Life Philosophy of Gobsek - Honore de Balzac

Essays on literary works - 2023

Life Philosophy of Gobsek
Honore de Balzac

Reflecting on what can make a person happy, the old usurer argues that the soil of happiness is the independence of a person from external circumstances, when it is not a person who conquers the world, but the world conquers a person. The “bag of gold” that Gobsek owns not only allows him to subjugate the world, it makes the possession of the world easy and pleasant: “One word, I own the world without tiring myself, and the world has not the least power over me.”

Gobsek's life philosophy, we repeat, emerges as an unshakable system of values that the outside world cannot change by any rank. On the contrary, it seems that the plot of the work, the relationship of Gobsek with other characters, again and again confirms its correctness and viability. Only Gobsek himself can refute this philosophy, cast doubt on it, and his attitude towards other heroes, whom he (as if) does not respect and only uses to bring his own significance.

A separate article is devoted to consideration of Gobsek's relations with other heroes of the story, in which, by means of textual analysis, the work is proved that each time these relations are determined not so much by the material interests of the old usurer as by his ideas of justice, his desire to restore this justice with respect to each of the characters. Within the framework of the “psychological reconstruction of the character” of the protagonist of the story, we will make a kind of “psychological summary” of his relationship to two women (Fanny Malva and Anastasi de Resto) and three men: Count where Trai, Count where Resto and Derville.

Fanny Malva made a strong and pleasant impression on the old pawnbroker, who was rather stern towards her, for he imagined the woman who signed the bill to be a "pretty wiggle-tail" who should be punished for such an attitude towards life. Seeing Fanny Malva, he “understood everything at first sight.” He immediately realized that this was a decent and moral person, therefore, as Gobsek says, he "was almost moved." When Derville appears to him, he thinks that “she (Fanny Malva) would have made a beautiful woman, the mother of a family. In the end, this is how it happened: Fanny Malva and Derville got married, they are a happy family - and these people became happy thanks to Gobsek, his attitude towards them. Nevertheless, both heroes, one might say, are positive heroes, so it is not surprising that

In the case of Anastasi de Resto, Gobseck's behavior (from a psychological point of view) is not so unambiguously comprehended. The old usurer sees a beauty: "What a beautiful woman I saw here." At the same time, the countess's boudoir convinces him that this woman is unhappy: "There was beauty in everything, devoid of harmony, luxury and disorder." Seeing Maxime de Tray, the countess's lover, Gobseck understood much more: “I read the future of the countess in his face. This handsome fair-haired, handsome, cold, soulless gambler will ruin himself, ruin her, ruin her husband, ruin children, lose their inheritance and in other salons will cause more devastation than a whole howitzer battery in an enemy regiment. The behavior of the countess, who brings valuable diamonds to him, convinces us of the "accuracy of the diagnosis" that Gobsek puts,

If he needed money, Gobsek would have to help the Countess and Maxime de Tray in every way to squander the Comte de Restaud's money. In order for Gobsek to have all the property of the count, the latter only had to wait for his death and not interfere with the squandering of the countess. At first glance, the old usurer decided not to wait, but to take advantage of the circumstances and seize the property immediately after the death of the Count de Resto, deprive his children, make his widow a beggar. This led to the fact that Maxime de Tray did not need her, devoting her life to raising children: “The most severe judge would involuntarily have to admit that the countess was taken over by maternal love ... the countess, convinced of the meanness of Maxime de Tray, earned the forgiveness of her ex with bloody tears sins."

The severe punishment that she received from life thanks to Gobsek actually saved this unfortunate woman, returned her to her children, to their upbringing. Could it have been otherwise saved from the villain? And to the “moral salvation” over time, after the death of Gobsek, a material one is added: the old usurer fulfilled his obligations to the Count de Resto, although there were no legal grounds for this, since the Countess personally burned the relevant documents ...So, instead of punishment, Gobsek saved Anastasi de Resto . Could such behavior be considered smart if he was only interested in money? Is the “man-automaton” capable of such behavior, who enjoyed his eloquence and his omnipotence then, and expounded his own philosophy of life to Derville?

We can make the previous conclusion: Gobseck's attitude to the female characters of the story indicates that for him the main thing in relations with them is not money, but the opportunity to get to know these people with the help of money. If necessary, intervene in their lives not for the purpose of “punishment”, but for the purpose of helping each of them. Even when the “help from Gobsek” was very painful (Anastasi de Resto), it works and leads to the proper result, according to the old usurer.

Count Maxime de Tray does not cause any sympathy either from Gobsek, or from the author of the work, or from readers. Morally, it's very unappealing, to say the least. But for Gobseck, it is Maxime de Tray who is a very desirable client! Regarding his relationship with Gobseck, the count speaks very precisely and witty: “You are making a sponge out of me, let the devil be with you! You force me to take away the money of secular society, and at a difficult moment for me, like a sponge, you squeeze it out.

Maxime de Tray is a real virtuoso, when you need to make a woman give him money, this is recognized by everyone. But sooner or later, this money ends up with Gobsek! If it were only about "gold" and "the power of gold", would it really be expedient for Gobseck to mock such a client, cruelly offend him, humiliate him in the eyes of a woman in love? On the contrary, if he cared only about his own profits, the usurer would need to make sure that this “golden sponge” was interested in maintaining their business relationship. From a, let's say, “business” point of view, Gobsek's harsh attitude to the source of his (considerable!) profits is inappropriate, wrong, at the same time, or does Maxime de Tray deserve punishment? Only those who have power over him can punish him, such people seem to be very few, and Gobsek is one of them. Of course, he miraculously understands that it is impossible to “fix” Maxime de Tray, however, contrary to his own, as they say now, business interests, he punishes the scoundrel with exquisite cruelty. Why does he do it?

It is obvious that Gobseck's idea of justice requires him to punish Maxime de Tray. This is not a momentary impulse, but a conscious choice that allegedly contradicts the life philosophy of the old usurer, but does such an attitude towards scoundrels restore, at least partially, justice?

To the Comte de Restaud, as at first glance, Gobsek also treats with great contempt. He frankly mocks him when it comes to selling diamonds, and after, when the count goes, the old usurer says: “I think he is a fool, like all your honest people,” Gobsek said dismissively when the count went. However, such an attitude towards the Comte de Restaud does not prevent Gobsek from offering help to this man, and, probably, it is this help that is the only one that can at least somehow reassure a man who has been betrayed by his wife and who is dying through this betrayal. Gobseck's offer to keep the count's money for his children is the only thing that can help this man withstand a cruel blow of fate.

The combination, as a result of which Gobsek becomes the formal ruler of the property and money of the Comte de Restaud, is calculated on the fact that in due time the count's children will receive all this back. Nevertheless, we recall that Anastasi de Resto destroyed the documents that would have forced Gobsek to do this, so the old usurer became the full ruler of outstanding money and property.

Derville tells Vicomtesse de Grandlier that after the death of Gobsek she has “to change her mind about the wealth of the Comte de Resto”: “But first of all, know that, on the basis of irrefutable documents, Comte Ernest de Resto will soon have wealth that will enable him to enter in marriage to Mademoiselle Camille, and even to allocate considerable capital to her mother, the Countess de Restaud, her brother and a dowry to her sister. It is entirely clear that these “irrefutable documents” are the testament of the deceased Gobsek, respectively, the old usurer not only did not appropriate the wealth of the Count de Resto, he made it so that it increased significantly, he impeccably honestly fulfilled his obligations.