Study Guide

Sentimental Education Chapter 5

By Gustave Flaubert

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Chapter 5

Love Knoweth No Laws

  • Frederick buys "a box of colours, paintbrushes, and an easel" (1.5.1) and gets Pellerin to give him painting lessons. Yeah, not his best idea.
  • They go back to his room, where Deslauriers is in conversation with a man named Sénécal. Frederick doesn't like this guy at all. He has "a certain hard, cold look in his grey eyes" (1.5.4)—plus he insults Arnoux. Not cool.
  • A debate about the purpose of art ensues. Sénécal insists, "Art should aim exclusively at promoting morality amongst the masses! The only subjects that ought to be reproduced were those which impelled people to virtuous actions; all others were injurious" (1.5.14).
  • Well, not everyone agrees with him that art must make people more moral or that it should depict misery so that it will incite people to political action.
  • When everyone leaves, Frederick and Deslauriers begin to enjoy each other's company and even get into a little domestic routine.
  • Frederick takes care of his friend, "still playing the part, which he had assumed in their college days, of protector and senior" (1.5.38).
  • They share their hopes and dreams, chat from their beds, and enjoy walking arm in arm.
  • Frederick is soon in financial strain because he is supporting both of them and spending loads of money at Arnoux's shop. Hmmm.
  • Meanwhile, his painting career is not going so well either. So yeah, things aren't looking good.
  • One day, he tries to "stop by" to see Madame Arnoux. She's not there, but he starts spending more time at L'Art Industriel just to get in good with Arnoux.
  • He gets invited to a few dinners, but can only stare at Madame Arnoux, memorizing every inch of her body (that he can see, at least). Sexy times.
  • Deslauriers is getting really sick of hearing his friend go on about this woman.
  • And since Frederick is gone so often, Deslauriers hangs out with Hussonet, Dussardier, Sénécal, and a guy named M. de Cisy. "They discussed the immortality of the soul, and drew comparisons between the different professors" (1.5.64). They also talk about their hatred of government and their love of women.
  • Deslauriers really wants Frederick to take him to meet the Arnouxes, but Frederick thinks his friend looks too scruffy. Ouch.
  • Deslauriers catches on and is really insulted. He gets really fed up with his friend's constant discussion of the Arnouxes.
  • Meanwhile, Frederick basically bombs on his law exams—remember, he's a law student, too…
  • His friends succeed, so his failure is all the more embarrassing. As the narrator dryly puts it, "There is nothing so humiliating as to see blockheads succeed in undertakings in which we fail" (1.5.116).
  • He gets over that quickly when he discovers that Monsieur Arnoux is getting out of town. He quickly spends a heap of cash on new clothes.
  • His Mom (Madame Moreau) is getting on his case about visiting, so he sends some excuse off to her.
  • Then he hurries over to visit Madame Arnoux in his new fancy outfit only to find Monsieur Arnoux there instead. Awkward.
  • All flustered, Frederick breaks the ivory handle of a parasol, thinking it belongs to Madame Arnoux—who happens to be in the countryside with her ill mother.
  • He does a lot of wandering around, thinking and planning and generally seeking a distraction or amusement. He spends three months doing basically nothing but walking around and visiting L'Art Industriel in the hopes of getting a clue about when Madame will return.
  • He has a lot of dinners with Arnoux, and sometimes Regimbart (The Citizen) joins them.
  • Finally, Frederick discovers that Madame Arnoux is back—turns out she didn't have a sick mother, so something is suspicious. Hmmm.
  • Frederick hangs out with the Arnouxes even more, having dinner at their house and getting really (and we mean really) lovesick.
  • Everything reminds him of her—from a satin slipper to a palm tree. Yep, he's got it bad. But he thinks, "As for trying to make her his mistress, he was sure that any such attempt would be futile" (1.5.182).
  • Deslauriers is starting to get seriously annoyed by his friend's behavior, so he takes him to a dance hall with Hussonet, Dussardier, and Cisy, where they see Monsieur Arnoux with Mademoiselle Vatnaz.
  • Deslauriers brags that he can go home with the first woman he sees, and he does exactly that.
  • One day, Frederick's luck seems to be changing when he receives an invitation from the Dambreuses and the Arnouxes for dinners on the same evening. He thinks it would be good professionally for him to go to the Dambreuses, so he decides to get Madame Arnoux a new parasol to compensate for his absence. Oh, but he has to borrow money from Deslauriers to buy it.
  • The Dambreuse dinner is canceled, though, so he attends Madame Arnoux's feast-day at their country-house at Saint-Cloud —a celebration day for all people named Marie.
  • When he arrives at the party and gives her the parasol, he apologizes for having broken her other one. She's confused, and Arnoux quickly shuts him up: "catching hold of his arm; then in a whisper, "You are not very knowing, certainly!" (1.5.322)
  • Huh?
  • Frederick gets to chat with Madame Arnoux, and it doesn't really matter what they discuss because he's just sick in love: "He loved her without mental reservation, without any hope of his love being returned, unconditionally" (1.5.357).
  • Things get weird when Arnoux begins lying to his wife; Frederick is a little shocked by the man's boldness. Arnoux then really blows it by giving his wife a bouquet of flowers wrapped in a personal note. Oops.
  • She throws the bouquet out the window of the coach: "She seemed irritated; everything annoyed her" (1.5.366).
  • Frederick hasn't a clue about why she is behaving this way and thinks she's ill. We're guessing something else is up.
  • Finally Frederick passes his law exams—but he still only wants to chase Madame Arnoux.
  • His acquaintances—Cisy, Martinon, Pellerin, Regimbart, and Sénécal—are all undergoing professional change as well.
  • One evening, while wandering about in a love-haze, Frederick decides to pop into the theater to see "An old-fashioned dramatic version of a fairy-tale…" (1.5.399).
  • There, he runs into Monsieur and Madame Dambreuse. Something about her strikes him; though she is not all that pretty, she has a certain grace and refinement that appeals to Frederick.
  • Time to go visit his mother in the countryside. Bad news: his inheritance is not as big as they thought and Madame Moreau's one prospect—Monsieur Roque (their wealthy neighbor)—has just married his housekeeper.
  • Stunned, Frederick goes outside and sees Monsieur Roque's daughter—"A little girl of about twelve with red hair" (1.5.422)—by the housekeeper.

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