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This series of studies of contemporary life, set during the period of restored monarchy in France, aimed to show how social, economic, and political factors mold individual and collective destinies. In the famous "Avant-propos" Foreword , dated , which unifies the 90 or so novels, populated by 3, characters many of them recurring , that comprise the series, Balzac provocatively described his work as that of a naturalist, comparing men and women of different social and financial stations to zoological species.

As self-appointed record-keeper of his epoch, Balzac was interested in "all of society," but most significantly, the upheavals related to money. Balzac's fictions draw our attention to the many contrasts that define different cultural domains: between the royalists and the liberals in political life, the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, the hoarders and the squanderers, the virtuous and the depraved, Paris and the provinces.


Steeped in the imagery of the theater, the three parts of Lost Illusions tell the story of the provincial poet Lucien de Rubempre who languishes in provincial Angouleme in the company of his alter ego David Sechard, nurturing hisambitions. Heis initiated into the Parisian literary, journalistic, and political world, and suffers successive disillusions.


Marcel Proust praised the way in which Balzac's style aims "to explain," and is marked by its beautiful "naiveties and vulgarities. Amid robust, moral critique of greed and the poverty of provincial experience, this novel combines convincingly drawn human characters with a sociological grasp of deeper changes in French society. The realist representation of Eugenie's father as a tyrannical miser shows the workings of avarice not just as an individual "sin," but as a reflection of the secular nihilism of financial calculation in nineteenth-century capitalism.

The plot has a classical simplicity and causal circularity, unfolding a bourgeois tragedy which the narrator declares more cruel than any endured by the house of Atreus. Eugenie's father's fixation on monetary gain limits her experience, and ultimately destroys the family. The novel unveils the full damage done to Eugenie, though she asserts some moral dignity through acts of precise generosity. With a grasp of temporal cycles that prefigures Proust, Balzac dramatizes both the critical framework of individual actions and the wheels of generational change.

Comic bathos tempers the stark social realism;the entertainment Balzac wrings from the judgments of his more or less omniscient narrator is surprising.

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An ideal introduction to one of the great realist novelists. Considered one of Balzac's most powerful works, Eugenie Grandet delineates the character of a miser whose calculating and inhumane parsimoniousness cripples the lives of his wife and his only child, Eugenie.

The tale is told simply with an abundance of realistic detail characteristic of French naturalists such as Zola. Reared without a childhood in the penurious surroundings of Saumur, a provincial French town, Eugenie, for a brief period, lives for the love of her cousin, newly orphaned and a guest in the Grandet home.

Strong of character and handsome in appearance, she pledges herself to young Charles Grandet and remains true to him throughout her life. As an obedient daughter of parents and church, she tries to live righteously but defies her father in the matter of love. Her kind ministrations to both her dying parents, her lifelong devotion to her one loyal friend, and her constancy of memory make her one of the most steadfast and pitiable of heroines.

Eugénie Grandet by Honoré Balzac - AbeBooks

Her good deeds and her loving devotion to the poor whom she serves give her life tragic beauty. The author of the family tragedy, Goodman Grandet, as Balzac satirically calls him, is unyielding in his niggardliness without seeming to realize his great fault. He appears to be trying to clear his brother's good name by not allowing him to fall into bankruptcy, but in reality he profits from the delaying action.

His towering anger at the least "extravagance" finally puts his devoted wife on her deathbed, and his unrelenting love of gold destroys the loving confidence of his daughter. Shrewd and grasping in his business deals, he has no redeeming features. Ironically enough, his fortune is finally put to good purposes through his daughter, who makes restitution for his wrongs.

Madame Grandet, his long-suffering wife, whose piety is taxed by the burden of her husband's stinginess. Accustomed to her hard lot and strengthened by her religion, Madame Grandet bows under her heavy yoke of work and harsh treatment until she takes up the cause of her daughter's right to love and devotes herself to the memory of that love. Still she prays for reconciliation, and when it comes she dies happy, without knowing her dowry is the reason for the deathbed forgiveness.

Charles Grandet snarl , the dandified cousin of the heroine, who loses his fortune through his father's suicide but who regains a fortune through unscrupulous dealings financed, ironically, by Eugenie's gift of money to him. Heroic only in his unselfish grief for his father and generous only once in bestowing his love, Charles reveals a twisted mind tutored by a corrupt society.

Outwardly prepossessing, inwardly vacillating, he chooses to disregard the one fine thing that was given him, a dowry of unselfish love, and bases his life on treachery, lechery, and adultery. Nanon na-non' , the faithful servant who loyally defends the indefensible in her master because it was he who raised her a full step in the social order. Large and mannish, Nanon manages the entire Grandet household with such efficiency as to cause admiration from the master, himself efficient and desperately saving.

Her devotion to him, however, does not preclude rushing to the defense of his wife and daughter, the victims of his spite. Finally she marries the gamekeeper and together they rule the Grandet holdings for their mistress Eugenie. He feels that by marrying the name and inheriting the fortune his own name will become illustrious. His untimely death ends the reign of self-seeking misers. Grandet at the time of his brother's bankruptcy. Attracted to the exciting life in the capital, he fails to return to Saumur.

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The Story In the French town of Saumur, old Grandet was a prominent personality, and the story of his rise to fortune was known throughout the district. He was a master cooper who had married the daughter of a prosperous wood merchant. When the new French Republic offered for sale the church property in Saumur, Grandet used his savings and his wife's dowry to buy an old abbey, a fine vineyard, and several farms.

Under the Consulate he became mayor and grew still more wealthy. In , he inherited three fortunes from his wife's mother, her grandfather, and her grandmother.

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  4. By this time he owned the abbey, a hundred acres of vineyard, thirteen farms, and the house in which he lived. In , he bought the nearby estate of an impoverished nobleman. He was known for his miserliness, but he was respected for the same reason. His manners were simple, his table was meager, but his speech and gestures were the law of the countryside.

    His household consisted of his wife, his daughter, Eugenie, and a servant, Nanon. Old Grandet had reduced his wife almost to slavery, using her as a screen for his devious financial dealings. Nanon, who did all the housework, was gaunt and ugly but of great strength. She was devoted to her master because he had taken her in after everyone else had refused to hire her because of her appearance.

    On each birthday, Eugenie received a gold piece from her father and a winter and a summer dress from her mother. Each New Year's Day, Grandet would ask to see the coins and would gloat over their yellow brightness. He begrudged his family everything except the bare necessities of life.

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    He forbade the lighting of fires in the rooms before the middle of November. His family, like his tenants, lived under the austere circumstances he imposed upon them. The townspeople wondered whom Eugenie would marry. There were two rivals for her hand. One of them, M. Cruchot, was the son of the local notary. The other, M. On Eugenie's birthday, in the year , both called at the Grandet home.

    Honoré de Balzac

    During the evening, there was an unexpected knock at the door, and in came Charles Grandet, the miser's nephew. Charles's father had amassed a fortune in Paris, and Charles himself, dressed in the most fashionable Parisian manner, was an example of Parisian customs and habits for these awkward, gawking provincials whom he tried to impress with his superior airs.

    Eugenie outdid herself in an effort to make the visitor welcome, even defying her father in the matter of heat, candlelight, and other luxuries for Charles. Grandet was polite enough to his nephew that evening, as he read a letter Charles had brought from his father. Grandet's brother announced in a letter that he had lost his fortune, and he was about to commit suicide, and that he entrusted Charles to his brother's care.

    The young man was quite unaware of what his father had written, and when informed next day of his father's failure and suicide, he burst into tears and remained in his room for several days. Finally he wrote to a friend in Paris and asked him to dispose of his property and pay his debts. He gave little trinkets to Eugenie, her mother, and Nanon. Grandet looked at them greedily and said he would have them appraised. He informed his wife and daughter that he intended to turn the young man out as soon as his father's affairs were settled. Charles felt there was a stain on his honor.


    Grandet felt so too, especially since he and his late brother had the same family name. In consultation with the local banker, M. He did not return but lived a life of pleasure in the capital. Meanwhile, Eugenie fell in love with Charles. Sympathizing with his penniless state, she decided to give him her hoard of coins so that he could go to the Indies and make his fortune. The two young people pledged everlasting love to each other, and Charles left Saumur. Her mother, who knew her daughter's secret, kept silent.

    In spite of Eugenie's denials, Grandet guessed what she had done with the gold. He ordered her to stay in her room, and he would have nothing to do with either her or her mother. Rumors began to arise in the town. The notary, M. The village whispered that Mme. Grandet was dying of a broken heart and the maltreatment of her husband.