Money and a man in the story of H. de Balzac “Gobsek” - Honore de Balzac

Essays on literary works - 2023

Money and a man in the story of H. de Balzac “Gobsek”
Honore de Balzac

1. The theme of the power of money in the world and in the human soul.

2. Accumulation and waste.

3. Moral degradation of the individual.

Death awaits you - so spend, not sparing, wealth;

But life is not over: take care of the good.

Only that person is wise who, having comprehended both,

saves good in moderation, and spends it in moderation.

L. Samossky

One of the leading motives in H. de Balzac's story "Gobsek" is the power of money over people. In Balzac's story, this power is visibly embodied in the image of a usurer with a telling surname: Gobsek in Dutch means "live lot". The theme that Balzac touched upon in his work is one of the eternal themes. Many writers have turned to the image of the miser, which is both comical and tragic at the same time. It should be noted that Balzac's Gobsek is far from unambiguous. The author shows this character through the eyes of a young lawyer, Derville, who, at first meeting the main character, could not understand what kind of person he was: “Did he have relatives, friends? Was he poor or rich? No one could answer these questions." Derville talks about ", a tragicomic incident from the life of Gobsek: an old usurer accidentally dropped a gold coin, and when it was served to him,

The remark is very sensible - indeed, it is hard to believe that a rich man would begin to live the way Gobsek lives, "man-automaton", "man-promissory note". However, as it becomes clear from the following narration, Gobseck's exclamation is most likely a maneuver intended to divert eyes. Like a typical miser, he fears that no one would know about his wealth.

Gobseck's only interest is the acquisition of wealth - it should be noted that in this area the talents of this man are truly massive. Gobsek also has his own philosophy, in which money takes pride of place. As the main life value, the concentration of all possibilities and aspirations, material wealth acts: “Live with me, you will find out that of all the blessings of the earth there is only one reliable enough to make it worth a person to chase him. Is this gold. All the forces of mankind are concentrated in gold.”

So, here is the answer to Derville's unspoken question, does Gobsek know about God, does he believe in Him? What religion does this person belong to? Gold is the only force that the old usurer recognizes: “It takes time to fulfill our whims, we need material opportunities or efforts. Well! In gold, everything is contained in the germ, and it gives everything in reality. Gobsek enjoys the consciousness of his power, which he has thanks to money. He sincerely believes that nothing in the world has power over him. However, the power of Gobsek manifests itself to a greater extent in the sphere of speculation than in reality. Of course, the usurer shakes out solid money from his clients, but this is where the manifestations of his power end. Gobsek lives as if he does not have a huge fortune. To the old usurer, as well as Pushkin's stingy knight, enough to think that he could have anything he wanted. But the worst thing is that the hero no longer wants anything but the money itself. In talking about their power, Gobseck almost becomes a poet for a few moments, so inspired is he by this single theme.

“This wizened old man suddenly grew in my eyes, became a fantastic figure, the personification of the power of gold. Life and people inspired me at that moment with horror.

“Does it all come down to money?” - such is Derville's reaction to the revelations of Gobsek. And yet, despite his millions, despite his power, Gobsek is at the same time pathetic. At least the young lawyer at some point looked at the usurer as if he was "gravely ill." And he is really sick — spiritually sick. He has no family, no children, he is old, weak. For whom does he accumulate untold wealth? Why live like a poor man with millions? Nothing in the world has power over him except money, his idol. Gobseck enjoys the specter of the power that money has. Actually, he needs money not as a means of acquiring various things, but as a way to exercise power over others. Balzac, showing the power of money over people, did not limit himself to the traditional image of a miser-usurer. In the life of Countess Resto, money also plays an important role. It should be noted right away: the countess, unlike Gobsek, considers money precisely as a means by which she maintains the external gloss of a secular lady and keeps her lover, a vicious person with an angelic appearance. The need for money, which the lover constantly demands, forces the countess to turn to the moneylender. The fear that her husband will deprive her younger children of her inheritance pushes her to unworthy intrigues - the woman is ready to take advantage of her eldest son's affection for her and her father, only to get into the hands of the dying count's will.

So, Balzac contrasts two ways of relating to money - the accumulation of wealth for its own sake and unbridled spending, clearly showing the inferiority of both positions. It is no coincidence that the author also described the last days of Gobsek's life. The old man is sick, lying in bed, he understands that his days are numbered - and yet the enrichment mechanism continues to operate. Gobsek's stinginess reaches terrifying proportions, loses all logic. Clients brought him various gifts - food, silver utensils, which he sold to shops. But because of the unwillingness of the stingy old man to sell the goods a little cheaper, the products deteriorate. Money, goods matter when they are used - that is the meaning of the picture of rotting food in the apartment of the late Gobsek. And to whom will his fortune go? A prostitute, his distant relative. It can be assumed that this woman is most likely quickly spend easy money and again slide into the usual abyss. “Yes, I have everything, and I have to part with everything. Well, well, papa Gobsek, don't be afraid, be true to yourself..." - these are the last words of the old usurer. No regrets about a joylessly spent life devoted to acquiring money, which he himself almost never used, no thoughts about his soul - nothing ... And what is the soul for a person who recognizes gold as the only power in the world?

So, Balzac showed the power that money has over a person. But it is necessary to note the following: it is by no means money that makes a person a miser or a spendthrift. Only the person himself determines what is the main value for him. As long as a person is alive, it is not too late to reconsider one's position if following it negatively affects the inner world and the outer life of the individual. After all, it was not money that destroyed the countess's family, caused the death of her husband, but the way of life of this woman. The reason for the moral death of Gobsek, which occurred long before his physical death, also lies not in money as such, but in the attitude of this man towards them, who, like the Jews brought out of slavery, bowed before the golden calf, forgetting about the eternal greatness and power of God.