The ambiguity of the title of the novel “The Red and the Black” by Stendhal

The novel “Red and Black” is a social and psychological novel in which the life path of the main character – a young man of the generation of the twenties of the 19th century, Julien Sorel – is traced. What is the novel “Red and Black”? And why “red” and “black”?

The title of the novel is symbolic and polysemantic. These two colors – red and black – reflect both the ideas of the novel, and the social problems of society, and the dialectic of the hero’s soul.

Red and black. The past and the present are the epoch of Napoleon and the period of Restoration. The idol for many young people of the beginning of the XIX century was Napoleon. In the era of Napoleon, Julien Sorel could, thanks to his energy and will, become famous on the battlefield, accomplish a feat – to make a military career due to his personal qualities. He always carried Napoleon’s portrait with him, he assessed all his

actions and actions from the point of view of Napoleon, because “… Bonaparte, an unknown and poor lieutenant, became the ruler of the world with the help of a sword…” But in the society where our hero, only the origin and money are important, the people of his estate have no place in the “good society”. Speaking at the trial, Julien says: “… I see here people who want to punish and once and for all to break in my face this breed of young people of low birth,

Red and black. Revolution and reaction. Julien Sorel little like a revolutionary at the beginning of the novel. And yet at the end of the novel, in court, we see not just a criminal or an egotist – we see a denouncer. “Beware of this young man with an energetic character… start again the revolution, he will send us all to the guillotine,” says Matilda’s brother, Julien Sorel. It is the energetic, assertive, resolute and courageous character of the protagonist that will allow him to pronounce at the trial an accusatory speech against the high society.

Red and black. It is in the

soul of the hero himself: the thirst for achievement, the search for oneself, the dreams of good education, of love – and excessive vanity, self-interest, the desire to break through, not abhorring by any means; dreams of life – and crime, scaffold.

Julien Sorel would like, like his idol Napoleon, to become famous with the sword, the military, but Napoleon’s times have passed, and Sorel’s low background will not allow him to make a career. And then he decides to become a priest, but not because he sincerely believes in God, but for self-interest. And more: he wants to prove to everyone – Monsieur de Renal, Valno, Abbot Pirard, Marquise de La Mole and others – that he will achieve his goal, make a career.

Julien dreams of love, but he really does not love anyone. The only feeling he feels for people of the upper class is hatred. And when he finally realizes that he loves Madame de Renal and loves her, he goes to the scaffold.

“It’s really true in man that two beings get along together,” thinks Julien, being on death row.

Red and black. The uniform of the officer and priest of the priest; the blood of Madame de Renal and the mourning attire of Matilda. Love, repentance, faith, obedience and fear, despair, irritation, fury…

Stendhal did not explain to us what meaning he put in the title of his novel, and everyone is free to understand this meaning in his own way.

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The ambiguity of the title of the novel “The Red and the Black” by Stendhal