Pere Goriot

The Female Mentor as Vital and Problematic in Pere Goriot

In her towering box at the fashionable opera house, Mme de Beausant "was scanning the theatre with her opera-glasses, and though apparently taking no notice of Madame de Nucingen, did not miss her slightest move" (112). The vicomtesse, as though an all-knowing omnipresent figure in this scene, is thus the most suitable mentor for Rastignac, the penniless student. Her role in the novel points out not only the necessity for the female mentor in Balzac's bildungsroman plot, but also demonstrates the power of women in Parisian society and how it is problematic.

When Anastasie reveals her social skills by downplaying Eugne's blunder of mentioning Pere Goriot, she justifies the narrator's comment praising her for possessing "that remarkable ability which women are endowed" (54). This is not the only instance in the novel in which the female sex is admired. For example, even at the end of their affair, the vicomtesse's command over the Marquis d'Ajuda forces him to fearfully conceal his engagement to Mademoiselle de Rochefide. Earlier on, in the scene where Eugene first visits Anastasie, he sees her in a cashmere negligee, and the narrator describes his reaction by stating, "young men's...

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