Critical Evaluation

(Essentials of European Literature)

Published posthumously, LUCIEN LEUWEN is a long unfinished work divided into two novels: THE GREEN HUNTSMAN and THE TELEGRAPH. In it, Stendhal gives a subtle, penetrating analysis, Freudian in tone, of a young commoner in the difficult days after the revolution of 1830. Lucien is considered an idealized portrait of Stendhal. The novel, though rewarding, is frustrating, for Stendhal never revised the manuscript; indeed, parts of the narrative were not completed. The grand passion of Lucien for Bathilde, for example, is not concluded; from his notes, it is known that Stendhal intended them to marry. Despite these imperfections, the novel is regarded in France as Stendhal’s third masterpiece.

The novel is exceptionally long (though unfinished), exceptionally brilliant, and complex. It successfully integrates the life of an individual, for whom the novel is named, with the historical and institutional life of French society. Containing a vast panorama of major and minor characters, many of whom were modeled on the functionaries of Louis Philippe’s regime, the novel also offers penetrating psychological and social analysis. In a sense, LUCIEN LEUWEN resembles Stendhal’s other major works: a young man, unable to bear the hypocrisy of the society in which he finds himself, is forced to grow, rebel, and compromise all at the same time. LUCIEN LEUWEN is especially interesting because of the personality and...

(The entire section is 490 words.)