Character Analysis Julien Sorel


Stendhal's depiction of Julien betokens his art in conceiving beings where contradictory impulses and qualities coexist. Julien shares his gentle qualities and sentiment with Mme. de Rênal, and his aggressiveness and egotism rival Mathilde's, but Julien remains, necessarily, a solitary figure whose existence is to be enjoyed by himself alone. It is the solitude, imposed from within and without, of the superior individual who requires of others their generous and voluntary self-sacrifice for his sake that emerges as the dominant trait of the Stendhalian hero in spite of his dichotomy.

Such a hero proves himself worthy of the sacrifice made by others of the "happy few" by his observance of an ascetic personal code of honor and morality, born of and nurtured by revolt. Julien would have found lasting happiness with Mme. de Rênal were he not a Stendhalian hero. He faces death resolutely, having arrived at the certainty that he has been faithful to his code.

From several points of view, Julien is a twentieth-century hero. He represents the individual alienated from and pitted against society, whose vileness and corruption offend his idealism and integrity as an individual. For in the last analysis, Julien chooses idealism as opposed to compromise. He is a tragic figure in that he is superior to the force that destroys him, and to the extent that he has assumed his own death, he cheats the guillotine. It is possible that Julien's amoral pose may be more acceptable than the immorality of the society that has forced him to adopt it.

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