Dreiser and Balzac literary parallels - Honore de Balzac

Essays on literary works - 2023

Dreiser and Balzac literary parallels
Honore de Balzac

The meaning of The Financier, like the entire Trilogy of Desire, goes beyond American literature. The financier Cowperwood has become the property of world literature, like the banker Nucingen of Balzac. Undoubtedly, while working on The Financier, Dreiser relied not only on the experience of American literature. In the final chapter of the book, the writer appeals to the images of Shakespeare - Macbeth and Macduff, and, of course, it is no coincidence that in the "Trilogy of Desire" Dreiser's closeness to another classic of world literature - to Balzac is more tangible.

Dreiser became acquainted with his books in 1893 in Pittsburgh, where he got his hands on the novel Shagreen Skin. After reading after this "Father Goriot", "Cousin Pons", "Cousin Betta" and others; works of Balzac, Dreiser was shocked by his skill, it seemed to him magical. The writer was struck and fascinated by the depth of Balzac's view of life. “I began to see the world in which I was in a new, most dramatic light,” Dreiser later wrote. - Pittsburgh is not Paris, America is not France, but in truth they were something, and Pittsburgh had at least some aspects that somehow resembled Paris. Those charming rivers, those many small bridges, the stark contrasts between the eastern quarters and the factory districts, the huge industry here that matters to the whole world, seemed to me now more vivid than before. I was in everyday, soot-covered and yet bright Paris. Taiffer, Nucingen, Valentine were no different from some of the giant money magnates here with their freedom, luxury, power.Of the many aspects that attracted Dreiser in Balzac, two were especially significant for understanding the development of Dreiser's creative method - the humanism of the author of The Human Comedy and his ability to see the deep contrasts in the life of bourgeois society.

Balzac portrayed a string of capitalist businessmen, bankers, entrepreneurs, among whom one cannot find a single attractive, honest, kind person. And at the same time, Balzac, condemning them, cannot hide his admiration for them, admires the powerful manifestation of energy, will, mind, passion in these criminals. “In essence, the images of Balzac are the flowers of evil,” noted the Russian researcher of Balzac’s work V. R. Grib. The main effect of The Human Comedy consists in surprise at the contrasts of Parisian life, at the moral monsters that stir at the bottom of the big city. The poetry of Balzac is the poetry of negative values. And Dreiser in the "Trilogy of Desire" appears to a certain extent as a poet of negative values. Following the tradition of Balzac in denouncing the world of capital, Dreiser in The Financier is not consistent in everything, especially when, trying to comprehend the laws of the bourgeois world, he follows the positivist Spencer. In the main thing - in revealing the mechanism of bourgeois society, in exposing the criminality of capitalism - Dreiser remains a faithful follower of the realistic traditions of Balzac.

In Dreiser, the poetry of negative values acquires new qualities - a different scale and the associated shade of a sense of tragedy, not only about the loss of illusions, but also about the waste of outstanding human potentialities for false and frankly inhumane goals. Having drawn the image of Cowperwood, Dreiser significantly expanded the range of US literature, introducing new vital material into it, and looking at the problems of the powerful of this world from a new angle, at their place and role in the life of American society. The image of Cowperwood became on a par with the images of French businessmen, created by Balzac, and English, drawn by Dickens. Dreiser was one of the first to destroy the peculiar "theory of exclusivity", which was professed by many US writers who did not want to recognize in the American capitalists those vices that they saw in the European bourgeoisie. For him, the capital of INSTANT America has ceased to be the New World. The rejection of the glorification of America and the American, which was present both in Sister Carrie and in Jenny Gerhardt and was especially tangibly manifested in The Financier, brought Dreiser closer to the luminaries of critical realism in European countries - with Balzac and Tolstoy, Dickens and Turgenev. It is no coincidence that literary fame came, to be honest, to Dreiser at first not in America, but in Europe.