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Rastignac’s Coming of Age Story: A Thematic Study of the Bildungsroman in Balzac’s Pere Goriot

How the advent of capitalism influenced Balzac's "struggle for survival" narration of Eugene's bildungsroman.
by

Sandra Alvarez

on 14 December 2012

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Transcript of Rastignac’s Coming of Age Story: A Thematic Study of the Bildungsroman in Balzac’s Pere Goriot

Rastignac’s Coming of Age Story: A Thematic Study of the Bildungsroman in Balzac’s Pere Goriot A Young Man From the Province Grows Up in a Capitalist Parisian Society Conclusion How the advent of capitalism influenced Balzac's "struggle for survival" narration of Eugene's bildungsroman
Implications of the 19th Century bildungsroman in capitalist society
"A usurer always gets the better of a foolish profumier, or a banker of an indolent intellectual" (Moretti, 143)
recurrent image of Paris as the arena of struggles to the death
influences of social Darwinism and survival of the fittest
Maxim-theme of power-treat people as means for the greater cause
The term Bildungsroman was first coined by Johann Karl Simon Morgenstern in 1819. According to Wilhelm Dilthey this new literary genre was defined as the “progress of a young person toward self-understanding as well as a sense of social responsibility” (10). In my paper, I will explore Eugene Rastignac’s coming of age story as he struggles to secure a higher social status and a fortune. Eugene comes to Paris to study law and gain a fortune but soon finds himself wanting to rise into Parisian high society. He is convinced by Vautrin that he will never get his fortune through a law career, but through a wealthy woman that will support him financially. His bildungsroman leads to his moral growth as he discovers that rising into society means being greedy, corrupt and a “clever crook” as Vautrin describes. Rastignac is a young man who is growing up in the midst of a corrupt and greedy Parisian society where capitalism is flourishing. Passages Moretti, Franco, and Sbragia, Albert. The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture. New York: Verso 1987. Print. Sources Eugene is influenced by Vautrin and Madame de Beauseant on how to gain a fortune and rise to high society. He learns that he has to use other as means for his success; he needs to become the usurer to florish in a capitalistic society. After he sees how Anastasie and Delphine have used up Pere Goriot he starts developing values and morals as part of a final conlcusion to his bildunsroman. Vautrin and Madame de Beauseant. 1.“Understand, you’ll never be anything, here in Paris, without a woman’s backing. You need someone who’s young, rich, and elegant. But also remember: if you have any genuine feelings, hide them like treasure; never let anyone know so much as suspect them, or you’re lost. Instead of being the executioner you’ll be the victim. And if you ever fall in love keep that absolutely secret! Never breathe a word until youre sure of the person to whom you open your heart. And to protect that love, even before you feel it, learn to despise the world” (63).
2.“There are fifty thousand young fellows facing the same proble: how to make a fortune and make it fast. You’re just one among many. So think how hard youll have to try, and what a desperate fight it’ll be. You’ll all have to eat each other, like spiders in a chamber pot, because there aren’t fifty thousand fortunes available. So how do you manage, eh? Simple. Either by a burst of genius, or by being a clever crookHonesty will get you nowhere. (p. 85)”
3.“he looked down at the grave and dropped the last youthful tear he would ever shed- a tear tugged out of him by the pious emotions of a pure heart, and one of those tears that, the moment it falls to the ground, goes flying straight up to Heaven” (217). Summerfield, Giovanna, and Downward, Lisa. New Perspectives on the European Bildungsroman. London: Continuum International Publishing 2010. Print. Chanda, A.K. "The Young Man from the Provinces." Comparative Literature. 33.4 (1981): 321-341. Web. 8 Dec. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1770467>. •The Bildungsroman is an autobiography that universally represents the coming of age story of youth. This genre of novel follows the development of a person from “the beginning up to maturity.” It is a novel that focuses on the special turning points and events that shape and transform the character of the youth as he matures •This article talks about a young man form the provinces who “has an aspiring nature, rejects his impoverished provincial origins… his magical rise to eminence in the metropolis…” It goes on to describe the young man from the provinces a s a social climber, which Eugene becomes as he struggles to live within the realm of Parisian high society. The nineteenth century social climber rises and falls in most cases and evokes an ambivalent response in the reader as we see his journey becomes about the morals that need to be upheld. •The bildungsroman faces the young man with two conflicting forces, or a compromise. History has always influenced the novel. A “reconstruction” of the classical bildungsroman occurred with the advent of capitalism in the 19th Century.
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