” Sentimental Education” is one of the most explicitly d novels of Gustave Flaubert. Apart from the there is another explicit element in the novel and that is age. The gradual passing of time, the erosion of dreams and hopes that it accompanies and the entrance of emptiness in Frederic’s life is some of the telling signs of aging in the novel. This slow passage of time during which Frederic undergoes change gradually and gains much-needed wisdom spans a total of twenty-eight years.
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By forty-six, it appears that Frederic has had enough but his twenty-years described in the book were not eventless. In the very first chapter, the most cataclysmic thing happens when as if struck by a sort of romantic coup de foudre, Frederic Moreau falls in love with a French woman Marie Arnoux. His romantic dreams from this moment on transform him to a large extent. He is completely besotted by his beloved and immediately puts her in a exotic setting of his dreams. He imagines Marie Arnoux to be of Creole or Andalusian origin and allows himself to think that she brought a maidservant from the distant isles of the West. Flaubert gives a sound touch of romanticism to the entire episode where the protagonist behaves like a silly dreamer who wanders about the city daydreaming of his beloved. During his stay in the exotic city of Paris, Frederic starts paying visits to Arnoux. As he encounters the love of his life frequently, his imagination becomes more fertile and wild. Everything that he sees during his stay reminds him of Marie and he is possessed with the thought of having her. ” It penetrated down into the depths of his temperament,” writes Flaubert, ” and became almost a general manner of feeling and a new mode of existing.”
This is an strange time in Frederic’s life. Everything that he sees appears to have undergone a romantic transformation including the Jardin des Plantes and the Louvre. The sight of palm trees reminds him of the Orient and Frederic imagines traveling with Marie: ” on the backs of dromedaries, under the canopy of an elephant’s howdah, in the cabin of a yacht amidst blue archipelagos, or side by side mounted on two mules that ring bells as they stumble in the grass against the remains of ancient columns.” In the same dreamlike state of mind, Frederic imagines Marie’s face on portraits hanging in the Louvre. He can see her face everywhere- in the paintings from past centuries, from Middle Ages and from Arab land. ” And everything that was beautiful, the twinkling of the stars, certain melodies, the turn of a phrase, a contour, made him think of her again in a sudden and imperceptible manner.”