The ambiguity of the image of Gobsek in the story of the same name by Honore Balzac - Honore de Balzac

Essays on literary works - 2023

The ambiguity of the image of Gobsek in the story of the same name by Honore Balzac
Honore de Balzac

The story "Gobsek" occupies a special place among other works of Honore Balzac in the first half of the 30s. This is one of the most outstanding works of the writer.

The central image of the work is the pawnbroker Gobsek. The biography of Gobseck that Balzac introduces into the story reveals the lifeblood of his philosophy. Gobsek's philosophy is a kind of result of his personal life path. He was a sailor, a sea merchant, traveled all over the world, saw distant and exotic countries. His developed consciousness, which was not characteristic of him since childhood, is explained by how much he saw during his life. He went through everything to accumulate his wealth: had a connection with the corsairs, was involved in the American Revolutionary War, suffered from hunger, went through mortal danger, lost and gained wealth several times.

Perhaps that is why at first Balzac called his story "The Dangers of Debauchery." It was under this title that the story was completely published in April 1930 in the first volume of "Scenes of Private Life". The first chapter of it was issued a little earlier, in February 1930, under the title "The Pawnbroker". The names changed, but the character of the Balzac character remained unchanged.

“Papa Gobsek is thoroughly imbued with one principle that guides all his actions. According to this principle, money is a commodity that it can be sold dearly or cheaply, depending on the circumstances, with a clear conscience. A capitalist, in his opinion, is a person who takes part in profitable business and speculation, demanding high interest on his money. And if we leave aside his financial principles and philosophical views on human nature, which he uses to justify his usurious behavior, I am deeply convinced that outside these matters he is the most delicate and most honest person in all of Paris.

Gobsek's worldview was formed under the influence of real life. His statements speak of the depth of this worldview and confirm that his intellect is far superior to the aristocracy.

Highlighting the backwardness of the nobility, its limitations, Balzac shows Gobsek, who keeps entire continents in his memory. He also understood the foundations of the contemporary social system, arguing that everywhere there is a struggle between the poor and the rich. But twenty years of wandering around the world made him indifferent to everything except gold. He became disillusioned with moral values. Therefore, Gabsek is soulless. He is sure that of "all earthly goods" only one is reliable enough - gold. And of all human feelings, he recognizes only the instinct of self-preservation. From skepticism grew socio-political nihilism, because Gobsek condemns all those who care for their loved ones. He sees the meaning only in the struggle of the poor and the rich, confident that this struggle is endless, and therefore believes that it is better to be an exploiter than an exploited one.

Sad and the end of Gobseck. The story ends with a description of his terrible barn and the terrible death of Gobsek. His passion for money, his avarice, desire for gain led to a pathological mania to appropriate everything. Many years of activity in enrichment turned out to be fruitless, because there was no one to leave the accumulated. He did not even leave a good mention of himself. Everything human in his nature was replaced by a thirst for enrichment. After all, for a lifetime he took bribes and developed new financial scams. “Gobsek was the insatiable constrictor of this great undertaking. Every morning he received his tribute and examined it.

Gobsek accepted everything from a basket of provisions from some poor person to bundles of candles from miserly people, took dishes from the rich and gold snuff boxes from speculators. No one knew where all these gifts had gone. Everyone brought to him, but nothing was taken out of there.

Only after the death of the interest-bearer will this become clear. What is not clear is what was guided by a person, accumulating such wealth.

Truly, such a life can be called another human comedy, which Honore Balzac told about on the pages of his works. Consequently, the story "Gobsek", although it is a separate finished work, is nevertheless connected with other stories and novels of the writer, which were already included in the first edition of the "Human Comedy". It is connected by the fact that the names of the characters are found in other works, and by the fact that the plot has something in common with the novel "Father Goriot".

Apparently, it cannot be otherwise, because every human life has many invisible threads that connect it with the lives of other people and the life of an entire society.