The main character in the book is Fabrizio del Dongo. (A fun name to say!) He's quite the naive guy who wants to go off and join Napoleon's army. Later he becomes a prelate in the Catholic church. Stendhal is quite clever and mouthy but you have to pay attention or you miss it.
From a review of the new translation in The New York Times (1999):
The quick pace of the narrative and the vividness of the characters are balanced throughout by a coolly sardonic assessment of human nature and, in particular, of politics. Stendhal ... found himself living at a time of almost unprecedented political cynicism in post-Restoration France; disgust with the bourgeois complacency of his countrymen played no little part in his admiration for the Italians, whom he considered to be more authentic -- more profound and more susceptible to violent emotions, as he wrote in his diary. More.If you like this one, you'll surely like The Red and The Black, also by Stendhal (the red represents the military and the black represents the church).