Example research essay topic: Juliens Journey – 1,450 words

Warning: There are a few spelling errors. ‘It is
only with the heart that one can see rightly; what
is essential is invisible to the eye.’ ‘What is
essential is invisible to the eye,’ the little
prince repeated, so that he would be sure to
remember. — Antoine de Saint-Exupry, The Little
Prince The ending of Stendhal’s, The Red the
Black, is obscure. Julien Sorel is sentenced to
death by guillotine for the crime of attempting to
murder Mme. de Rnal, his former mistress. During
his trial, Julien has the sympathy of the town and
powerful figures of influence behind him; he could
quite easily change the verdict of trial by simply
claiming his act was a crime of passion.

Yet
Julien stubbornly insists, from the moment of the
offense until the day of his death, that his crime
was utterly premeditated and he deserves nothing
short of death. The details of the crime are
nebulous. Throughout his life, Julien devoted all
his energy to perfecting his outward behavior in
order to transcend humble, peasant, beginnings and
achieve fame, wealth, and social status. On the
very brink of achieving his goal (he had acquired
estates, a title, the rank of lieutenant of the
Hussars,) a letter from Mme. de Rnal, accusing him
of deliberately seducing her, threatens to unravel
Juliens carefully wrought future. After being
informed of the letter, Julien leaves suddenly for
Verrires, buys a pair of pistols, and shoots Mme.
de Rnal in the middle of Mass.

In the time between
reading the letter and the shooting, the reader
hears none of Juliens, usually prevalent, inner
monologues, nor does he receive any commentary by
the narrator. All that is given are a few
objective details: 1.) Julien fails an attempt to
write a legible letter, and 2.) Julien has a
difficult time communicating with the gunsmith.
These facts indicate that Julien was in no
rational state, but the very sparsity of
information leaves a number of possibilities for
the motive and nature of the crime. What state of
irrationality was it? Confusion or rage? It is not
clear that the crime is premeditated. . .but it is
also not clear that it isn’t. After the crime,
Julien is seized and put in jail.

There, without
the slightest reflection, Julien confesses his
guilt and demands his own death. He asserts that
the situation is perfectly simple: I intended to
kill, so I must be killed.(474) Even as it becomes
clear that Julien can escape his sentence through
pity and the ever-present dishonesty of men in
power, he continues to demand that justice be
served. The prevalent question is: why would a man
actively seek his own death? There are different
ways to interpret Julien’s decision. It is
possible that Julien is a broken and absurd man
whose hypocrisy consumed him and who simply gives
up. When faced with the destruction of his long
cherished dreams, the only thing he knows well, it
is possible that Julien acted rashly, believing
that it was the only way to retain petty notions
of honor. He thus took furious vengeance on Mme.
de Rnal as if defending his integrity in a dual.
Julien has reacted to insult this way many times
before.

After the crime is committed, however,
Julien has truly lost the chance of ever rising up
in society the way that he dreamed of. All of
Juliens life was dedicated to his ambition; even
his romances are manifestations of a Napoleonic
ideal that can no longer be realized. What else
does he have to live for? Julien thus resigns
himself to death. In his jail cell, directly
following the crime, Julien feels no remorse, Why
should I feel any? I was atrociously wronged; I
committed murder, I deserve death, but that is all
there is to it.(472) He feels content; he tells
himself, I have nothing left to do on earth. (472)
He welcomes death. When Julien finds out that Mme.
de Rnal was not mortally wounded his contentedness
is briefly upset.

His social ambition is gone, but
Mme. de Rnal is not completely a part of that
ambition. She is not lost to him; he knows,
somehow, that she forgives him and still loves
him. He falls in love with her, yet, he is still
resigned to death. Julien spends his last days
largely alone. He holds wild dialogues with
himself which lead him to believe that he has life
figured out.

He comes to defined conclusions that
satisfy him: Religion and society are hopelessly
corrupted, hypocrisy is everywhere and virtue is
nowhere, being a member of society he is not at
fault for falling victim to it in his ignorance.
He realizes that his relationship with Mme. de
Rnal (really his only human relationship) is the
only thing that brings him happiness; he spends
his days happily remembering his time at Vergy and
cherishing the last few times he gets to spend
with her. This Julien is merely telling himself
that he understands life so he can escape it. His
defence speech is a summary of his thoughts; a dry
statement of all he has figured out. It contains a
brief apology and a lengthy condemnation, Napoleon
style, of class structure. This Julien, who
dreamed about Napoleon for so long, is playing out
a last pathetic fantasy of courage and tragic
grandeur.

This interpretation condemns Julien to
be forever a stupid being and his life is a
meaningless fiction. He never wakes up from his
half believed dreams and goes all the way to his
death pretending to have gotten something out of
life. Julien is not a tragic character; Mme. de
Rnal was not killed and he is not forced to his
death by a hostile society. In fact, in this
reading of the text, Juliens crime was a crime of
passion and he did not even deserve to be
executed. This Julien is a failure; the random
scattering of sincerity and the potential that the
reader can see in Julien never comes to anything.
Most importantly, by seeing Julien as giving up
and making excuses, he never has a chance to
really internalize anything.

Rather, the hypocrisy
and fantasy life prevail, consuming fully and
finally whatever real, noble, Julien was ever
there. There is another interpretation. Although
Julien spends most of the book ignoring his noble
and genuine self, at the end of his life, the
reader should believe Julien. The facts of both
situations stay the same, but in this second
interpretation, Julien is not pretending to have
found some real insight into life. He claims that
the crime was premeditated. Perhaps it was.

He
says that he is filled with remorse because he is
nothing less than guilty. He maintains that he
deserves the punishment of death. Maybe he is
right. The reason Julien shot Mme. de Rnal is
still violent rage and despair due to his lifes
work being ruined. Julien was completely wrapped
up in his success, he felt that she had destroyed
the possibility of his future happiness.

Though
there was slight hesitation at the time of the
act, it was Juliens full intention to kill her.
The development of Juliens sentiment is mostly the
same as before. Immediately after the crime, he
feels nothing of remorse, but only that a crime
deserves a fitting punishment. However, once he
learns that Mme. de Renal was not mortally
wounded, Juliens perspective changes: Only then
did Julien begin to repent the crime he had
committed. By a coincidence which saved him from
despair, that moment had also brought an end at
last to the state of physical tension and near
madness in which he had been engulfed since
leaving Paris for Verrieres. (473) He gives way to
tears and is filled with nobility.

This
interpretation hinges on Julien feeling sincere
remorse, and that he begins to sincerely learn who
he is, what he has done with his life, and what he
really wants from life at large. Julien spent his
life lost in dreams of Napoleon, but it becomes
evident through his action and thoughts that this
was not because of strong convictions that
Napoleons politics are right and true. Rather,
Julien was seduced by a fantasy of grandeur.
Though the novel is sprinkled with outbursts of
Juliens righteousness, they have always been
countered by other examples of quite the opposite
actions. Frequently, Juliens outbursts are passed
off as fits of enthusiasm, his thoughts quickly
turning back to attainment of wealth and
influence. Some moments are more telling than
others. Once, solely for amusement, Julien
appoints a fool to an office.

He afterward learns
that he has taken the livelihood from a family and
the honor fr ….

Research essay sample on Juliens Journey