Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Maison Vauquer

Maison Vauquer (MAY-sohn voh-KAY). Run-down boardinghouse (pension) in the Latin Quarter area of Paris. The house’s parlor with its ugly decor, the dining room with its sticky furniture, and the kitchen with its nauseating smells, as well as wretched bedrooms, constitute a perfect example of bad taste and squalor. In fact, the entire house, which long ago saw better days, reflects the current low socioeconomic status of both its owner, Madame Vauquer, and its tenants. It is no wonder, therefore, that most of its boarders hope to escape to better lodgings, starting with the poor law student Eugène de Rastignac, who resolutely sets out on his climb up the ladder. Only the archcriminal Monsieur Vautrin prefers to live in such an environment, so he can better hide from the police.

The maison is the novel’s main focal point, since all the principal characters live there and have links to the highest reaches of financial and aristocratic society, through family or love connections. Their paths thus crisscross each other in a complex, but plausible, pattern.

Hôtel de Beauséant

Hôtel de Beauséant (oh-TEL deh BOH-say-ant). Elegant mansion in Paris’s upper-class Faubourg Saint-Germain des Prés district. As the home of one of the noblest families in France, this fashionable residence is the setting of brilliant balls. This explains why the nouveau riche Delphine de Nucingen, who was born a commoner, would go to any lengths to receive an invitation to at least one exclusive and sumptuous...

(The entire section is 646 words.)