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Honore de Balzac

Honore de Balzac (1799-1850) was a French journalist and writer, regarded as one of the creators of realism in literature. Balzac’s huge production of novels and short stories are collected under the name of La Comedie Humaine. Among the masterpieces included in The Human Comedy are Le Pere Goriot, Les Illusions Perdues, Les Paysans, La Femme de Trente Ans, and Eugenie Grandet. In these books the primary landscape is Paris, with its old aristocracy, new financial wealth middle-class trade, professionals, servants, young intellectuals, clerks, criminals etc.

In this social mosaic Balzac has characters such as Eugene Rastignac or Henry de Marsay who appeared in twenty-five different novels. There are many anecdotes about Balzac’s relationship to his characters, which also lived in the author’s imagination outside the novels. Le Pere Goriot, originally published in the Revue de Paris in 1834, appeared in book form in 1835. The story is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play King Lear, a pessimistic study of bourgeois society’s problems after the French Revolution.

It relates the stories of Eugene de Rastignac, an ambitious but poor young man, and old Goriot, a father who sacrifices everything for his children. Fyodor Dostoevsky is known as one of the world’s greatest novelists and literary psychologists. In his wittings he presents characters living in poor conditions with disparate and extreme states of mind, afeccted by the social, political and religious conditiones of that time. Dostoevsky influenced many important people, from Herman Hesse to Marcel Proust, William Faulkner, Albert Camus, Ayn Rand, Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzsche.

He displayed an exquisite understanding of human psychology evident in his major works. Among his greatest writings we can count Notes from Underground or Letters from the Underworld, The House of the Dead, Crime and Punishment, The Gambler. Crime and Punisment was first published in a journal named The Russian Messenger and then twelve months later appeared and was published as a novel. Along with Lev Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the novel is considered one of the best-known and most influential Russian novels of all time.

Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a tragic tale about one man’s attempt to escape the implications of a dire act of murder. For Dostoevsky, Honore de Balzac was his literary idol. He enjoyed Balzac’s novels so much that he even translated one of them, namely Eugenie Grandet, into Russian. Many people can say that he wrote his novel in response of Balzac’s. All though between the two novels, Pere Goriot and Crime and Punishment exist many similarities, there are also some aspects which differentiates them. First of all are taken in discussion the two main characters: Eugenie de Rastignac and Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov.

The similarity between them is that both are intellectuals who want to find their place in their world through different modalities. Eugenie de Rastignac is a young man of the minor provincial nobility, has come to the great capital to make his fortune, straining his family’s meager resources to achieve his goal. He is good hearted and idealistic and soon he soon finds himself involved in the life of the elderly widower Goriot, who was at one time a merchant of huge wealth, but has gradually impoverished himself, installing his two cherished daughters in the Parisian high society.

He also helps him to become the lover of his daughter Delphine de Nucingen. All though Eugenie is ready to do anything to be part of the Parisian sociaty he refuses contemptuously the advice of Vautrin (the series’ dark criminal mastermind) and prefers to act on his own, using his charm and cleverness. Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov is a young student living in extreme poverty in St Petersburg. He considers himself to be superior to the others. For him the people are divided in two categories, the “ordinary” and the “extraordinary”: the ordinary are the common rabble, the extraordinary are like Napoleon, he claimes that he is Napolean.

His pride and intellectualism lead him to disdain the rest of humanity, preoccupied with the perpetuation of the specie. He accepts moral standards for higher purposes such as utilitarian good and for him this purpose can be obtained through murder. He argued that also Isaac Newton or Johannes Kepler had to kill one or even a hundred men in order to enlighten humanity with their laws and ideas. The murder is committed in the belief that he is strong enough to deal with it.

Raskolnikov thinks that killing the rich people is not such a terrible deed, because he can use the money to do good, but the guilt and paranoia of committing the murder soon overwhelms him. About the problem of murder, Eugenie has a different oppinion. To get rich Vautrain encourages him to marry his fellow tenant Victorine, whose father has deprived her of her fortune but who will come into the money if her brother should meet an early demise and even offers to arrange for a duel where Victorine’s brother will be killed.

But hi disagrees with the murder and decides to act according to his will. Both protagonists are easily influenced by the others characthers who also play an important part, determining their destiny. Raskolnikov’s relationships with the other characters in the novel do much to illuminate his personality and understanding of himself. Although he cares about Razumikhin, Pulcheria Alexandrovna, and Dunya, Raskolnikov is so caught up in his skeptical outlook that he doesn’t react very often at their attempt to help him.

He turns to Sonya and falls in love with her, but refuses to accept that her sin is much different from his: while she truly sacrifices herself for the sake of others (she was forced to prostitute in order to support her family), he essentially commits his crime for his sake alone. Finally, his relationship with Svidrigailov is enigmatic. Though he despises the man for his depravity, he also seems to need something from him -perhaps validation of his own crime.

Eugenie de Rastignac, in his relationship with the other character of Pere Goriot is at the beginning a little naive and with lack of experience, but helped by Old Goriot he manages to redirect his purpose. In his relation with Goriot he get the material support he needs, because the old men encourages him to get involved with one of his married daughters, and as a prove, soon after he buys them an apartment and provides them with all they could need. With Vautraine the situation is tense; he is a mysterious and charismatic boarder, later found to be a notorious criminal. He also competes with Goriot as a father figure to Rastignac.

The end of both novels is dramatic. Pere Goriot’s ending corresponds to Old Goriot death. At his funeral, the only attendees are Eugene, the Maison Vauquer servant Christophe, and two paid mourners. He is buried with a gold locket that has his daughters’ names on it. Eugene, left alone at the grave, sheds a few tears, then turns to see the heart of Paris beginning to shine as the evening lights come on. He says, “Now I’m ready for you” or “Now is between me and you” and goes to dine with Mme de Nucingen. Doestoevski’s novel, regarding the title, begins with a crime and ends with the punishment.

In the end Raskolnikov, taking in consideration Sonya’s advice, confesses to one of the police officials, Ilya Petrovich. He is sent to Siberia, and also Sonya moves in town near the prison and visits Raskolnikov regularly trying to ease his burden. Raskolnikov’s real punishment is not the labor camp he is condemned to, but the torment he endures throughout the novel. This torment manifests itself through his pathological condition, paranoia, panic attacks as well as his progressive realization that he is not a “super-human”, as he could not cope with what he had done.

Through the leading figure of Rastignac, Balzac contributes to the bildungsroman literary tradition-the novel of education, initiation, coming of age. Rastignac comes to Paris, sees that he desires money, women and status, and sets out to “win”, receiving advice and help from his aristocratic cousin Beauseant, mysterious Vautrin, and Goriot. He then learns lessons and discovers the “reality” behind the facades. By using the character of Raskolnikov, Dostoevsky emphasize on the Christianity existentialism, allowing him to confront his crime and to accept his punishment.

Bibliography:

1. Dostoevksy Crime and Punishment (Norton Critical Editions) by F DOSTOEVSKY (Paperback – April 1, 1964) 2. Le Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac (Paperback – Jun 1960) 3. Biography and work form the Internet at http://www. todayinliterature. com/biography/honore. de. balzac. asp 4. Analysis of the characters in Crime and Punishment from the Internet at http://www. sparknotes. com/lit/crime/ 5. Analysis of the characters in Pere Goriot from the Internet at www. wikipedia. com

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