This is the story of two Chaplinesque copy-clerks who meet on a park bench in Paris. Following an unexpected inheritance, they decide to give up their jobs and explore the world of ideas. This edition includes the Dictionary of Received Ideas.

Gustave Flaubert blends the scenery of revolutionary France, satire, and a forbidden love story with a young man in personal turmoil as he attempts to reach the upper levels of society. Frederic Moreau, a law student, falls into secret, passionate love with Madame Arnoux, a slender, dark woman several years older than himself. Befriending her husband in order to stay close to Madame Arnoux, Moreau meanwhile squanders his fortune on women, wine, and song in the attempt to achieve the life of ease.