Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Red and the Black

by Stendahl
450 pgs

Published in 1830, The Red and the Black has become known as a book that was written ahead of its time. It's the story of Julien Sorel, an intelligent, ambitious, and deceitful man who comes from humble circumstances, but who dreams of one day becoming a member of the aristocracy. Men gained power in his day through the church, so Julien decides to train to become a priest. While in training, he's hired by the mayor to tutor his children and Julien ends up seducing the mayor's wife and being sent by his mentor to a far-away seminary to quell the controversy.

With time Julien's aspirations start to become a reality as he begins to be included in the circles of high society. But he's unaware that he's being used as a pawn in the political machinations of those around him. Ultimately he ends up trying to obtain his title by marrying the daughter of the Marquis, but his reputation catches up to him and in the end he ends up losing his head, literally.

I never really got into The Red and the Black. As I've done a little research into the book and the context in which it was written and some of the controversy it caused, I gained an appreciation for the book itself and how unique it was for its time. But that didn't make me enjoy it any more. The problem for me was with Julien. I never cared enough about him and what he wanted to accomplish to get emotionally involved in the story. I ended up being just as ambivilent towards the successes he experienced along the way as I was toward his beheading at the end.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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