Le Père Goriot

Father Goriot
by Honore de Balzac
1834/35

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines
lived a bunch of  little sleaze bags in two greedy lines –

Jean-Joachim Goriot, a widowed and retired wheat dealer who sold his business,  lives alone in a pension in Paris.  Since the death of his wife Father Goriot has doted on his daughters, Anastasie and Delphine,  giving them anything they desire.  He’s now coming to the end of his finances while they are married for money and title but continue to need his assistance (although they shun him).

Eugene de Rastignac, a new arrival to Paris also lives there and, with the help of money from his poor family,  is interested in being introduced to high society via his cousin,  Madame de Beauséant.   Eugene meets Goriot’s daughters and tells the old man about their doings.

Meanwhile,  another lodger, Vautrin, schemes to attach Rastignac to a woman named Victorine who would be quite rich if it weren’t for her brother.   A dual ensues.  – Favorite lines –

Bianchan - a medical student:
“Do you remember that he (Rousseau)  asks the reader somewhere 
what he would do if he could make a fortune by killing an old 
mandarin somewhere in China by mere force of wishing it, and 
without stirring from Paris?”
Bianchan - a page later:  
"Happiness, old man, depends on what lies between the sole of 
your foot and the crown of your head; and whether it costs a
million or a hundred louis, the actual amount of  pleasure that 
you receive rests entirely with you, and is just exactly the same 
in any case.  I  am for letting that Chinaman live.

After the Bourbon Restoration “high society”  was largely open to whomever had money creating a culture of greed and avariciousness – was nothing sacred?  –  Can’t think of what  that would be in Balzac’s world –

Vitrian -"I am a good-natured fellow, who is willing to do a 
dirty piece of work to put you high and dry above the mire for
the rest of  your days."

I suppose Father Goriot could be a scathing social satire if there were any humor in it – there’s not –  it’s an accurate reflection of the situation in Paris at the time.  The boarding house is located in an isolated corner right between the poorest and the wealthiest neighborhoods in Paris – the residents are scrambling to either climb or to keep from sinking.

Narrator:  “This drama is not fictional, it’s not a novel. All is 
true. So true you’ll be    able to recognize everything that goes 
into it in your own  life, perhaps even in your own heart”.

Balzac is considered the father of realism.

This story is a part of  Baltzac’s “The Human Comedy” series.

From: the Great wiki:

Originally published in serial form during the winter of 1834/35,   Le Père Goriot is widely considered Balzac’s most important novel.[1] It marks the first serious use by the author of characters who had appeared in other books, a technique that distinguishes Balzac’s fiction. 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. The city of Paris also impresses itself on the characters – especially young Rastignac, who grew up in the provinces of southern France. 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.

Originally published in serial form during the winter of 1834/35, Le Père Goriot is widely considered Balzac’s most important novel.[1] It marks the first serious use by the author of characters who had appeared in other books, a technique that distinguishes Balzac’s fiction. 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. The city of Paris also impresses itself on the characters – especially young Rastignac, who grew up in the provinces of southern France. 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.

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