The Supreme Power and its Philosophy in Honore de Balzac's novel “Gobsek” - Honore de Balzac

Essays on literary works - 2023

The Supreme Power and its Philosophy in Honore de Balzac's novel “Gobsek”
Honore de Balzac

The story "Gobsek" is a very important link in the ideological and thematic core of the entire "Human Comedy". From the outside, the story "Gobsek" is more comedic than other works of Balzac: regarding the coverage of life material, it is also more symptomatic, demonstrative, "visual". It contains a concentrated characteristic of stinginess, and not only realistically everyday, but, above all, psychological. The protagonist of the story Gobsek is a millionaire, usurer, one of the shadow rulers of the new France. By lending money at huge interest, he actually robs his "wards", humiliates them morally and becomes the master of their destinies. Gobsek for Balzac is the living embodiment of that predatory force, which purposefully, cruelly and continuously makes its way to power,

Gobsek is not only engaged in his vile "specialty", he also reflects on it, analyzes the system of occurrence, the "circulation" of gold and its influence on the development of the whole society and the psychology of individuals. Balzac in this realistic work envelops this figure at the same time with a certain veil of romantic mystery, which is symbolic generalization. No one knows the past of Gobsek and the sources of his boundless wealth. His modern daily life (as it is presented in the story) is also full of secrets, because one can only guess about the real extent of the influence of his personality. Even in an everyday, prosaic atmosphere, Gobsek is able to evoke horror immediately (with his pitiful appearance of an old man, a dirty grandfather who grabs gold with his greedy fingers), but in the eyes of a thoughtful person, which the lawyer Derville is, he is able to turn into a negatively symbolic figure, into the inexorable embodiment of the black power of gold over the souls of individuals and, more broadly, over the fate of the whole society. The same lawyer Derville insists that Gobsek is an internally contradictory being (it is as if two different beings were organically combined in him: a miser and a philosopher, a “low” face and extremely intelligent, far-sighted). At the same time, it was Gobsek Derville who owed his family happiness. Analyzing the laws of the modern world, Gobsek realized that the main engine that determines even the socio-political life of the world around him is money, gold. So, the figure of Gobseck - even from the outside - is a symbol. "This vile old man," says Derville, "suddenly grew up in my eyes, became a fantastic figure - the personification of the power of gold." Thus, the figure of Gobsek can also be considered an “eternal image”, since he embodies a concentrated, murderous characteristic of stinginess, proven to extreme limits. Such types have already figured before in literature (to Balzac), say, the figure of Shylock in Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice or the figure of the Miser in the comedy of the same name by Molière. However, Gobseck's image is much more complex than his literary predecessors. This is not just an ordinary moneylender, but also an analytical philosopher, whose mind is able to comprehend the driving forces of bourgeois society. Gobsek-Personality is at the same time completely realistic (in the system of his everyday activities), and gloomy romantic, grotesque, generalizing. Therefore, the gold that already belongs to Gobsekovi and which he strives to have more and more, already, in fact, goes beyond his concrete,

The word "Gobsek" means in translation "live-eater", "glitai". Gobsek Man, the old usurer is dead. And or did the main "Gobsek" die - a thirst for enrichment? Look around...