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The Novel and the Guillotine; Or, Fathers and Sons in Le Rouge et le noir

Peter Brooks
PMLA
Vol. 97, No. 3 (May, 1982), pp. 348-362
DOI: 10.2307/462227
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462227
Page Count: 15
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The Novel and the Guillotine; Or, Fathers and Sons in Le Rouge et le noir
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Abstract

The end of Le Rouge et le noir constitutes a chronic critical scandal, raising a host of problems concerning the novel's plot and its legitimating authority that may be approached through the question of paternity in the career of Julien Sorel. Paternity becomes a key issue in a novel structured by a conflict between legitimacy and usurpation, a conflict that has political, historical, and narratological implications. Politics versus manners, the hypothesis of Julien's illegitimate noble birth versus his career of monstrous usurpation, the role of the narrator as a father figure who subverts paternalistic control-these and related questions may provide a context for reading the end of the novel, for determining the relation of what Julien calls his novel to Stendhal's, and for understanding the uses of the guillotine.

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