Eugénie Honoré de Balzac Grandet Criticism - Essay

Hippolyte Adolphe Taine (essay date 1865)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Great Characters," in Balzac: A Critical Study, translated by Lorenzo O'Rourke, 1906. Reprint by Haskell House Publishers Ltd., 1973, pp. 189-216.

[In the excerpt below, from a translation of an essay originally published in 1865, Taine examines the character Grandet, noting Balzac's skill in depicting depraved characters as fascinating studies. The critic also compares Balzac's skill with that of Shakespeare.]

If you believe that reason is the essential thing in human nature, you will take reason for your hero, and you will paint generosity and virtue. If your eyes are directed to the external machine, and are fixed merely upon the body, you will choose...

(The entire section is 1854 words.)

Every Saturday (essay date 1873)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Eugénie Grandet," in Every Saturday, Vol. III, No. 6, February 8, 1873, pp. 148-50.

[In the following essay, the critic reviews the plot of Eugénie Grandet, providing running commentary throughout.]

The lives of women, and especially of young women, are often strangely separated from the life of the principal personage of the house they live in. There are houses, especially in small country towns, where there is a remarkable difference of scale in the interests of the lives that are passed in them; where the father is occupied with vast pecuniary transactions, and the daughters are economizing shillings; where the father takes a share in considerable...

(The entire section is 3078 words.)

The Critic, New York (review date 1886)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Eugénie Grandet," in The Critic, New York, Vol. VI, No. 134, July 24, 1886, pp. 40-1.

[In the following excerpt, the critic summarizes the plot of Eugénie Grandet in the course of recommending "the sweetest and saddest" of Balzac's idylls.]

Eugénie Grandet, if not the greatest, is the tenderest of Balzac's confessions, the sweetest and saddest of his idylls. There are such malignities and benignities in it, such pathos and cruelty, such gentleness and diablerie, such contrasts of light and shade, such flashes of light and darkness. There is no more marvellous juxtaposition in fiction than the contrasted groups of the two Grandet families—of the young Parisian dandy flung like a meteor across Eugenie's path and Eugénie herself, of the beautiful simplicity and refinement of Eugénie and her mother over against the infernal wickedness of Père Grandet. And the scene where Eugénie and Charles exchange confidences and gifts, at midnight, in the old house, is surpassingly lovely—a genre group equal to the exquisite felicities of Clärchen and Egmont, of Gretchen and Faust, of Little Nell or of Paul Dombey. Never has the desperate solitude of French provincial life been more sorrowfully, more luminously depicted; and the solitude of the Grandet house, wherein Eugénie grows up like a shining clematis-blossom, is mingled with that Miltonic darkness which may be felt. Contrasted with the moral beauty of the daughter—a bud that, like the cereus-bloom, flies wide open in a night and fills the whole house with perfume on the approach of Charles—stands the devilish excrescence of a father, gnarled and hideous as the rooted mandrake, all flesh, without conscience, with no passion or principle but love of money; a cartouche passionless as a stone, yet fraught with the diabolic hieroglyphics of sin and avarice. That so sweet a root—so perfect a flower—as Eugénie could spring from such a source is one of the marvels not of Balzac but of life. The astounding power displayed in these contrasts and throughout the work, the analytical geometry of the heart herein so wonderfully diagrammed, developed, read for yourself, see for yourself: no criticism can well do it justice.

Frederick Wedmore (essay date 1890)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Chapter II" and "Chapter VII," in Life of Honoré de Balzac, Walter Scott, 1890, pp. 24-32, 67-75.

[In the following excerpt from his biography of Balzac, Wedmore offers a short critical overview of Eugénie Grandet.]

Eugénie Grandet, though a larger picture [than Illusions Perdues], is still a Dutch picture. It, too, is occupied with the intimate study of narrow fortunes; with the chronicle of the approach of private and inevitable trouble. In both, a woman—but the device is a favourite one of Balzac's—idealizes a relationship into which the commonplace must greatly enter. In both, a heart stirs somewhat restlessly in a confined cage,...

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George Saintsbury (essay date 1907)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A preface to Eugénie Grandet, by Honoré de Balzac, translated by Ellen Marriage, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1930, pp. xi-xv.

[Saintsbury is considered one of the world's foremost authorities on Balzac's work during the early twentieth century. In the following excerpt from his preface to the Everyman Edition (1907) of Balzac's novel, he discourses on Eugénie Grandet as a work that is "very nearly perfect. "]

With Eugénie Grandet, as with one or two, but only one or two others of Balzac's works, we come to a case of Quis vituperavit? Here, and perhaps here only, with Le Médecin de Campagne and Le Père...

(The entire section is 1204 words.)

Adaline Lincoln Lush (essay date 1932)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The House of the Miser: Eugénie Grandet," in Studies in Balzac's Realism, by E. Preston Dargan, W. L. Crain, and others, The University of Chicago Press, 1932, pp. 121-35.

[In the essay below, Lush analyzes the characterization and action of Eugénie Grandet.]

The manuscript of Eugénie Grandet was presented to Mme Hanska in December, 1833. This work made its initial appearance in printed form, as a whole, in the first volume of the first edition of the Scènes de la vie de province (1834-37). L'Europe littéraire on September 19, 1833, contained the first chapter and the titles of the remaining chapters. It was not...

(The entire section is 6140 words.)

Ray P. Bowen (essay date 1940)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Acts and Scenes: Eugénie Grandet," "Settings, Costumes, and Groupings: Eugénie Grandet," and "Dialogue: Eugénie Grandet," in The Dramatic Construction of Balzac's Novels, University of Oregon, 1940, pp. 26-31, 81-2, 106.

[In The Dramatic Construction of Balzac's Novels, Bowen seeks "to reveal by examination of the novels themselves whether there is not something more than just a dramatic pattern running through them and also whether there is not a manner of building according to which the author, consciously or unconsciously, constructed them so as to give them the dramatic form that characterizes his method of composition. " In the excerpt below from...

(The entire section is 2979 words.)

Martin Turnell (essay date 1950)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Four Novels: Eugénie Grandet," in The Novel in France: Mme de La Fayette, Laclos, Constant, Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert, Proust, New Directions, 1950, pp. 235-39.

[Turnell has written extensively on French literature of the last three centuries. In the following excerpt, he cites Andre Gide's criticisms of Eugénie Grandet in his own short critique of that novel.]

'It does not seem to me to be one of the best of Balzac's novels or to deserve the extraordinary favour it has enjoyed,' remarks Gide of Eugénie Grandet. 'The style is extremely mediocre; the characters could scarcely be more summary; the dialogue is conventional and...

(The entire section is 1478 words.)

Marcel Girard (essay date 1956)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Eugénie Grandet, by Honoré de Balzac, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1956, pp. v-xv.

[In the following essay, Girard provides a critical and historical overview of Eugénie Grandet, sketching the novel's geographical, social, and biographical background.]

Towards the end of his life Balzac began to hate being called 'father of Eugénie Grandet.' He imagined that this emphasis upon his first great novel was calculated to derogate from the remainder of his work. 'It is admittedly a masterpiece,' he used to say, 'but only a little one'; and in the end he came to loathe it!

While recognizing that Balzac...

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Richard Aldington (essay date 1961)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Eugénie Grandet, by Honoré de Balzac, translated by Ellen Marriage, The Heritage Press, 1961, pp. ix-xvi.

[Aldington is perhaps best known as the editor of the Imagist periodical the Egoist and as an influential member of the Imagist movement, whose other members included Hilda Doolittlewho became Aldington's first wife in 1913Ezra Pound, and Amy Lowell. As a literary critic and biographer, he combined his skills as a poet, his sensitivity as a reader, and his personal reminiscences to produce criticism that is creative as well as informative. In the preface to the Heritage Press edition of Eugénie Grandet, Aldington offers a...

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Diana Festa-McCormick (essay date 1979)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Productive Years," in Honoré de Balzac, Twayne Publishers, 1979, pp. 41-55.

[In the excerpt below, Festa-McCormick examines those elements that make Eugénie Grandet "one of the classics of world fiction, "focusing especially upon Balzac's depiction of the miser Grandet. The critic concludes by exploring the mystery of the identity of the "Maria" to whom Balzac dedicated the novel.]

A Modern Tragedy in Bourgeois Setting: Eugénie Grandet

Eugénie Grandet ranks among the classics of universal fiction, almost on a par with Madame Bovary—less ambitious, but equally well constructed, with restraint and poetic...

(The entire section is 2453 words.)

Alexander Fischler (essay date 1989)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Eugénie Grandet's Career as Heavenly Exile," in Essays in Literature, Vol. XVI, No. 2, Fall 1989, pp. 271-80.

[In the following essay, Fischler examines Balzac's depiction of Eugénie as an exile from the heavenly realm.]

Balzac liked to suggest to his readers that some of the exceptional men and women of La Comédie humaine were exiles, more suited for a realm where categories and gradation are irrelevant than for cramped quarters "ici-bas." The argument was a romantic commonplace. He was able to vitalize it, however, by adding consistently a very literal dimension to exile as metaphor, by suggesting, as he did in Eugénie...

(The entire section is 5072 words.)