Honoré de Balzac World Literature Analysis
The fullest expression of Balzac’s vision is The Human Comedy. Although it comprises more than ninety novels and stories, it was never completed. Enough is in place, however, to allow one to grasp the outer limits and inner workings of a complete universe. As Napoleon I set out to conquer Europe—a parallel of which Balzac was well aware—Balzac set out to conquer the world that he envisioned by capturing it in words. Province by province and realm by realm, Balzac added to his universe of human types, occupations, and conditions.
The idea of using recurring characters—coming to the foreground in some works, receding to the background in others, thus creating an effect of multidimensional reality—came to Balzac spontaneously, indeed as an organic outgrowth of his work. Yet he found philosophical support for his method in the thinking of French naturalist Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire regarding the unity in diversity of all creation.
Balzac bases his compelling vision upon portraits of physically and psychologically convincing individuals. The reader is made to care enough about Balzac’s individual characters to absorb even the most prosaic details of their occupations and, eventually, the workings of the social forces that buffet them.
One of Balzac’s most moving characters is Père Goriot, in the novel of the same name. At first, Balzac reveals little more of him than that he is a retired pasta maker, a thoroughly...
(The entire section is 3281 words.)
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