Père Goriot

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First page of Le Père Goriot (1st volume)

Le Père Goriot[a] (French pronunciation: ​[lə pɛʁ ɡɔʁjo], "Old Goriot" or "Father Goriot") is an 1835 novel by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850). It is in the Scènes de la vie privée section of his novel sequence La Comédie humaine. It is set in Paris in 1819. It follows the lives of three characters: the elderly Goriot, a mysterious criminal named Vautrin and a naive law student named Eugène de Rastignac.

The novel takes place during the Bourbon Restoration. It brought major changes to French society. The struggle by individuals to reach a higher social status is a major theme in the book. Balzac analyzes through Goriot and others the nature of family and marriage that provides a pessimistic view of them.

Publication[change | change source]

In the first book edition,[1] the novel had seven chapters:

  • In the first volume:[2]
    • Une Pension bourgeoise (A Bourgeois Boarding House)
    • Les Deux Visites (The Two Visits)
    • L'Entrée dans le Monde (The Entrance into the World)
  • In the second volume:[3]
    • L'Entrée dans le Monde (Suite) (The Entrance into the World (Continuation))
    • Trompe-la-Mort (Cheat-the-Death, Death-Dodger, or Dare-Devil)
    • Les Deux Filles (The Two Daughters)
    • La Mort du Père (The Father's Death)

The character Eugène de Rastignac had appeared as an old man in Balzac's earlier philosophical fantasy novel La Peau de chagrin. While writing the first version of Le Père Goriot, Balzac named the character "Massiac", but he decided to use the same character from La Peau de chagrin. Other characters were changed in a similar way.

Legacy[change | change source]

Le Père Goriot is widely considered Balzac's essential novel. Its influence on French literature has been considerable, as shown by novelist Félicien Marceau's remark: "We are all children of Le Père Goriot."

In his book Le Pére Goriot: Anatomy of a Troubled World, Martin Kanes calls it "the keystone of the Comédie humaine". It is the central text of Anthony Pugh's study Balzac's Recurring Characters. Entire chapters have been written about the detail of the Maison Vauquer.

Thus, says Balzac biographer Graham Robb, "Goriot is one of the novels of La Comédie humaine that can safely be read in English for what it is."

According to the editor of the Norton Critical Edition, Peter Brooks, the book is now seen as "the most endurable and popular of Balzac's myriad works" and a "classic of the [18th]-century European novel".

A well-known line of this book by Balzac is when Vautrin tells Eugene, "In that case I will make you an offer that no one would decline."

This has been reworked by Mario Puzo in the novel The Godfather (1969) and its movie adaptation (1972) as "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse".

It was ranked as the second most significant cinematic quote in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes (2005) by the American Film Institute.

Notes[change | change source]

  1. In some publications, the title is written simply as Père Goriot (including without the grave accent, as Pere Goriot) or Anglicized as Old Goriot.

References[change | change source]

  1. Le Père Goriot. T. 1 / , histoire parisienne publiée par M. De Balzac. 1835.
  2. Le Père Goriot. T. 1 / , histoire parisienne publiée par M. De Balzac. 1835.
  3. Le Père Goriot. T. 2 / , histoire parisienne publiée par M. De Balzac. 1835.

Bibliography[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]