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I might have bore resemblance to Lucien de Rubempre the hero of Lost Illusions. Well, okay, there were some differences. I did not look like a Greek God. I did not have David Sechard as a best friend who lent me his last 1, francs "No man should marry until he has studied anatomy and dissected at least one woman. I most importantly did not have an aristocratic companion in the form of Madame de Bargeton, the queen of society in Angouleme.
I definitely left the farm on the wrong footing. As it turns out despite Lucien's advantages his spectacular rise and fall in Paris society far eclipsed my own bumpy yet steady meandering attempt to be successful in the "big city". Drawing from the Folio edition The first hurdle to be cleared by both Lucien and Madame de Bargeton was entry into Parisian Aristocratic society. Madame may have had the proper name, but she had been in the sticks way too long and had fallen behind on the current fashions and the latest affectations.
Lucien, though a beautiful manly specimen, wore the wrong clothes. Clothes that were very nice for the country, but were outdated and ragged when compared to the festive clothing worn by the Parisian dandies. In other words both found the other wanting and a detriment to their efforts to fit in to the society they wished to become accustomed too. Madame de Bargeton, in a fit of survival, jettisoned her Greek God. Lucien, even though he had been thinking similar thoughts, was upset over the betrayal plotted revenge and quickly found himself mired in poverty.
He took up with a bunch of philosophical writers, who despite their superior intelligence or because of it refused to try and be successful. As taken as Lucien is by their high ideals and their comradeship he quickly moves away from their company once he meets the con man Etienne Lousteau. Drawing from the Folio edition Lousteau calls himself a journalist, but really he is a blackmailer, glib tongue seducer, and thief. Lucien meets Lousteau at the moment that he is in a midst of a deal to become editor of a newspaper.
Lousteau likes Lucien, more importantly he sees that he can be of use to him, and shows him how to use his pen to make money. He ensnares him in the fine art of reviewing books, taking the best qualities of a novel and negating those qualities by presenting them as weaknesses. He shows him how to receive "bribes" in theater seats in exchange for positive reviews. Lucien, who was a good writer, soon found himself in a position of writing positive and negative reviews of the same book or the same play and taking money from publishers not to eviscerate their latest offering.
Etienne and Lucien both are living with beautiful actresses and making a very good living, but their lifestyle far outreaches their pocketbooks and soon each finds themselves on the edge of disgrace. In an act of desperation Lucien forges David's signature on bank loans that have devastating consequences for his friend brother-in-law and sister. There are many more subplots that are complicated enough that separate reviews could be composed for each. Balzac does an amazing job juggling the plots without confusing the reader.
Each new revelation has far reaching ramifications and I found myself squirming in my seat as each new piece of the puzzle is revealed. Balzac creates a whole host of characters, wonderful characters, some who have bit parts, but have larger roles to play as part of the grander scheme of the world of the Human Comedy. Characters flow in and out of his books.
In one book they may have a large role and in another a mere scene. He wrote 92 books that composed the Human Comedy and had sketches for 55 more. He created over 3, characters. Balzac is surprisingly funny, with skewering wit and a telescopic eye for human behavior. He was part of the realism movement and the characters of these books are the same people that are serving us coffee, delivering our mail, writing newspaper articles, and lending us money today.
People have the same foibles and good qualities as they did a hundred years ago. In the form of Eve, David's wife and Lucien's sister, Balzac also reminds us of those few really special people that we occasionally meet who exemplify what we all wish to be Balzac I got to say I'm hooked. I am curious to see what happens to more of these characters and in the span of one book I've only met a very few of the characters that Balzac brings to life in the Human Comedy.
I must meet the rest. I will read more Balzac. View all 57 comments. It consists of three parts, starting in provincial France, thereafter moving to Paris, and finally returning to the provinces. It is, how In the mid-eighteenth century, in France, the media, like the newspaper, had its emergence. As of this date there was a revolution in the media by means of this mass information vehicle that would only be surpassed centuries later with the invention of the remaining media: radio, television, satellite communication and that will culminate with the interfaces of hypermedia, that is, the computer.
The work makes us understand that with the appearance of the newspaper, good literature has fallen into the background once writers have abandoned their "ivory towers" to dedicate themselves professionally to this new medium of communication, eaten by disposable information, that in which the reader bends over a coffee table, digests the reading, and then tosses the newspaper into the nearest wastebasket. With this, the media of which we speak here the Literature has lost ground giving now space for a new apparatus conveyed by a new type of individual who is neither politician nor literate: the journalist.
He, like a leech, came to earn his living through the "misfortune of others," since his livelihood was driven by the interests and blessings of the new media, which was not and is not at the service of truth , in the first conception of the word, but of bringing to the public knowledge what is of interest to the news media; it is understood from the interest of the media the question of sensationalism, what causes discussion, what causes the circularity and then returns to the initial point.
Let us not forget, too, that it was through the Journal that the Critique emerged - a personal point of view that adds nothing to the novel: on the contrary, it serves both to construct and to destroy a kind of intellectual production whatever it depends on interest of the one in charge of the news. It is possible to say, without fear of effective contradiction, that with the appearance of the Journal, we have a fragmented type of reader, light years away from the one who spent hours, weeks and months to apprehend literary knowledge.
Anyway, the newspaper we read this morning does not mean anything at night when we turn off the light and fall asleep; Literature is immortal, as long as there is room for the imaginary, it is present with us.
Vautrin | Revolvy
Balzac tries to translate, in his own way, the portrait of the newspaper at the time and tells us that it would become the future: our present. View all 18 comments. Unfortunately for most French people, they were forced to read Balzac in school and were not given the real time or context to fully appreciate his work. Plus they mostly only get the highly moralistic Peau de Chagrin and, fed up, finish their book report and never seek out Balzac again.
That is quite unfortunate particularly when it comes to this particular masterpiece. In Illusions Perdues, we have one of French literatures greatest bildungsroman ever with the coming of age of the two protagon Unfortunately for most French people, they were forced to read Balzac in school and were not given the real time or context to fully appreciate his work.
In Illusions Perdues, we have one of French literatures greatest bildungsroman ever with the coming of age of the two protagonists. I will absolutely not spoil the story here because it must be read and enjoyed. View all 11 comments. Apr 20, Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly rated it really liked it. Honore de Balzac wasn't finished writing yet when he died on 18 August Yet at the time of his death he had already written a good number of journal articles and some 90 novels. The literary characters he had created are estimated to be between 2, to 3, Was he sick?
Did he have some sort of a mania for writing on and on? The secret of his prolificness, I guess, was in his favorite drink. It was said that at one time he wrote for 18 straight hours, without sleep, subsisting only o Honore de Balzac wasn't finished writing yet when he died on 18 August It was said that at one time he wrote for 18 straight hours, without sleep, subsisting only on black coffee.
Lost Illusions would be in a monster of a cup. Having it should be like endlessly sipping an ocean of coffee. Black, with enough caffeine to shock one's nerves and make him want to write to calm himself. This is the story of Lucien Chardon a cake in the coffee shop could be named after him, lucien sounds luscious , a young, handsome poet, well-intentioned but vain and stupid. Living in a provincial town, he dreams of getting rich and famous. He catches the fancy of the aristocratic Madame de Bagerton, married but a real hot mama.
Thinking that they are in love with each other, they go to gay Paris. There, they promptly lose their illusion about this love. They part ways, bitterly. Destitute and hungry, Lucien befriends fellow poets, writers and artists who--although similarly poor like him--value personal and creative integrity above all else. But he also stumbles upon characters, including journalists, who value money above all else. He is sucked into this life of double-dealing, journalistic blackmail, corruption and dishonesty, enjoying it for the money, fame and sex it brings.
He is again disillusioned but likes the compensation. This new society he has embraced, however, does not embrace him back. He is betrayed and rejected. Thus he loses another illusion and comes back to his hometown like a beaten dog with his tail between his legs. But alas! It seems his town considers him a hero of sorts with the fleeting fame and momentary wealth he had acquired before.
So he struts his feathers once more and attempts to save his loved ones his mother, sister and her husband David who is also his best friend from the ruin he has brought them into.
This, however, proves to be illusory once more. He now walks alone, planning to drown himself. But he meets a year-old Spanish priest. Hey, I said to myself, a happy ending after all. A man of God shall be an instrument to Lucien's redemption! But no. It was my turn to lose an illusion. He may even be harboring sexy thoughts because after giving Lucien money and promising him a job as his secretary he kissed him "on the forehead, tenderly", Balzac however took care to point out , alluding to "the profound friendship of man to man which For its dialogues, the characters often throw full-length essays against each other; thoughts and recollections were sometimes like treatises; and characters are so numerous they swarm like ants on a pool of molasses.
Six hundred thirty pages excluding endnotes, the introduction, Balzac's brief biographical outline and comments on him and his works by various authors. You''ll need a lot of coffee to get through this. But it's all worth it, may I add. View all 16 comments. Jun 19, David Lentz rated it it was amazing. As much as I enjoyed Pere Goriot, Lost Illusions is the kind of a literary work that lets you peer into the soul of a great mind and dwell there.
Just as Lucien was Balzac, the lost poet, David Sechard, the printer, is also Balzac the craftsman in real life: he bought a print shop in Paris to print his own novels. Sechard is much like the scientist in the Quest of the Absolute, except that David ultimately finds himself through his invention and the inventor in The Quest becomes lost to his own As much as I enjoyed Pere Goriot, Lost Illusions is the kind of a literary work that lets you peer into the soul of a great mind and dwell there.
Sechard is much like the scientist in the Quest of the Absolute, except that David ultimately finds himself through his invention and the inventor in The Quest becomes lost to his own monomania.
Splendeurs Et Miseres DES Courtisanes
As Balzac wrote of Lucien: "He's not a poet, this young man: he's a serial novel. The characters of his novels keep reappearing in scenes from one novel to the next, which is wonderful. However, they seem to change as one sees them through different eyes. Delightful young Rastignac in Pere Goriot becomes a rather unscrupulous mean-spirited character in Lost Illusions.
Balzac has built an entire society of his characters and as varied as they are, they are all also him and show the great diversity and depth of his personality and sensitivity. Like Galsworthy, Balzac wanted to build an interconnected society of characters who are so human that it's easy to understand why they behave as they do. The realism is striking and magnificent and always rings true.
Balzac works hard despite the realism to spin out of every hardship a redemption and out of every malignity a comic side that's all too human. The comedy and irony are rich in Balzac in his passionate account of life in Paris in high society and the challenges that it thrusts upon every ideal. This is the best work of Balzac that I have read so far out of four novels of his.
It's such great writing, and the energy of the translator can make a difference, that Balzac keeps one coming back for more. But the writing and wit and wisdom are so extraordinary, I am happy to accommodate him. Anyone who has ever aspired to write and publish prose in New York will identify with Blazac's Lucien: Lost Illusions is a novel that aspiring writers especially may find intriguing. View 1 comment. For me there are a great many things that contribute to a rewarding reading experience, an almost ineffable series of qualities that a novel must possess for me to be able to enjoy it.
Indeed, these things are what I am looking for when I am sat on my bed losing my mind for days on end, surrounded by shaky towers of books. Yet there is perhaps a single, fairly straightforward thing that elevates my favourites above the others, which is that I see something of myself in them. The more of myself I For me there are a great many things that contribute to a rewarding reading experience, an almost ineffable series of qualities that a novel must possess for me to be able to enjoy it.
The more of myself I see, the more I cherish the book. I imagine most people feel that way. There is, however, one book that feels almost as though the author was possessed of the ability to see into the future, to fasten onto some kid from northern England and follow his progress, or deterioration, over the space of around twelve months.
That book is Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac. When I was nineteen I met and fell for a model who lived in London. The more I liked her, the more time I spent in London until I was pretty much living there. For a while I enjoyed myself immensely; the girl was on the cusp of success and took me to lots of parties and events. I adored London. I was starstruck. However, after a while things started to go awry.
I began to notice that the people around her, and around me, who I had trusted were actually only looking out for themselves. Almost one by one I realised this. The scales falling from my eyes was a painful process, so much so that I almost went down with them. It was, I came to understand, impossible to have friends in London, or in those kinds of fashionable circles anyway, that the people who smiled at you were likely plotting to stab you in the back. Slowly I started to pick up their habits, to become cynical and two-faced and manipulative, because I thought that the only way to survive.
Before too long I was living in a moral vacuum, where cheap sex, drugs and social climbing were the norm. I lost something in London, something that, I guess, everyone loses at some point in their life. What had I lost? My illusions. He is a provincial poet, who moves to Paris, thinking that he will find fame and fortune. What he finds, instead, is that people in a big city will happily crawl over your carcass in the pursuit of their own wants and desires.
He finds that everything, and everyone, in Paris is false, even if they appear absolutely to be the opposite. Lucien, like myself, is green and in the end Paris swallows him up. Of course, this kind of story is not particular to me, or Lucien, but you have to credit Balzac for nailing it.
Splendeurs Et Miseres DES Courtisanes (French Edition)
I inwardly belittled him, judged him harshly, and, quite literally at times, rolled my eyes at him. I suppose the reason for that is that not only was his story like mine, but his character also, and that embarrassed me. I even put the book down two or three times, actually abandoned it, because, I realised later, I wanted to distance myself from Lucien. Chardon is psychologically, emotionally, at war with himself.
Part of him is thoughtful, artistic, sensitive, and another part is ruthless and ambitious and self-serving. This is what makes Lucien human to the reader; he knows what the right thing is, and feels drawn to that course of action, and yet, because he is so self-obsessed, is able to convince himself that what ultimately serves his own desires is the right thing and will, in the end, produce the best results for everyone, even if he has to trample on them in the meantime.
This is, I would guess, why Balzac chose to call his protagonist a name that resembles the most seriously fallen, the most humanly flawed character in literature: Lucifer. Structurally Lost Illusions is really clever. In the beginning, Lucien plays court to Madame de Bargeton, the fashionable matriarch of Angouleme, and thinks, when he wins her, that he has done all the hard work, has won the finest victory, has raised himself to the top, only to find when they move to Paris that his victory is worthless, is nothing, and that there is a much greater, more difficult, war to fight: the fight to bring Paris under his heel.
What unravels after the opening section is, as noted, a tale of treachery and double-dealing of Shakespearean proportions, but I do not want to linger over all that. There are, however, numerous other fascinating ideas and themes present in the book. Lucien is of low birth, and so has barely a franc to his name. Yet his ambitions require capital. One needs money to make money. One needs money to grease wheels; one needs it to convince others of your worth. So it goes. David enters the novel as the son of old Sechard, the bear, who is engaged in selling his printing press to his progeny for an exorbitant price.
According to him:Il n'y a pas de principes, it n'y a que descirconstances: l'homme superieur epouse les evenementset les circonstances pour les conduire. It would seem that Balzac tended to applythis theory almost exclusively to the lower class criminal, asis evidenced by his description of the prisoners in "La derniereincarnation de Vautrin".
Furthermore, he does not fail tomention in Le Pere Goriot that Vautrin was a hairy, robust manwho, when arrested, reacted like a wild cat:Le sang lui monta au visage, et ses yeux brillerentcomme ceux d'un chat sauvage. Ii bondit sur lui-memepar un mouvement empreint d'une si feroce energie, itrugit si bien qu'il arracha des cris de terreur a tousles pensionnaires. A ce geste de lion, et s'appuyantde la clameur generale, les agents tirerent leurspistolets. Women, however, are not exempt from a tinge ofbestiality if they happen to belong to "les bas fonds" as can beseen in Balzac's description of Europe and particularly Asie whois ferocious, dark and ugly.
Perhaps one of the most interesting contradictions inBalzac's attitude towards crime is the ambiguity he ascribes to28the role of the criminal justice system. Le forgat devait toujours penser a savictime, et se venger alors que la justice ne songeaitplus ni a l'un ni a l'autre.
He provides an excellentexample of this weakness in the system which accounts forEurope's symbiotic association with Paccard and Vautrin who aremore capable of protecting her from the vengeance of a convictindicted on her testimony. By the same token, he condemns alegal system which can allow an honest man like David Sechard tobe treated like a criminal when those who exploited him are freeto prosper.
At the end of Illusions perdues, Jacques Collin alias Carlos Herrera takes full advantage of this injusticewhen he points out to Lucien:Il y a des gens sans instruction qui, presses par lebesoin, prennent une somme quelconque par violence, aautrui; on les nomme criminels et ils sont forces de29compter avec justice. Un pauvre homme de genie trouveun secret dont l'exploitation equivaut a un tresor,vous lui pretez trois mille francs , vous letourmentez de maniere a vous faire ceder tout oupartie du secret, vous ne comptez qu'avec votreconscience, et votre conscience ne vous mene pas encour d'assises.
The fate of Taillefer fils in Le Pere Goriot could perhaps beinterpreted as retribution for the murder his father committedand for which his friend was executed in one of Balzac's earliernovels entitled L'Auberqe rouge. La haute pagre In spite of the contradictions identified in Balzac'sconception of criminality, it cannot be denied that he leanstowards the depiction of a criminal world which exists outsideof society and which is governed by its own code of laws.
Thereis almost a type of elitism associated with certain criminalgroups such as "La Societe des Dix-Mille" of which Vautrinclaims to be a senior member and perhaps even their undisputedleader. However, according to Vidocq, this mysterious30association, which only accepted thieves who stole over tenthousand francs, was not based upon reality and existed only asa figment of the novelist's rich imagination. Although Balzac's knowledge of the criminal world at thetime of Le Pere Goriot appears to be restricted to a fewwords of slang such as "Sorbonne" and "tronche" for which heproudly provides a colourful definition, 12 he becomesconsiderably more familiar with the mechanisms of the judicialsystem and the workings of the so-called 'criminal mind' by when "La derniere incarnation de Vautrin" is finally publishedin La Presse.
As a matter of interest, this last part was notincluded as the conclusion of Splendeurs et miseres des courtisanes until several years after Balzac's death, when thedefinitive edition of La Comedie humaine was compiled. This was a time oframpant paranoia experienced by Parisians of all classes, whencriminals were seen or imagined to be lurking behind every31corner.
They were often fictionalized as semi-theatricalcharacters who could assume "a multitude of Protean guises inpursuit of that eminently Protean entity, money. The success of Les Myst6res de Paris also played its part, in so far as Balzac could notresist emulating and surpassing the work of a less talented3 2rival, and he even admits in a letter to Madame Hanska that inwriting the last part of Splendeurs et miseres: "je fais del'Eugene Sue tout pur". Criminal Profiles Although Victor Hugo easily rivals Balzac with his succinctdefinitions of criminal slang, his criminal profiles pale incomparison with those provided by the author of La Comediehumaine.
In Splendeurs et miseres des courtisanes, Balzacmanages to bring to life a multitude of colourful characters whoare fascinatingly evil and yet remain sufficiently associatedwith the human race to maintain their credibility. It has beennoted above that these criminal-type personalities are equallyrepresented on both sides of the law, and the complexity oftheir nature is well worth a brief examination before proceedingto a more in-depth study of Balzac's 'piece de resistance" whois, of course, Vautrin.
Apart from Vautrin, the only other character directlyassociated with the criminal justice system in Le Pere Goriot isthe police inspector Gondureau. It has been said that he, more33than Vautrin, is based upon the legendary Vidocq, and Pierre-Georges Castex even points out in his introduction to the novelthat in the original manuscript Mlle. Michonneau "alla trouverVidocq, le fameux chef de la police de sit-et -6". Although the other characters in Le Pere Goriot cannot bedescribed as overtly criminal, many can be classified as the'legal criminals' so often found in Balzac's novels, and some,such as Nucingen, actually show marked criminal tendencies.
Mlle Michonneau also provides an excellent example of a personwho could easily be persuaded to deviate from 'the path ofrighteousness' given sufficient financial encouragement:Puis le sobriquet de Venus du Pere-La-Chaise decidamademoiselle Michonneau a livrer le forcat au momentoil, confiante en la generosite de Collin, ellecalculait s'il ne valait pas mieux le prevenir et lefaire evader pendant la nuit.
However, we have to wait34for Splendeurs et miseres des courtisanes to encounter Balzac'smore poignant criminal profiles. It is only in this novel thatthe ambitious second-rate poet, Lucien Chardon, blossoms intoVautrin's parvenu accomplice now known as Lucien de Rubempre. This does not mean to say that he becomes any more interesting;in fact Lucien never really stands out as one of Balzac's greatcreations. He shares with Esther a certain lack of depth whichdeprives them both of any real credibility.
This isparticularly true of Esther, who was originally scheduled to beLa Torpille and whose identity seems to fluctuate rather toodramatically from virtue to vice without sufficientjustification.
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It would seem that, in the case of Splendeurs et miseres,Balzac concentrated his artistic energies on creating excellentsecondary characters such as Asie, Europe, Paccard and, ofcourse, the three police spies Corentin, Peyrade and Contenson. Of these three, perhaps Peyrade stands out as the most human dueto his fondness for his daughter, however, Contenson'spropensity for dissipation also serves to lend credibility tothe fact that such a man is unlikely to aspire to a positionmore elevated than police spy. It is interesting to note thatthe only one who remains alive to eventually defy Vautrin is theleast vulnerable Corentin whom Nucingen saw more as "undirecteur d'espionnage qu'un espion".
MAmong the real criminals, Asie, aka Jacqueline Collin,actually rivals Vautrin for strength and ingenuity, but this is35perhaps not surprising as she turns out to be his aunt. Balzac's description of "la marchande a la toilette" is bothvivid and convincing. She does,however, belong entirely with her nephew in the classical free-will classification of criminal profiles, which is not entirelythe case for her cohorts Europe and Paccard who tend to cleavetogether for protection.
These two characters fit more tidily into the neo-classicalmodel which allows for some degree of consideration forextenuating circumstances. Paccard is described by Corentin as"un grand drOle de Piemontais qui aime le vermouth" ,22 and his"friend", Europe, is presented with at least a modicum ofindulgence for her criminal behaviour. Corrompue a douze ans, mere a treizeans, elle se vit attachee a des etres profondementdegrades.
Although she is far less prominent thanEsther, she is more credible, as she is not inflicted withEsther's unrealistic fluctuations in attitude and behaviour. The remaining more secondary criminal characters tend tofall reasonably squarely into the Lombrosian category of borncriminals who can usually be easily identified by their lack ofintelligence and their bestial physical appearance. Among thisgroup are most of the convicts in La Conciergerie, such as LaPouraille, Fil-de-Soie and Le Biffon who are all too easilymanipulated by Vautrin's overwhelmingly superior intellect.
Only Vautrin's "ancien camarade de chaine", Theodore Calvi, ispermitted to rise a little above the others in order to justifythe favour and protection afforded him by the man who isundeniably one of Balzac's greatest creations. Vautrin This complex and controversial character has been thesubject of innumerable studies, and yet Balzac's real positionvis-a-vis Vautrin does not appear to have ever beensatisfactorily established. It would seem that there is adefinite evolution within the personality of Vautrin from hisinitial entrance on the scene in la pension Vauquer to his last'incarnation' in l'hOtel Serizy.
He is originally described in37Le Pare Goriot as a rather vulgar court jester 24 with taintedpaternal tendencies which in some ways rival Goriot's twistedand almost perverted paternal feelings. Balzac'sintroduction of Vautrin is in itself paradoxical; on the onehand he is "un fameux gaillard" whose deep jovial voice was inharmony with his pleasing gaiety, yet in the same descriptiveparagraph he also makes the menacing statement:Sa figure, rayee par des rides prematurees, offraitdes signes de durete que dementaient ses manieressouples et liantes.
Rastignac's attitude towardVautrin confirms Balzac's ambivalence when he reflects aftertheir long conversation, or more precisely after Vautrin's longmonlogue:En deux mots, ce brigand m'a dit plus de choses sur lavertu que ne m'en ont dit les hommes et les livres. Il eut peur, mais sans temoins: les hommesles plus courageux s'abandonnent alors a la peur.
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Michonneau who was responsible fordenouncing him. Although Carlos Herrera still possesses strong predatorytendencies when Vautrin reappears at the end of Illusionsperdues, he never quite recaptures the dynamism he so obviouslyexudes in Le Pere Goriot. The Jacques Collin of Splendeurs et miseres des courtisanes is a more overtly vicious character than the Vautrin of Le PereGoriot, in as much as he is actually seen to kill, swindle andprocure quite deliberately and without any sign of mercy orremorse, whereas his crimes are not specified in the earliernovel. This viciousness is in some ways emphasized by theemotional vulnerability inspired by Lucien, i.
It has been argued that Vautrin undergoes a metamorphosisfrom an essentially masculine to a feminine personality. This40argument has been succinctly presented in an article by MartherNiess Moss who states that Balzac has motivated the actions ofhis characters by deliberately polarizing masculine and femininepsycholgical traits. According to her:Masculinity is characterised repeatedly in terms ofintelligence, cunning, strength , will and energy,while femininity is defined in terms of sensibility,sensitivity, weakness, frailty and passivity. However, life is suddenly rekindled in thisextraordinatory criminal who miraculously overcomes excruciatinggrief to once again throw the gauntlet in the face of society byoffering to play by its own rules.
He is quickly and unrealisticallyextricated from his brief moment of weakness to emerge everfascinating and triumphant when he finally reflects to himself:Its me croient, ils ob6issent a mes revelations, etils me laisseront a ma place. Je regnerai toujourssur ce monde, qui, depuis vingt-cinq ans, m'obeit The realromantic approach to criminality within society will, however,he explored in greater detail in the next chapter devoted toVictor Hugo. Balzac's ambivalence regarding Vautrin only servesto emphasize the ambiguity of his social position which promptedhim to uphold society's values while secretly resenting and evencondemning them.
Having made thisstatement, it might be appropriate to emphasize that Hugo placedsignificantly more criminal responsibility upon the state andwent so far as to proclaim himself "l'avocat des miserables" and"l'accusateur public du crime universel". However, he was soon to develop a socialconscience after witnessing the branding of a young woman in and the execution of Jean Martin in Il se coupait bien de temps en temps en France unetate par-ci par-la, deux tout au plus par semaine. Tout cela sans bruit, sans scandale. Its ne disaientrien. Personne n'y songeait.
Pas du tout, voila unlivre Anyone familiar with the preface Hugo added three years later in would be hard pressed not to recognize an undisguised andsomewhat clumsy plea for the abolition of the death penalty. Itis quite obvious that Hugo was making no pretence of realismwhen he described a man with his head half cut off standing upand pleading for mercy! Thisking was soon to prove a disappointment to the liberalintelligentsia to which Hugo belonged.
However, the JulyRevolution was nevertheless crucial to a major reorientation ofRomantic sensibility during the first half of the 's, whenthe most influential French Romantics began to consider socialaction no less important than individual expression. It is largely while inexile that Hugo wrote Les Miserables, but it is during theinterim period between and that much of the45preparation for this mammoth work took place.
The problems ofsociety and its organisation were critical to him in the early's, and he was greatly influenced by social thinkers such asPierre Leroux, a follower of Claude-Henri de Saint-Simon , and Charles Fourier whose plans for a betterworld "demonstrate the interaction between individual feelingand collective responsibility typical of French Romanticism inthe 's". In this short story, looselybased upon fact, Hugo places his belief in the sanctity of humanlife in direct conflict with human justice. He allows ClaudeGueux to hack a man to death with his blessing after receivingthe consent of his fellow prisoners.
It would seem that in thisinstance, Hugo squarely sacrifices one of his most deeply feltideals for the sake of another, and one is tempted to concludethat this is the direct result of the poet's newly foundpolitical and social orientation. Although such a flagrant conflict is not to be repeated inHugo's works, other less glaring contrasts in the poet'sideologies can often be identified. When he is obliged tochoose between his philosophical doctrines and his politicalpassions, his passions usually prove to be the stronger.
He hasgreat difficulty reconciling his pacifism with his patriotism,as is evidenced by his reticence to condemn the revolutionary46violence of or the wars of the glorious Napoleonic era. Jean Valjean's clemency onthis occasion can be seen to be in marked contrast with theviolence of Claude Gueux, when one considers that both men hadbeen equally provoked. Hugo also demonstrates certain contradictions in hispolitical beliefs regarding property.
Although he openlycondemns the bourgeoisie for their tyrannical selfishness andchallenges society to improve the appalling living conditionswhich lead the working class into a life of crime, he neveradvocates communism. His ideal seems to be a benevolentcapitalism which is exemplified by the general prosperity ofMontreuil-sur-Mer under the altruistic guidance of MonsieurMadeleine. Hugo appears to be in favour of a greater sharing ofproperty, but offers no solution to social inequality whichwould remain in an attenuated form.
For instance, Hugo firmly believed that, for the most47part, magistrates allowed themselves to be governed by theletter of the law and did not pay sufficient attention toextenuating circumstances when passing judgment. This opinionis amply expressed by the five year sentence inflicted upon JeanValjean for the theft of a loaf of bread. Although it could not really be argued that Victor Hugoever seriously questioned the power of divine right, hesometimes wavered in his optimism regarding the people's naturalright to govern themselves.
He shared with his enlightenedcontemporaries the theoretical belief that universal suffragewas the instrument of political progress, but he was not alwaysconfident that all levels of society possessed the requiredmoral fibre to make what he considered to be the correctpolitical decisions. He was bitterly disappointed in thepeople's choice to abdicate their own power in , and feltcompelled to advocate certain limitations to their politicalfreedom. It has been established that the poet was greatlyinfluenced by Dante's Divine Comedy, and in writing about LesMiserables to a friend from his exile in Brussels in , heactually states: "Dante a fait un Enfer avec de la poesie, moij'ai essaye d'en faire un avec la realite.
L'Ugolin social est dansce gouffre. These human larvae are depictedwith such horror that the reader cannot fail to feel revulsion,and at least some degree of fear for the consequences of socialapathy. Unfortunately, this powerful effect is somewhat diffused bythe following chapter which introduces the four leading membersof the criminal gang "Patron-Minette" in such a way as to reducethem to ridiculous caricatures. Although Hugo violently opposeddeterminist theories introduced by such thinkers as HippolyteTaine , 17 he shows some signs of adhering to theconcept of the 'born criminal' put forward by the Lombrosianschool when he attributes a number of brutish physicalcharacteristics to the thug, Gueulemer:Front bas, tempes larges, moins de quarante ans et lapatte d'oie, le poil rude et court, la joue en brosse,une barbe sangliere; on voit d'ici l'homme.
C'etait une grosse force paresseuse. After Montparnasse has unsuccessfully attemptedto rob Valjean, he is treated to a lecture on the consequencesof laziness which will lead him to perpetual suffering at the50hands of the criminal justice system. The departure of "lachaine" from Bicdtre in Le dernier jour d'un condamne and theconditions of the galley slaves kept for months in the Chateletprison under the Seine during the Seventeenth Centure are twoexamples of Hugo's deliberate delving into the mire to capturethe emotions of the public.
The poet constantly makes effective use of the contrastbetween light and dark to symbolize the freedom of the sky andthe oppression of the earth. A progression from sunlight todarkness can be detected in Le dernier jour d'un condamne as thecondemned man gradually moves away from any glimmer of hopetowards the perpetual darkness of death. It is not by chance that Jean Valjean drags Marius throughthe subterranean tunnels of the Paris sewers only to eventuallyemerge into the light.
This symbolic journey is contained inPart V, Book III entitled "La boue, mais lame", and the Bookdescribing Jean Valjean's final hours is called "Supreme ombre,supeme aurore" which in some way summarises his life. It couldbe argued that these constant juxtapositions between high andlow, and light and dark, although well intentioned andcharacteristic of the romantic mind, have in fact resulted in anover simplification of the social evils which Hugo wished toexpose and remedy.
In an article published in , AugusteDezalay draws some 'enlightening' comparisons between Hugo'sfigurative treatment of extremes and Zola's more concreteinterpretation of subterranean life in Germinal. He does,however, convincingly argue that Hugo's overpowering manichaeismdid in fact have some influence upon the socialist views sovehemently expressed in Germinal which will be further exploredin the next chapter. However, as Hugo became increasingly involved in socialreform, his criminals can more easily be identified with therest of humanity, even if they in fact often differ fromreality.
Generally, he tended to lean towards describingoccasional delinquents who were driven to crime through hungerand despair. Thisconsummate evildoer possesses no redeeming qualities and can beseen to epitomize the squallor of the criminal world which hasnothing exciting to offer. It is nevertheless interesting tonote that he and his equally ugly wife defy all the theories ofhereditary degeneracy so dear to Zola by producing basicallyuntainted children of a completely different stamp.
So are those two littleinnocent boys left adrift in Paris and momentarily taken in byGavroche who gallantly offers them the hospitality of hiselephant on the site of the old Bastille. Gavroche, whose name has become synonymous with streeturchin, is a delightful character, but apart from breaking a fewstreet lamps, he bears very little resemblance to what isgeneraly known about the criminal behaviour of abandoned53vagrants.
Charles Dickens' Artful Dodger, though stillromanticised, is closer to reality in as much as he is actuallya pick-pocket who actively recruits prospective young thievesfor Fagan. Eponine, on the other hand, possesses a certainbasic humanity which is far more convincing and endearing thanHugo's portrayal of the 'virtuous Fantine'.
This idealized andangelic young woman described as "un de ces dtres qui sont toutensemble faibles et horribles et qui font fremir ceux qu'ils nefont pas pleurer" 25 is still endowed with a certain amount ofchildish vanity which prompts her to brag about her ability toread in an attempt to impress Marius. Neither Fantine nor Cosette warrant any particularattention, but both women offer typical examples of the sociallydesirable Nineteenth Century female while serving mainly ascatalysts for the development of the plot. Cosette as a childis a mere Cinderella figure, and as an adult she does verylittle to further our modern day expectations of femininefulfillment.
Fantine, although cast in the role of a femalecriminal, i. Thefact is that very few truly criminal types emerge from any ofthe three works under consideration. The condemned man in Ledernier jour d'un condamne does not even make any pretence ofbelonging to a criminal world, as the exact nature of his crimeis never divulged. Claude Gueux is introduced as "un pauvre54ouvrier" with "une belle tdte" 26 who is befriended by an almostaltruistic fellow prisoner, Albin, who offers to alleviateClaude's hunger by sharing his food.
Although such cases ofunselfish bonding may occasionally exist within the prisoncommunity, they would certainly not constitute the rule andwould never be considered representative of prison interaction. Il vivaithabituellement dans cette ombre, tatonnant comme unaveugle This is not to say that Valjean was originally55dangerous when he was sentenced to five years in the galleys forstealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving children.
The only time Valjean was ever a real threat to society wasafter society had made him so, and he would definitely haveremained a significant threat if he had not encountered BishopMyriel who quite literally redeemed his soul with two silvercandlesticks, but not before Valjean had relieved him of hissilverware.
With the exception of the Petit Gervais episode,necessary for the development of the plot by making Valjean arecidivist and therefore eligible for recapture, Valjeanundergoes an idealistic faith conversion and soon becomes theunrealistic epitome of goodness and self-sacrifice. This romanticized image of the criminal as saint, thoughfar removed from human reality, does nevertheless convey thesocial reality that "no Christian world forgives anyone, noteven this man for whom there is nothing to forgive".
This much maligned police56officer has been the subject of considerable debate. It hasbeen previously mentioned that Jean Savant vehemently denied anyresemblance to Vidocq, and it has also been argued that someresemblance was in fact intended see page Although Javertcould never be considered a likeable character, it could beargued that he too is a victim of society's intransigence. Throughout the interminable manhunt, Javert remains lockedwithin his own self-loathing for the degrading circumstances inwhich providence saw fit to have him born.
Born in a prison ofa prostitute mother and galley slave father, Javert, likeValjean, is equally branded with the stamp of outcast which henever ceases to repudiate. He refuses to contemplate anydeviation from the rules laid down by the authorities to whichhe is subservient, and he does not dare ever question therighteousness of the path he has chosen as his own means ofredemption.
When Valjean eventually proves to him that anotherway exists, he actually does go off the rails, as the title ofthe chapter describing his suicide implies "Javert deraille". Or it venait de faillir. During this period, the actual concept behind theword 'miserable' underwent an evolution which coincided with thesocial and political changes taking place at the time. In otherwords, the 'signifier' no longer exactly represented the same'signified'. In , when Balzac published La derni6reincarnation de Vautrin, he described the prisoners in the"preau" as "ces miserables, qui, pour la plupart, appartiennentaux plus basses classes", 32 and the reader is at no pains tounderstand that the term 'miserable' meant wrongdoer usuallyfound in the lower echelons of society.
For thisreason, the manuscript was originally entitled Les Miseres whenthe writing first started in , but his work was interruptedby the events of and again by the coup d'Etat of whichturned the poet's attention to other matters. He did not resumecomposition of the manuscript until , when the titlesuddenly changes to Les Miserables. Evolution interne d'un mot qui, sous une formeinchangee, traduit une evolution des faits et del'opinion concernant les faits, aussi nettement qu'uneample description du phenomene. We also read that"Tous les crimes de l'homme commencent au vagabondage del'enfant" 36 and yet we are presented with the altruistic braveryof Gavroche.
It is true that we are also offered Thenardier,Montparnasse, and the other less than attractive members of thecriminal gang "Patron-Minette", but it has already beenmentioned that for the most part these characters do not comparewell with the villains in La Comedie humaine. The criminalitywhich really lives in this novel is the borderline crimeperpetrated out of need, ignorance and desperation.
It might be said that Victor Hugo did in fact achieve whatwould seem to have been his goal: he was successful in awakeningthe public's awareness to the plight of the wretched. Thecrimes most prevalent in this work are those endured by thepopulace, and not those perpetrated against the propertiedclasses. Within the innumerable pages of Les Miserables, weencounter child abuse, exploitation of women, false arrest,persecution of ex-convicts, abandonment of the elderly, and thelist continues. Social thinkers such as Gabriel Tarde and Emile Durkheim advanced theories ofmoral responsibility and anomie dereglement which implied thatcriminal behaviour was largely a result of socialcircumstances.
In his book La Philosophie penale , Gabriel Tarde wrote:The majority of murderers and notorious thieves beganas children who have been abandoned, and the trueseminary of crime must be sought for upon each publicsquare or each crossroad of our towns, whether they besmall or large, in those flocks of pillaging streeturchins, who, like bands of sparrows, associatetogether, at first for marauding, and then for theft,because of a lack of education and food in theirhomes.
It is true that he painted an idealized picturewhich easily lends itself to criticism, and it is equally truethat he carefully avoided the realistic portrayal of uglinesswhich was all too often to be found among the urban,industrialized poor. This task was to fall to Emile Zola whowas somewhat chided by Victor Hugo and many others for his frankand unflattering picture of the working poor in L'Assommoir in The four novelschosen for this study provide examples of four different typesof criminality: a crime of sexual passion in Therese Raquin; ahomicidal maniac among other murderers in La Bate humaine;crimes committed as a result of alcoholic intoxication inL'Assommoir; and the insurrectional criminality of the crowd inGerminal.
The approach of Emile Zola is however profoundlydifferent from that of Victor Hugo, as it avoids any incursioninto the realm of the metaphysical and ignores the concept ofgood and evil. In many respects Zola's work is much closer tothat of Balzac, as it is steeped in an atmosphere of materialismand determinism, but Zola has taken realism one step furtherthan his predecessor by giving it a scientific foundation.
Zola, like Balzac, was ambitious. He was born in intoa family unjustly impoverished by the premature death of hisItalian father who was denied credit for the development of acanal system in Aix-en-Provence. He shared with theParis poor a sense of relative deprivation when being forced to63witness the Second Empire's display of ferocious opulence whichcontrasted sharply with the general population's struggle toearn enough to eat.
This happy state of affairs was tolast only until the publication of seven controversial articleswhich earned him his dismissal in late Word got aroundthat the highly opinionated writer attracted more trouble thanhe was worth, and during , he was forced to accept literaryhackwork for whatever payment he could squeeze fromunenthusiastic publishers. It is during this time that he wascommissioned to sensationalize legal documents from the files ofthe Aix and Marseilles law courts. He developed a series ofstories under the title of Les Mvsteres de Marseilles whichbegan to be published in serial form in March Itdid, however, serve to provide the novelist with time tocomplete Therese Raquin, which also happened to be based upon apreviously published court case where a woman and her lover killher unwanted husband and are subsequently brought to trial.
Zola speculated that it would be interesting to create a64situation where the lovers' crime went undetected and in whichthe protagonists became rivetted together through fear andremorse. The publication of Therese Raquin in December provokeda violent reaction from the critics who accused the youngnovelist of producing "une litterature putride" 4 which wastantamount to pornography. Zola answered the critics in arather pompous preface to the second edition of the novel bysummarizing his so-called 'scientific' method in a way whichlaid the foundation of what came to be known as 'naturalism'.
Literary and Scientific Influences It has been speculated that the authors which Zola placedunder the banner of 'naturalism' included Hippolite Taine, theGoncourt brothers and perhaps Hector Malot and Alexandre Dumas,fils. In many ways, he wished to rival Balzac, whom he criticallyadmired, by producing a series of interwoven novels alongsimilar lines to La Comedie humaine.
C'est de Darwin! Lalitterature, c'est ga! Since adolescence, Zola had been fascinated by physiologyand he devoured Clftence Royer's translation of Darwin's On66the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection Prior to this, he had read Prosper Lucas' Traite philosophiqueet phvsiologique de l'Heredite naturelle which had firstappeared in At the time, ideas on heredity were sospeculative that it suited Zola to use the information providedin this work to establish his Rougon-Macquart family tree.
Zolahad a tendency to adopt scientific theories and add his ownimaginative extensions with rather more enthusiasm thandiscernment, and it is no doubt for this reason that he happilyannexed the theory of experimentation put forward by ClaudeBernard in his book entitled Introduction a la medecineexperimentale. Today, Zola's experimental theories areconsidered even more 'fragile'", and the concept of literarynaturalism is attributed almost exclusively to the work of EmileZola. Although the biological methodology of Claude Bernard isstill today considered sound, and the ideas of Prosper Lucas onheredity are beginning to re-emerge, many of the wilderscientific theories introduced in the Nineteenth Century andeagerly adopted by Zola have long since been refuted, but theynevertheless contributed to the expansion of the rationalscientific method of research originally introduced during theEnlightenment.
According to Lombroso, atavistic tendencies implied a'throwback' to an earlier stage of evolution which wascharacterized by inferior morphological features and primitivebehaviour in direct conflict with the rules of 'civilizedsociety'. Morel's degeneration myth of hereditary taint has nowbeen completely discredited, but at the time Zola was laying the68foundations for Les Rougon-Macquart, the theory was being givena great deal of attention. These ideas did in fact form thebasis of the neurotic disequilibrium and the propensity foralcoholic abuse passed on by the union of Adelaide Fouques Tante Dide and her lover Macquart.
It is even interesting tonote that out of the twenty novels in the Rougon-Macquart seriesonly five are dedicated to the more stable Rougon side of thefamily and, perhaps with the exception of Le Docteur Pascal,they make for far less exciting reading. Apart from Therese Raquin which is not part of the Rougon-Macquart chronicle, the novels under consideration in this studybelong to the Macquart branch of the family, and together withNana and possibly L'Oeuvre which are not included here, they aregenerally considered to represent Zola's finest work.
It wouldseem that Gervaise and her tainted progeny provided the bestexamples of Zola's literary creation. The degenerative legacyof Macquart is clearly evident in L'Assommoir which slowly andpainfully depicts Gervaise's gradual and predetermined descentinto ignominious death:Elle devenait idiote, elle ne songeait seulement pasa se jeter du sixieme sur le pave de la cour, pour enfinir.
La mort devait la prendre petit a petit,morceau par morceau, en la trainant ainsi jusqu'aubout dans la sacree existence qu'elle s'etait faite. It hasalready been mentioned that many of Zola's contemporaries, amongthem Victor Hugo, were shocked by what they considered to be histasteless emphasis of hitherto unmentionable subjects and,because his novels were bestsellers, the author was oftenaccused of riding on the tide of sensationalism.