The French Revolution of 1789 and Its Impact

By Gail M. Schwab; John R. Jeanneney | Go to book overview

14
Revolution in the Education sentimentale: Structure, Theory and History

Gail M. Schwab


STRUCTURE AND REVOLUTION

Flaubert actually wrote two books called L'Education sentimentale, but he published only one of them. Surprisingly few critics have dealt with the 1843 novel, the notable exception being, of course, Jean Bruneau. Bruneau considers the Première Education the first "real' flaubertien novel, but explains that Flaubert did not publish it, and, indeed, could not have published it, because

it does not really conform to the aesthetic of its author. Firstly, the psychological analysis of the main characters is insufficient; secondly the style is uneven, the novel was written too quickly. . . . Finally, and mainly, as Flaubert himself saw perfectly, the novel lacks unity. 1

It might be said to show that "défaut de ligne droite" (lack of a straight line) which Frédéric Moreau will blame for his failure. Flaubert himself says the book lacks the link of cause and effect, and he writes in 1852 to Louise Colet, who was clearly pressuring him at that time to publish it:

it would be necessary . . . , which seems to me the most difficult of all, to write a missing chapter, which would show how the same trunk inevitably had to bifurcate. . . . The causes are shown, the results also; but the link of cause and effect is not. That is the flaw of the book, and the way it belies its title. 2

Flaubert was referring here to the bifurcation of the destinies of his two heroes, Jules and Henry, who start out together on a parallel course dreaming of art and love, only to end up moving apart drastically at right angles to each other. Henry will become a successful bourgeois, eventually a deputy, Flaubert hints, sort of a Martinon, at the end of the book, and Jules will turn out to be a great writer who, of course, has no counterpart in the 1869 Education, and could well be the young Gustave himself coming to terms with his vocation. Bruneau claims that the missing chapter Flaubert talks about "would doubtless have been placed after the return of Henry to France, because

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