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Money Matters: Le Pere Goriot

One of the major recurring themes in Honore de Balzac’s La Pere Goriot is between the undying struggle of social stratification and the influence of money over social ascent. Eugene de Rastignac and Pere Goriot represent polar opposites regarding the influence of money and social status; the former making any means possible in order to sustain his rise in high society while the latter ultimately gives up on life and squanders his remaining wealth. Ultimately, the story’s theme is torn between the obstacles of Rastignac and Pere Goriot with both characters sharing the same problem on money.

Pere Goriot, a retired vermicelli maker, sold the business so that the money earned from the investment could sustain the whims of her two spoiled daughters. Rastignac on the other hand, exhausts all financial means from his already poverty-stricken family in order to build himself a name in the high Parisian society. Rastignac, takes up law and moves to the city’s capital from his provincial hometown and is immediately smitten by the grandeur of the upper class lifestyle and culture.

Naturally, he has trouble adjusting in his chosen life but receives lessons from his cousin Madame de Beauseant on acceptable aristocratic behavior. Delphine, one of Goriot’s daughters takes a liking to Rastignac and the father approves of Rastignac’s intentions. Meanwhile, Vautrin, one of the residents of the boarding house, tries to convince Rastignac to marry a single woman whose fortune is impeded by her brother. Vautrin arranges an agreement for Rastignac to have the brother killed in a duel and enabling Rastignac to assume the wealth.

He however refuses, and eventually Vautrin is arrested in suspicion of being a master criminal. Towards the end, Goriot suffers from a struck when he founds out that his youngest daughter has been peddling the family jewelry in order to pay off some debts. In his deathbed, both of Goriot’s daughters do not visit; only Rastignac witnesses the rage from the old man as he lay dying. It can be observed from the story’s narration that Goriot was supposed to be the foremost example of an opportunity gone to waste.

The business he once had could have helped him gain more money. However, his own daughters impeded this objective as he constantly had to face their insatiable whims all the while frustrated over the husbands they chose which not only gave them emotional turmoil but financial trouble as well. As observed from the following line: “If Father Goriot had daughters of his own as rich as those ladies who came here seemed to be, he would not be lodging in my house, on the third floor, at forty-five francs a month; and he would not go about dressed like a poor man.

” [1] The existence of social strata and the universal idea of money and society are preeminent for the story’s duration. In addition, the story also centralizes its theme as espoused by the characters on the importance of money. Rastignac, the self-serving social climber, aspires for greater heights in his social status and attempts to plant himself among the elite of Parisian society, through any means possible. But aristocracy demands money and does not ask questions whether the acquisition of such wealth may be legal or not.

As long as money can be spent with any second thought, the individual is accepted. Rastignac forces himself to take money from his family in order to feed his greed and rise on the ranks of the Parisian elite. Rastignac showed his desperation for money when he was almost convinced to marry a girl only because of her wealth. This desperation serves as a concrete example of Rastignac’s total adoration of the high culture in the city. In addition, at the end of the novel, Rastignac exclaims his powerful phrase: “Henceforth there is war between us.

” [2]. Rastignac Even through the numerous and distressing experiences he had to endure entering Parisian life, his ‘war’ with the social strata means that his character provides a meaningful pursuit yet ultimately shallow attempt of establishing himself into high culture which he places greater importance than anything else. Reference List 1. Balzac HD. Pere Goriot. Trans Ellen Marriage. United States: Dover Publications: 2004. (p. 25) 2. Balzac HD. Pere Goriot. Trans Ellen Marriage. United States: Dover Publications: 2004. (p. 263)

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