The image of the main character in Balzac's story “Gobsek” - Honore de Balzac

Essays on literary works - 2023

The image of the main character in Balzac's story “Gobsek”
Honore de Balzac

Gobsek is not a soulless automaton. This is the soul about which Derville said the following: "... I swear that not a single human soul in the world has known such cruel trials and has not been tempered like him." This “hardening” did not destroy the soul of a person, but only added wisdom to her, made her hide her own feelings, be careful about human relations, take on the role of a person who restores justice to a certain extent. And justice is not only punishment, but also help. When it comes to a really wise person, it turns out that her punishment also becomes a help - of course, if the one who is being punished is able to understand this.

Let's try to knock out the main results of the "psychological reconstruction of character" of the protagonist of Honore de Balzac's story "Gobsek". The writer portrays a strong male character, which was formed by very difficult, one might even say, extreme conditions of life. This is a self-sufficient person who knows how to build correct conclusions from his own mistakes, who highly values himself, his moral experience, his philosophy of life, and therefore puts himself above ordinary people. She knows how to prove to other people her ability to adhere to her own life principles, she knows how to subordinate people to her own will, she always achieves that the people around her fulfill the requirements that she puts forward to them.

The noticeable egocentrism of this person does not interfere because she sensitively, with great interest, looks closely at everyone with whom fate brings her, actively intervenes in the lives of other people when she considers it appropriate. However, her behavior almost always corresponds to the external image that she consciously creates and which is perceived by other people as her essence. The main features of this image are: a man-automaton, who once openly does not express his own feelings, who cannot be convinced even in trifles, whose views and life philosophy cannot be changed, whose feelings cannot be “reached out”. The declarations that she proclaims, at first glance, that coincide with his behavior, since this behavior is entirely conscious, balanced and consistent.

The second side of this figure, which can be considered an internal characteristic of the hero, is marked by increased emotionality, raging passions, which he skillfully hides. Genuine interest in each person reflects, on the one hand, the hero's search for a moral justification for his - sometimes overly harsh - behavior, on the other hand, his desire to help those who deserve help. The hero cannot openly show his essence, since this will be perceived by society as a weakness, but Gobsek, as it turns out, always turns out to be on the side of those who - despite the circumstances of life - retain morality, or at least the remnants of morality.

Understanding people well, he notices human virtues and “rewards” their bearers in a peculiar way, helping them in such a way that they retain their own dignity.

In general, the protagonist emerges as a person who has been shaped by the respective society, who has adapted well to the conditions of life of this society and was able to maintain his ideas about morality, which in many respects contradict public morality. Life experience tells this person the “correct” line of behavior, which helps to achieve respect from almost all members of society, to impose her will on those who, in her opinion, need to be imposed.

The image of the protagonist is tragic, since the “struggle for existence” deprived his friends of the opportunity to be himself, to openly reveal ordinary human feelings.

This image can be perceived as an artistic accusation of a society in which a person, in order to survive and achieve success, must give up sincerity, a friendly attitude towards other people. Adds even more tragedy to this image that it is a character of extraordinary strength, a man whose virtues, if he did not hide them, would prevent him from achieving success in life. The price of this success is the constant loss of humanity, the need to turn into an automaton, in the soul of which there was a warm human heart, which determined the attitude of this person to himself, to the world, to other people, etc.

Summarizing the consideration of the relationship between the social and individual characters of Gobsek, we conclude that it is the social character that dominates in the relationship of the hero with the vast majority of people: the old usurer behaves the way he should behave, leaving his social position. However, just when the hero "allows" himself to show his individual character, we see the real Gobseck, who always directs his efforts to "restore justice" to the individual. Perhaps the secrecy and attractiveness of the image of the old usurer is due precisely to this disagreement between his social and individual character?

Gobsek's “psychological reconstruction of character” is complicated by the fact that this image is created on the border of romanticism and realism. For a long time, Gobsek was perceived only as a completely negative character, a kind of image from the “power of gold”, but, as we can see, the brilliant writer Balzac created a much more complex image!

Accordingly, its comprehension should be comprehensive, which is impossible without the “psychological reconstruction of the character” of one of the most famous images of world literature.