Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated February 16, 2024.

Julie, or The New Heloise, is a novel by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, first published in 1761. The story revolves around the passionate love affair between Julie d'Étanges, a young noblewoman, and Saint Preux, her tutor. Despite their deep love for each other, their relationship is complicated by societal expectations, class differences, and the interference of others, including Julie's arranged marriage to another man.

Julie d'Étange, the daughter of Madame and Baron d'Étange, needs a tutor to help her prepare for society. Madame and the Baron find a young Swiss man named Saint Preux, who impresses them with his knowledge and skills. St. Preux agrees to tutor Julie. As time passes, Julie shows her cleverness and St. Preux becomes captivated by her beauty and intellect. He falls in love with her, and Julie reciprocates his feelings.

Unfortunately, Julie's parents disapprove of her relationship with St. Preux, not because he is undesirable or unsuitable, but because he is not from a noble family like Julie. Even though they respect St. Preux's skills and position, Baron and Madame d'Étange believe that Julie should marry someone from her social class. So, the Baron decides that his friend, Monsieur de Wolmar, would better match Julie.

Julie keeps flirting with St. Preux, and her feelings for him grow stronger. Then, her father goes away on business, so St. Preux decides to leave, too. When the Baron returns home and notices Julie's positive changes, he asks Saint Preux to return.

St. Preux's return allows Julie and St. Preux to be together and become lovers. Julie is less hesitant now because she believes that even though she is involved with someone who is not her fiancé or husband, she is still virtuous and pure before God. She thinks that because both she and St. Preux act out of love. The main obstacle is their class difference and Julie's father insisting she marry an aristocrat.

St. Preux's close friend, Lord Edward Bomston, a wealthy Englishman, tries to convince Julie's father to let Julie and St. Preux marry. Lord Bomston was once infatuated with Julie and even wanted to fight a duel with St. Preux. However, Julie convinced him that she truly loved St. Preux and that a duel would only cause trouble and expose their affair. Seeing the depth of their love, Lord Bomston agreed to support them. He even offered his home in England for their marriage, but Julie refused, not wanting to disgrace her father's reputation.

Despite Lord Bomston's efforts, the Baron remains firm in his refusal to allow Julie to marry her tutor.

Julie decides to go along with her father's wishes and marries Monsieur 

de Wolmar. St. Preux is so devastated that he considers ending his own life, but Lord Bomston convinces him to travel instead. He helps St. Preux plan a trip around the world to clear his mind and hopefully cure his depression. St. Preux agrees and goes on a journey that lasts for four years. Meanwhile, Julie and de Wolmar live in a civilized but unhappy marriage and have two sons.

De Wolmar, aware of Julie's excellent education under her tutor, suggests that St. Preux, who has returned from his journey, tutor his sons. Eager to be close to Julie again and believing enough time has passed to avoid temptation, St. Preux agrees.

However, St. Preux cannot stay long as his friend Lord Bomston needs help preparing to marry a young woman "without principles" in Italy who is only interested in his wealth. St. Preux feels indebted to Lord Bomston for helping him when Julie married De Wolmar, so he helps his...

(This entire section contains 788 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

friend out of the situation.

Julie writes to St. Preux, informing him that her widowed cousin Clare is interested in him and wants to marry him. However, St. Preux tells Julie his heart belongs to her and politely declines Clare's affection.

Unfortunately, he does not realize that he will never see Julie again. Just before he decides to return to Switzerland, Julie dies. While on a peaceful walk by the lake, her son falls in the water, and she jumps in to save him from drowning. She succeeds, but she suffers from hypothermia and falls ill. On her deathbed, she writes a final letter to St. Preux.

Julie asks him to continue teaching her sons and Claire's children from her previous marriage and perhaps reconsider Claire's proposal, as he deserves all the happiness in the world—happiness that Julie cannot give him anymore. She reassures him that she is not leaving him. Instead, she is going to a better place, where she will be waiting for him. Julie is happy because, with her death, she can finally love St. Preux freely, "without crime."