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Written by Shareen Sharma
Old man Goriot
The realist novel is based on the life of the old man, Goriot. In the beginning the identity and the past about old Goriot is obscure but as the novel unravels the readers understand his individualistic personality that differs from the rest characters by margins. In his young days, Goriot was a rich manufacturer of vermicelli who earned his money through smartness and luck. But after his wife’s death, he lost his interest in business and his life was revolving around his two daughters, Mme. Anastasie de Restaud and Mme. Delphine who he loved dearly. Unfortunately, that love is not reciprocated by his daughters and his left empty handed emotionally and financially. His paternal love for his two children is strong and pure. But he makes the mistake of expecting qualitative attributes in exchange of quantitative ones. In the end, his end is tragic and pathetic as his two loved ones till the last breath do not respect and love him. He can be described as the modern “King Lear” by Shakespeare.
Balzac portrays web of desire and greed through Eugene. Belonging from a poor family, the ambitions of the young law student are unparallel. He is awed by the rich aristocratic class and tries his best to be a part of that crowd. The entry pass to that Parisian world lies with Goriot’s daughters so he uses his good looks and young age to sway away the daughters. Eugene gradually gets entangled in the web of desire, greed, betrayal and cunningness. Eugene does have consciousness but at times it gets overpowered and he leans towards the dark path. He exploits his family to climb the ladder of Parisian family.
Madame Vauquer is the owner of the “unofficial asylum”, the shabby, unkempt lodgings. It would impossible to separate the Mansion from her as her identity revolves around her house. Balzac portrays the conventional, hypocritical Parisian woman who will close her eyes on sin if the sinner is rich but will crucify him when he becomes poor. This can be witnessed in her quick change in attitude towards old Goriot. She likes Vautrin as she is feels he is rich and hates Goriot and Eugene since they are financially poor. She is seen as a biased, shrewd and cunning woman.
Vautrin is a mysterious character. Something seems odd about him since the beginning but only the end highlights his true character. He is He sets up a Machiavellian plan to accuse an innocent kid and gain personal benefits from that. He is clever in his ways and has a charming personality that helps him to cover his true identity. Only in the end do the readers discover his true identity of an escaped convict Jacques Collin, alias “Trompe la Mort”, a banker of the underworld. Even after knowing he is a convict, the household members sympathize with him and blame Poiret and Mlle. Michonneau for turning up Vautrin over to the police. He is a keen analyst of people and society.
She stays in the most expensive room on the first floor. She is a widow of an army commissary general. She acts as the guardian of Victorine Taillefar. She is seen as a positive character that does not have any disguised selfish motives. She hopes to find justice for her ward and tries her level best.
Balzac portrays Victorine as a feminist docile character. She is heartbroken about her father’s actions but bad mouth about him or her brother to anyone. She is soft spoken and good from heart, an innocent character in the novel.
He is the cook in the Vauquer Mansion living in the attic. He is a selfish coward who tries to earn what little he can.
He is described as “’a sort of automation”. He is a mechanical man who repeats what others are saying. Dresseds shabbily and considers himself as witty.
9. Mlle. Michonneau
She is the one who turns up Vautrin to the police. Greedy and selfish, she wants money. Meek old maid who ends up doing anything for money.
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