Sentimental Education - Part Three, Chapters 3 and 4 Summary & Analysis

Gustave Flaubert and Mary Ruefle
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Part Three, Chapters 3 and 4 Summary

Frederic accepts his relationship with Rosanette, although Frederic finds himself slightly dissatisfied with her. Rosanette tells him that Jacques's life is falling apart - he lost the factory and has practically lost Marie. Jacques visits soon thereafter and wants Frederic to come over. On the way, Frederic meets Compain, a strange man who may be a member of a secret society known as the "Calf's Head." Frederic finds Marie rather than Jacques whe he arrives at their house. He tells her that he still loves her and she reciprocates. However, Rosanette has tracked him and sees them kiss. When Frederic and Rosanette get home, Frederic nearly hits her out in anger; he stops when she announces that they will soon be parents. Frederic calms and helps her pay off another debt to Mademoiselle Vatnaz.

After the fight, Frederic finds himself increasingly unhappy with Rosanette. He becomes drawn to Madame Dambreuse, and despite finding her only mildly alluring, he wants her as a mistress for the confidence boost and prestige. Frederic decides to pursue her and succeeds with little effort, boosting his confidence and social status. After a meeting with Madame Dambreuse, he runs into Charles, who is involved in a political conflict; as a result, he has alienated the socialists and the conservatives. When Frederic invites him to stay over, Charles decides to convince Frederic to run for office. Times are good for Frederic. He has his revenge on Rosanette, new confidence from Madame Dambreuse and the continued interest of Marie, and even the opportunity to run for the assembly. When he returns to Rosanette's, he is proud of his achievements, particularly his ability to hide his indiscretions from her.

Charles goes to work for Monsieur Dambreuse and begins to rebuild his political network by getting in touch with Roque. Frederic encourages Charles to lie to Roque about why Frederic has yet to propose to Louise. And throughout the chapter, the reader encounters a small subplot where Charles attempts to win over Roque and Louise for his own purposes. During this time, Frederic grows increasingly interested in Madame Dambreuse. At their parties, everyone knows that he is her lover; the affair elevates Frederic's social status. However, Madame Dambreuse wants a genuine romantic relationship with him, but at the very mention of the idea he begins to lose interest; the relationship with the Madame was primarily about social climbing. During their affair, Monsieur Dambreuse dies. Frederic and the Madame fully expected her to receive his assets in the will. There was some worry that he would leave his money to Cecile, his niece (who turns out is really his illegitimate daughter). The Madame does not take this option seriously and insults Cecile. Frederic and the Madame decide to marry to enjoy Monsieur's riches, all this before the funeral. They are both disappointed to learn, however, that Monsieur Dambreuse left his money to Cecile. The Madame is devastated, and while Frederic tells her that he will still marry her and that he loves her, his rationale for marrying her has fallen apart. Instead, he leaves for his hometown of Nogent to organize his run for the assembly.

The affair with the Madame brings another important event: Rosanette has Frederic's child, a son. Out of guilt, Frederic spends some time with her and tends to his child, who he seems indifferent towards. Charles tells him that he should forget the assembly run and when Frederic shows Charles's message to the Madame, she confronts him for not going to Nogent as he said he would. Charles had told her. This causes Frederic to grow cautious and live a double life between Rosanette and Madame Dambreuse; he lives life as a kind of game, but a private informant tells the Madame that Frederic is having an affair with Rosanette, although when she confronts him, she believes Frederic's lies. She is more threatened by Marie than anyone else, but he calms her. Frederic is unnerved by the fact that the Madame knows so many of his secrets, which increases his disenchantment with her. The political situation in France is leading to despair. Things are not much better than they were before the revolution. The political parties wrestle for power and have restricted individual liberty. The conservatives have imposed many new rules. Many of the revolutionaries are disappointed, and now want to divide power so that each may at least have something. Political meetings spring up around town. Rosanette and Frederic decide to move as a result, and when Rosanette expresses a desire to be a 'high society' wife, he realizes that she is expected him to propose. This, coupled with other grievances, causes him to begin to dislike her as well. Further, Rosanette's debt issues continue, and Frederic must bail her out. Rosanette tries to pay for her debts by cashing in shares that Jacques had sold her but they have lost their value, and Rosanette decides to file a civil suit. She must liquidate some of her assets, but Frederic is able to prevent her from being more embarrassed publicly than necessary. A small subplot with Madamoiselle Vatnaz arises. She has come to despise Rosanette and has fallen in love with Dussardier, after running into him at a job. She pursues marriage with him, but he rejects her. Dussardier discovers the bad blood between Vatnaz and Rosanette, attempts to quell it and when he fails, apologizes to Frederic for the trouble Vatnaz has caused; he then laments the failure of the revolution.

In the meanwhile, Rosanette is initially unsuccessful in her suit against Jacques, but Charles, who is her lawyer, finds other grounds for a lawsuit with Senecal's advice. She wins, but before she and Frederic can enjoy her victory, their son becomes sick and dies. Rosanette is devastated and Frederic has the sense that this foreshadows future tragedy in his life. They decide to have their son's portrait painted, and they hire Pellerin. During the painting job, Pellerin tells Frederic that Jacques's fortunes are ruined and that he, Marie and their children have to leave town to avoid their debts. The only way to keep Marie in town, Frederic discovers, is if he can find Jacques and pay off his debts. The chapter ends with Frederic trying to track them down.

Part Three, Chapters 3 and 4 Analysis

Chapters 3 and 4 reveal Frederic's true nature and his hopelessness. He jumps between love interests. He was with Rosanette to spite Marie, but he loses interest in Rosanette as her interest increases. So he pursues an affair with Madame Dambreuse and lives a double life between them. He is only interested in the Madame to gain social stature and is perfectly content to use her for this purpose. When she falls for him and asks to develop a genuine relationship with him, he again loses interest. He only wants her money, which she doesn't get due to the fact that Monsieur Dambreuse left his assets to his illegitimate daughter, Cecile. His double life with Rosanette continues to cause him drama and difficulty which in some ways culminate with the death of his and Rosanette's son and a lawsuit against Jacques. The lawsuit is successful, leaving Jacques poor and with no recourse but to move his family out of town. When Frederic realizes that Marie will be leaving Paris, he rushes off to find them. We can see from even this brief synopsis of Frederic's love interests that he is not really interested in love at all. He cannot decide what he wants and it continually causes him trouble. He is certainly interested in social climbing, but we have seen throughout the book that Frederic cannot decide what will make him happy and never completes any of his plans. Instead, he is always distracted by new pursuits before completing his old ones. It appears that Frederic is genuinely interested in these three women, but for different reasons - Rosanette promises him a family, Marie romance and Madame Dembreuse high society, and so he cannot be satisfied with any of them. Further, the political events in France continue to parallel the events in Frederic's life. Disillusionment with the revolution reflects Frederic's disillusionment with his life choices.

This section contains 1,376 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
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