Vauquer A stingy, hypocritical, middle-aged widow, humble to the rich, heartless to the poor, she is hypnotized by Vautrin because of his strength, joviality, and gallantry. Poiret A small bourgeois of vague antecedents, who could have been a government clerk or a hangman's aid; a robot of a man, mechanically repeating what other people have said. Michonneau A stingy, meek old maid, well paired with Poiret. Ready to do anything for money, she will turn Vautrin over to the police. Couture A ray of sunshine in this drab boardinghouse. The widow of an army commissary general, who has appointed herself guardian and chaperone of Victorine Taillefer.

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The novel is also noted as an example of his realist style, using minute details to create character and subtext. The novel takes place during the Bourbon Restoration , which brought profound changes to French society; the struggle by individuals to secure a higher social status is a major theme in the book. Balzac analyzes, through Goriot and others, the nature of family and marriage, providing a pessimistic view of these institutions. The novel was released to mixed reviews.

Some critics praised the author for his complex characters and attention to detail; others condemned him for his many depictions of corruption and greed. A favorite of Balzac's, the book quickly won widespread popularity and has often been adapted for film and the stage. It gave rise to the French expression " Rastignac ", a social climber willing to use any means to better his situation.

The novel reflected several historical events that flipped the French social order in short succession: the French Revolution , which led to the First Republic ; Napoleon's rise, the fall and the return of the House of Bourbon.

By one estimate, almost three-quarters of Parisians did not make the — francs a year required for a minimal standard of living. Individuals willing to adapt to the rules of this new society could sometimes ascend into its upper echelons from modest backgrounds, much to the distaste of the established wealthy class. In he published Les Chouans , the first novel to which he signed his own name; this was followed by Louis Lambert , Le Colonel Chabert , and La Peau de chagrin One of these aspects which fascinated Balzac was the life of crime.

Balzac met Vidocq in April , and used him as a model for a character named Vautrin he was planning for an upcoming novel. In the summer of Balzac began to work on a tragic story about a father who is rejected by his daughters. It was released as a novel in March by the publishing house of Werdet, who also published the second edition in May.

A much-revised third edition was published in by Charpentier. Other characters were changed in a similar fashion. It was his first structured use of recurring characters, a practice whose depth and rigor came to characterize his novels. The old man is ridiculed frequently by the other boarders, who soon learn that he has bankrupted himself to support his two well-married daughters.

Rastignac, who moved to Paris from the south of France, becomes attracted to the upper class. Rastignac endears himself to one of Goriot's daughters, Delphine, after extracting money from his own already-poor family.

Vautrin, meanwhile, tries to convince Rastignac to pursue an unmarried woman named Victorine, whose family fortune is blocked only by her brother. He offers to clear the way for Rastignac by having the brother killed in a duel. Rastignac refuses to go along with the plot, balking at the idea of having someone killed to acquire their wealth, but he takes note of Vautrin's machinations.

This is a lesson in the harsh realities of high society. Before long, the boarders learn that police are seeking Vautrin, revealed to be a master criminal nicknamed Trompe-la-Mort "Daredevil". Vautrin arranges for a friend to kill Victorine's brother, in the meantime, and is captured by the police. Goriot, supportive of Rastignac's interest in his daughter and furious with her husband's tyrannical control over her, finds himself unable to help.

When his other daughter, Anastasie, informs him that she has been selling off her husband's family jewelry to pay her lover's debts, the old man is overcome with grief at his own impotence and suffers a stroke. Delphine does not visit Goriot as he lies on his deathbed, and Anastasie arrives too late, only once he has lost consciousness. Before dying, Goriot rages about their disrespect toward him. His funeral is attended only by Rastignac, a servant named Christophe, and two paid mourners.

Goriot's daughters, rather than being present at the funeral, send their empty coaches, each bearing their families' respective coat of arms. After the short ceremony, Rastignac turns to face Paris as the lights of evening begin to appear. In Cooper's representations of Native Americans , Balzac saw a human barbarism that survived through attempts at civilization.

Scott was also a profound influence on Balzac, particularly in his use of real historical events as the backdrop for his novels. Although the novel is often referred to as "a mystery", [19] it is not an example of whodunit or detective fiction. Instead, the central puzzles are the origins of suffering and the motivations of unusual behavior. Characters appear in fragments, with brief scenes providing small clues about their identity.

As an everyman , he is initially repulsed by the gruesome realities beneath society's gilded surfaces; eventually, however, he embraces them. In some ways this mirrors Balzac's own social education, reflecting the distaste he acquired for the law after studying it for three years. Rastignac's appearance shows, for the first time in Balzac's fiction, a novel-length backstory that illuminates and develops a returning character. It enabled a depth of characterization that went beyond simple narration or dialogue.

Detective novelist Arthur Conan Doyle said that he never tried to read Balzac, because he "did not know where to begin". Balzac uses meticulous, abundant detail to describe the Maison Vauquer, its inhabitants, and the world around them; this technique gave rise to his title as the father of the realist novel. At the start of the novel, Balzac declares in English : "All is true". The Charter of granted by King Louis XVIII had established a "legal country" which allowed only a small group of the nation's most wealthy men to vote.

Thus, Rastignac's drive to achieve social status is evidence not only of his personal ambition but also of his desire to participate in the body politic. As with Scott's characters, Rastignac epitomizes, in his words and actions, the Zeitgeist in which he lives.

Through his characters and narration, Balzac lays bare the social Darwinism of this society. The more cold-blooded your calculations, the further you will go. Strike ruthlessly; you will be feared.

Men and women for you must be nothing more than post-horses; take a fresh relay, and leave the last to drop by the roadside; in this way you will reach the goal of your ambition. You will be nothing here, you see, unless a woman interests herself in you; and she must be young and wealthy, and a woman of the world. Yet, if you have a heart, lock it carefully away like a treasure; do not let any one suspect it, or you will be lost; you would cease to be the executioner, you would take the victim's place.

And if ever you should love, never let your secret escape you! This attitude is further explored by Vautrin, who tells Rastignac: "The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been discovered, because it was properly executed. The novel's representations of social stratification are specific to Paris, perhaps the most densely populated city in Europe at the time.

Paris in the post-Napoleonic era was split into distinct neighborhoods. These quartiers of the city serve as microcosms which Rastignac seeks to master; Vautrin, meanwhile, operates in stealth, moving among them undetected. Paris offers him a chance to abandon his far-away family and remake himself in the city's ruthless image.

The texture of the novel is thus inextricably linked to the city in which it is set; "Paris", explains critic Peter Brooks , "is the looming presence that gives the novel its particular tone". Rastignac, Vautrin, and Goriot represent individuals corrupted by their desires.

In his thirst for advancement, Rastignac has been compared to Faust , with Vautrin as Mephistopheles. Although he rejects Vautrin's offer of murder, Rastignac succumbs to the principles of brutality upon which high society is built. By the end of the novel, he tells Bianchon: "I'm in Hell, and I have no choice but to stay there. While Rastignac desires wealth and social status, Goriot longs only for the love of his daughters: a longing that borders on idolatry.

Even as he is dying in extreme poverty, at the end of the book, he sells his few remaining possessions to provide for his daughters so that they might look splendid at a ball. The relations between family members follow two patterns: the bonds of marriage serve mostly as Machiavellian means to financial ends, while the obligations of the older generation to the young take the form of sacrifice and deprivation.

Delphine is trapped in a loveless marriage to Baron de Nucingen, a money-savvy banker. He is aware of her extramarital affairs, and uses them as a means to extort money from her. This depiction of marriage as a tool of power reflects the harsh reality of the unstable social structures of the time. Parents, meanwhile, give endlessly to their children; Goriot sacrifices everything for his daughters. Balzac refers to him in the novel as the "Christ of paternity" for his constant suffering on behalf of his children.

The betrayal of Goriot's daughters is often compared to that of the characters in Shakespeare's King Lear ; [58] Balzac was even accused of plagiarism when the novel was first published. The narrative of Goriot's painful relations with his children has also been interpreted as a tragicomic parable of Louis XVI's decline. At a crucial moment of filial sentiment in Balzac's novel, Vautrin breaks in singing "O Richard, O mon roi"—the royalist anthem that precipitated the October Days of and the eventual downfall of Louis XVI—a connection that would have been powerful to Balzac's readers in the s.

Rastignac's family, off-stage, also sacrifices extensively for him. Convinced that he cannot achieve a decent status in Paris without a considerable display of wealth, he writes to his family and asks them to send him money: "Sell some of your old jewelry, my kind mother; I will give you other jewels very soon. His family, absent while he is in Paris, becomes even more distant despite this sacrifice.

Although Goriot and Vautrin offer themselves as father figures to him, by the end of the novel they are gone and he is alone. Initial reviews of the book were mixed. Some reviewers accused Balzac of plagiarism or of overwhelming the reader with detail and painting a simplistic picture of Parisian high society. He was condemned for not including more individuals of honorable intent in the book.

His daughters refused to recognize him because he had lost his fortune; now the critics have rejected him with the excuse that he was immoral. Many critics of the time, though, were positive: a review in Le Journal des femmes proclaimed that Balzac's eye "penetrates everywhere, like a cunning serpent, to probe women's most intimate secrets".

One publisher's critique dismissed Balzac as a "boudoir writer", although it predicted for him "a brief career, but a glorious and enviable one".

I have triumphed over everything, over friends as well as the envious. In the years following its release, the novel was often adapted for the stage.

Another well known line of this book by Balzac is when Vautrin tells Eugene, "In that case I will make you an offer that no one would decline. It was ranked as the second most significant cinematic quote in AFI's Years From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Dewey Decimal. The New York Times , 27 August Retrieved on 13 January Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Encyclopedia of the Novel. Oxon: Routledge. Studies in Balzac's Realism.


Le Père Goriot

The story takes place in Paris in the year , in a decrepit, dirty, ill-smelling boardinghouse on the left bank of the Seine. Vauquer, a stingy old widow who owns the place, rules over her tenants. They are people with modest means and desires, like Mlle. Michonneau, the old maid; Poiret, a puppet-like human being; and a young orphan, Victorine Taillefer.



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