Summary and Analysis
Pirard refuses to serve as Mole's secretary but recommends Julien for the post. The latter is notified by Pirard to come to Paris but visits Verrières before his departure. Chélan requires that he not see Mme. de Rênal. Julien obtains a ladder, however, and courageously presents himself at Mme. de Rênal's window, not knowing who might be awaiting him there or how he would be received by Mme. de Rênal. She admits him with reluctance, but after three hours of conversation, he succeeds in overcoming her remorse. She has given herself with a certain gaiety and abandon, an attitude that she retains the next day while she hides Julien in her room and, in spite of endless perils, until the next night. The arrival of M. de Rênal, who has discovered the "thief's" ladder, pounding on her door, causes Julien to leap from her window and to take flight to Paris, on the road to Geneva, however, to avoid capture.
It is obvious that Pirard's journey to Paris is a means to get Julien there, and with a position, that is, protected by the powerful M. de La Mole. Julien can only assume that the gift he has received comes from Mme. de Rênal. The superiority of the reader invites our complicity with Julien's other mentors. It is fitting that Julien returns to Verrières before undertaking the next stage in his education in Paris. We are thereby made more aware of the distance covered in his formation. Fourteen months have passed, we are told, but we are not noticeably aware of the passage of time with Stendhal. We have, rather, the impression of a non-ending present. Contrast Julien's attitude as he undertakes with premeditation the seduction of Mme. de Rênal to his awkwardness on the first occasion. A refusal on her part would have been a disgrace for his honor, and he is forced to cold calculation to overcome her remorse. The ruthlessness with which Julien calculates this seduction shows us the extent to which the hypocrisy of the seminary has permeated his character. His threat to leave and the avowal that he will be going to Paris never to return force her consent.
Note the means employed by Julien to gain access to Mme. vie Rênal's room prior to their last meeting. It is possible that Julien recalls his meeting with Mme. de Rênal in the Besançon cathedral, a scene in which he had utilized a ladder to perform another act of daring: the decoration of the church. Stendhal flatters the intelligence of his reader by not making explicit this associational mechanism in the mind of Julien. In both incidents, Julien distinguishes himself by a spirit of adventure, a necessity to engage his entire existence in a single act, regardless of the consequences.
What of Julien's love for Mme. de Rênal? Once again he is able to appreciate her greatness of soul as he witnesses her courage and gaiety in the face of danger. They are worthy of one another in their heroism. The dangers to which his visit exposes Mme. de Rênal, both real and in the form of remorse which will no doubt follow, and Julien's insistence — everything indicates that although Stendhal says that Julien "adores" her, his love is rather a need to be loved, to be preferred, to be the object of sacrifice for another.