Sentimental education has been described both as the first modern novel and as a novel to end all novels. Weaving a poignant love story into his account of the 1848 revolution, flaubert shows a society in the grip of stereotypes, on every level. There is something farcical in his depiction of characters who aspire to act but are dogged by cliche at every turn. To a greater extent even than madame bovary, sentimental education is an indictment of modern consumerism, contrasting the hollowness of material achievement with the lasting beauty of the ideal. Flaubert's study of success and failure offers us a terrible sadness in a terrible beauty, yet is one of the world's great comic masterpieces.
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