Character Analysis Mathilde de la Mole


Mathilde is a female Julien except that her rebellion is sterile, motivated only by a thirst for the novel, the bizarre, the unusual. In a sense, she is as much the victim of the reigning social order as is Julien since it stifles her imagination and potential of energy. Her aggressiveness and domineering nature cause her, in effect, to play a masculine role, which explains in part the impression she gives as Julien's rival.

Her romantic temperament has been aggravated by the absence of any outlet in which to express itself. After conceiving the thought that only the death sentence could distinguish a man, she resorts to the attempt to live out this thought in real life. Her aristocratic pride is as great as Julien's fear of ridicule, and this clash proves to be an almost insurmountable obstacle to the realization of their love. Her pride and vanity thwart the expression of her romantic nature, which is somewhat the reverse of Julien's dilemma: His sensitivity constantly erupts to thwart his preconceived conduct.

Paradoxically, the character flaws that prevent them from achieving happiness are the necessary flaws of the superior being. Mathilde should not have intellectualized her passion implies Stendhal disapprovingly, yet because of this defect, Mathilde may count herself among the "happy few." Her passion controlled by reason represents another variation of Stendhal's own impossible ideal: to love and not lose control. Like Julien, she lives in accordance with her own demanding morality. All in all, since Mathilde has fully realized her romantic dream at the end of the novel, one can visualize her as unhappy only after her last raptures have ceased, and, finding herself back in the banality of reality, she searches for a new adventure.

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