If I were to summarize the first ten chapters of The Red and Black, by Stendhal, it would be INTRIGUING. It was published in 1830 yet it feels really modern. The characters and how they feel and think are similar to the people of today.
This story takes place in Verrieres in the southern portion of France after the fall of Napoleon. The era that this story is in is the Bourbon Restoration where the heirs of the House of Bourbon were restored to power.
The Red and Black introduces several characters who will play crucial parts in the development of the novel but importance is placed on Julien Sorel, the teenage son of a carpenter who was hired by the town mayor to tutor his three young sons. Julien is a rather intriguing character because he decides to become a priest because he feels it might help him lead him to success. He idolizes Napoleon because like him, Napoleon came from nothing and was able to rise to power. However, Julien cannot be open about his support for Napoleon since his own godfather was persecuted for it.
The town mayor, M. de Renal decides to hire Julien as his children’s tutor to be a step ahead of his political adversary, M. Valenod. M. de Renal thinks too much about what other people think because he only hired Julien after the acquisition of two Norman horses by M. Valenod. He thought to better himself by hiring a boy who can speak Latin and is studying to become a priest as his children’s tutor. Very odd sense of prestige. Two horses versus a Latin-speaking priest-wannabe.
The mayor’s wife, Mme. de Renal is a very good looking woman of thirty. When Julien arrrives at the Renal’s home, she is somewhat taken aback because he is not what she expected at all. She was not expecting someone as good looking as Julien. What started out as pity for his disposition in life slowly turned into an attraction to Julien.
Here is where it gets odd. For all his want to succeed in life, Julien seems to loathe being in the presence of people with money. The even weirder part is when he attempts to seduce Mme. de Renal when the family moved to the countryside for the spring. He seems to be attracted to her but does not seem to want her, yet he ends up seducing her. Very weird. Sadly, on her part and her apparent attraction to this young man, she gives in to this seduction.
That’s where Chapter 10 of Book One left us: Julien seducing Mme. de Renal in the countryside. I’m intrigued as to where this would go.