What is the tragedy of Gobsek - Honore de Balzac

Essays on literary works - 2023

What is the tragedy of Gobsek
Honore de Balzac

Honore de Balzac is a great French writer. His merit in the development of world literature lies, first of all, in the fact that he raised the genre of the novel to the heights of artistic perfection and social significance. Stendhal was right when he called Balzac "the king of the novelists".

One of the most famous works of Honore de Balzac is the story "Gobsek", which is a kind of brief "guide" to France in the 19th century, in the era of the Empire, the Restoration and the July government.

The protagonist of the story is Gobsek, an elderly man who has accumulated a huge amount of money in his old age. He lives alone, practically does not communicate with anyone, leaves the house exclusively on business. The only person of interest to Gobsek is the young solicitor Derville. The old man saw in him an intelligent interlocutor, a true friend, a business comrade and just a good person. The young man, in turn, communicating with the old man, gained experience, asked for advice and recommendations. In addition, Derville often analyzed the character of the interlocutor and came to the conclusion that two creatures live in Gobsek: a miser and a philosopher, a vile and sublime creature.

I agree with this opinion of the lawyer. Indeed, the path of life and experience taught Gobsek to think, analyze and even philosophize. He easily guessed the character of a person from the first time and could predict his further actions. Gobseck often reflected on life and its meaning. But with age, a huge passion for money and the desire to own the world came to him. Passion gradually develops into worship. The main principle for the hero was the principle: "Everything is for sale and everything is bought." He is not interested in anything but money and its quantity. The spiritual world is gradually depleted and dies long before the physical death of Gobsek. "money rules the world" - this is the creed of the bourgeois system, of which the old man was an ardent supporter. Gold eats his soul, all the sacred that was in it. All sublime feelings are pity, compassion - develop into the meanest qualities of a human character - selfishness, cynicism, greed. If in his youth Gobsek's desire was to know the world, now his goal is to hunt for money. But, having accumulated a huge amount of them, the hero did not become happy. He ingloriously dies alone, along with everyone else with his millions.

I believe that Gobsek's life is a tragedy not of one single person, but of the whole system. His example only confirmed the well-known assertion that "money does not bring happiness." Honore de Balzac showed what the ardent worship of coins and the possibility of using them to rule the world can lead to.