The Red and the Black

“Almost all our misfortunes in life come from the wrong notions we have about the things that happen to us. To know men thoroughly, to judge events sanely, is, therefore, a great step towards happiness. Stendhal

Red can represent passion, anger, or love. Also has the meaning of strong desire for love or to be in a relationship.

Black is associated with power, elegance, formality, anarchy, death, evil, and mystery.


“Love has always been the most important business in my life; I should say the only one.” Stendhal – La Vie d’Henri Brulard (1890)

Marie-Henri Beyle (23 January 1783 – 23 March 1842), better known by his pen name Stendhal, was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters’ psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism, as is evident in the novels Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black, 1830) and La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839).

“Why not make an end of it all?” he asked himself. “Why this obstinate resistance to the fate that is crushing me? It is all very well my forming what are apparently the most reasonable forms of conduct, my life is a succession of griefs and bitter feelings. This month is no better than the last; this year is no better than last year. Why this obstinate determination to go on living? Can I be wanting in firmness? What is death?” he asked himself, opening his case of pistols and examining them. “A very small matter, when all is said; only a fool would be concerned about it.” Armance (1827)

“Le Rouge et le Noir” (The Red and the Black) (1830)


Historical psychological novel in two volumes. Occurring from September 1826 until July 1831, Le Rouge et le Noir is the Bildungsroman of Julien Sorel, the intelligent, ambitious, protagonist from a poor family,who fails to understand much about the ways of the world he sets out to conquer.

He harbours many romantic illusions, becoming mostly a pawn in the political machinations of the ruthless and influential people about him. The adventures of the hero satirize early 19th-century French society, especially the hypocrisy and materialism of the aristocracy and members of the Roman Catholic Church in foretelling the coming radical changes that will depose them from French society.

“When a man leaves his mistress, he runs the risk of being betrayed two or three times daily.”

“Our true passions are selfish.”

André Gide said that The Red and the Black was a novel ahead of its time, that it was a novel for readers in the 20th century. In Stendhal’s time, prose novels included dialogue and omniscient narrator descriptions; his great contribution to literary technique was describing the psychologies (feelings, thoughts, inner monologues) of the characters, and as a result he is considered the creator of the psychological novel.

“The dinner was indifferent and the conversation irritating. “It’s like the table of contents of a dull book,” thought Julien. “All the greatest subjects of human thought are proudly displayed in it. Listen to it for three minutes, and you ask yourself which is more striking, the emphasis of the speaker or his shocking ignorance.”

Following the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état, General Justino Alves Bastos, commander of the Third Army, ordered, in Rio Grande do Sul, the burning of all “subversive books”. Among the books he branded as subversive was The Red and the Black


“Were I to buy this life of pleasure and this only chance at happiness with a few little dangers, where would be the harm? And wouldn’t it still be fortunate to find a weak excuse to give her proof of my love?” – La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma) (1839)


The taste for freedom, the fashion and cult of happiness of the majority, that the nineteenth century is infatuated with was only a heresy in his eyes that would pass like others.” – La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma) (1839)

Then I saw red
When I opened up the door
I saw red
My heart just spilled onto the floor
And I didn’t need to see his face
I saw yours
I saw red when I closed the door


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