Pere Goriot

More Windows Than One...

In the first paragraph of his novel Pere Goriot, Balzac describes his primary setting, the Maison Vauquer, as a "respectable establishment" that has never been sullied by any "breath of scandal" (1). This statement significantly defines the house in terms of scandal, the author choosing to reference its purity only through exclusionary description --- there is no direct mention of morality, rather Balzac chooses to frame the Maison Vauquer within a construction of secrecy and conspiracy. This authorial choice establishes the focus of the novel on the world of conspiratorial plots right from the beginning, because it centers the reader not on what is right within this Parisian world, but what is wrong --- purity is the exception, as we come to see, in this small microcosm of the Parisian landscape. The whole of Pere Goriot exists within and between these different plots, creating a type of suspended system in which all characters are related, and our protagonist Eugene serves as tour guide through the intricate weavings of this treacherous world.

Once introduced to this house of awaited-scandal, we meet its characters, a sort of microcosmic social physiology of 19th century Paris. This tendency toward social...

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