. He would no longer have any need of Regimbart, of Pellerin, of Hussonet, of anyone!" (1.4.197)
  • Just as he's heading to meet Deslauriers, Arnoux shows up with an invitation for Frederick to come dine at his house.
  • This is his big chance. He feels bad about blowing off Deslauriers, but there is no way he's missing out on this one.
  • As Frederick and Deslauriers are enjoying dinner, messengers keep arriving, bringing all sorts of fancy items Frederick has ordered in preparation to go to the Arnoux event.
  • Insulted, Deslauriers says to himself, "That's the way with the rich" (1.4.226).
  • Finally, Frederick arrives at the Arnouxes. The place is amazing: "It was altogether a peaceful spot, suggesting the idea of propriety and innocent family life" (1.4.232).
  • Frederick sees their daughter, Marthe. And then Madame Arnoux arrives. And—wait for it—she remembers him!
  • At dinner, a lively conversation takes place about travelling, theater, opera, and painting. It's all very interesting, but, you know, not as great as staring at Madame Arnoux.
  • When dinner is over, liquor is served and the women leave the table. The conversation gets a little racy.
  • Finally, our guy gets a chance to talk Madame Arnoux, but he's so overwhelmed he can barely exchange words: "he did not venture to raise his eyelids to glance at her higher, face to face" (1.4.246).
  • She then sings an Italian song, which of course impresses Frederick. And us, to be honest.
  • He leaves, swearing that he must become a painter so that he can get close to her. He thinks about his new career: "The object of his existence was now perfectly clear, and there could be no mistake about the future" (1.4.257).
  • He gets home and finds Deslauriers, whom he had forgotten about in the thrill of the evening. Oops.

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