Eugénie Grandet

by Honoré Balzac

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The eponymous ingenue of Balzac's Eugenie Grandet, is the daughter Felix, a man of miserly disposition despite being the beneficiary of a substantial family inheritance. Although his family members are completely unaware of this wealth, and have become accustomed to their threadbare existence, the local townspeople are not deceived. In particular, Monsieur Grandet's lawyer, Cruchot, is hoping to marry his nephew to the twenty-three-year-old future heiress Eugenie, while his banker Grassins harbors similar intentions for his son.

However their plans are foiled when Felix's reprobate nephew Charles arrives from Paris. Unbeknownst to Charles, his father, Guillaume, is about to end his life due to the failure of his business. The provincial Eugenie is dazzled by her cousin's patrician elegance and the two immediately fall in love. Before his imminent departure for the Indies to become a trader, Eugenie contributes a few gold pieces to aid his business.

When Felix later figures out that his daughter is no longer in possession of the gold coins, this monster of avarice cuts of all communication with his wife and daughter, with the latter confined to her room. His wife becomes ill from this treatment, and soon dies. Although she is now entitled to a share of the family wealth, Monsieur Grandet tricks Eugenie into signing her bequest over to him.

Following her father's death, Eugenie continues to live in the house with loyal family servant, Nanon.

After seven years during which he has never communicated with her, Eugenie hears from Charles, who has returned to France a wealthy, but apparently corrupt man. Although he repays his financial debt to her, he reveals that he no longer loves her and plans to marry the daughter of an impoverished member of the nobility to restore his family's name. Heartbroken, she releases him from his obligation and sends him the family keepsake he had left in her care.

Eugenie finally decides to accept the standing offer of marriage from the lawyer's nephew, Cruchot des Bonfons. However she insists on two conditions: that it will be a marriage in name only, and that he go to Paris to pay off the debts of Guilliaume Grandet to clear his family's name, a responsibility which her father had neglected. He agrees.

Cruchot des Bonfons dies not long thereafter, leaving Eugenie a very wealthy widow. She continues to live the same modest and virtuous life with Nanon and her new husband as her sole companions.

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