Short summary - Père Goriot - Le Père Goriot - Honoré de Balzac

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Père Goriot - Le Père Goriot
Honoré de Balzac

The main events take place at the boarding house "Mamashi" Vokė. At the end of November 1819, seven permanent "freeloaders" are found here: on the second floor - the young lady Quiz Tayfer with a distant relative of Madame Couture; on the third - a retired official Poiret and a mysterious middle-aged gentleman named Vautrin; on the fourth - the spinster Mademoiselle Michonneau, a former grain merchant in Goriot and a student Eugene de Rastignac, who came to Paris from Angoulême. All tenants unanimously despise papa Goriot, who was once called "master": having settled with Madame Vauquet in 1813, he took the best room on the second floor - then he obviously had some money, and the hostess had the hope of ending her widowhood. She even went into some of the costs of the common table, but the "vermicelli" did not appreciate her efforts. Disappointed mother Voke began to look askance at him, and he fully justified the bad expectations: two years later he moved to the third floor and stopped heating in winter. The sharp-sighted servants and tenants figured out the reason for such a fall very soon: from time to time, lovely young ladies came to Papa Goriot in secret - apparently, the old lecher was squandering his fortune on his mistresses. True, he tried to pass them off as his daughters - a stupid lie that only amused everyone. By the end of the third year, Goriot moved to the fourth floor and began to walk in rags.

Meanwhile, the measured life of the Voke House begins to change. Young Rastignac, intoxicated by the splendor of Paris, decides to enter the high society. Of all his wealthy relatives, Eugene can only count on the Viscountess de Bosean. Having sent her a letter of recommendation from his old aunt, he receives an invitation to the ball. The young man longs to get close to some noble lady, and his attention is attracted by the brilliant Countess Anastasi de Resto. The next day, he tells about her to his companions at breakfast, and learns amazing things: it turns out that old Goriot knows the countess and, according to Vautrin, recently paid her overdue bills to the usurer Gobsek. From that day on, Vautrin begins to closely follow all the actions of the young man.
The first attempt to establish a secular acquaintance turns out to be humiliation for Rastignac: he came to the countess on foot, causing contemptuous grins from the servants, could not immediately find the living room, and the mistress of the house made it clear to him that she wanted to be alone with Count Maxime de Tray. The enraged Rastignac is imbued with a wild hatred for the arrogant handsome man and vows to triumph over him. To top it all off, Eugene makes a mistake by mentioning the name of Papa Goriot, whom he accidentally saw in the courtyard of the count's house. A dejected young man goes on a visit to the Viscountess de Bosean, but chooses the most inappropriate moment for this: a heavy blow awaits his cousin - the Marquis d'Ajuda-Pinto, whom she passionately loves, intends to part with her for a profitable marriage. The Duchess de Langeais is pleased to share this news with her “best friend”. The viscountess hastily changes the subject of the conversation, and the riddle that tormented Rastignac is immediately resolved: Anastasi de Resto bore the surname Goriot as a girl. This wretched man also has a second daughter, Delphine, the wife of the banker de Nucingen. Both beauties actually disowned their old father, who gave them everything. The Viscountess advises Rastignac to take advantage of the rivalry between the two sisters: unlike Countess Anastasi, Baroness Dolphin is not accepted in high society - for an invitation to the house of Viscountess de Beauceant, this woman will lick all the dirt on the adjacent streets.

Returning to the boarding house, Rastignac announces that from now on he takes daddy Goriot under his protection. He writes a letter to his family, begging them to send him twelve hundred francs - this is an almost unbearable burden for the family, but the young ambitious needs to acquire a fashionable wardrobe. Vautrin, who guessed Rastignac's plans, invites the young man to pay attention to the Thyfer Quiz. The girl vegetates in the boarding house, because her father, the richest banker, does not want to know her. She has a brother: it is enough to remove him from the stage for the situation to change - Quiz will become the only heir. Vautrin takes over the elimination of the young Thyfer, and Rastignac will have to pay him two hundred thousand - a mere trifle in comparison with the millionth dowry. The young man is forced to admit that this terrible man rudely said the same thing that the Viscountess de Beaucean said. Instinctively sensing the danger of a deal with Vautrin, he decides to win the favor of Delphine de Nucingen. In this he is helped in every possible way by Father Goriot, who hates both sons-in-law and blames them for the misfortunes of his daughters. Eugene meets Delphine and falls in love with her. She reciprocates him, for he rendered her a valuable service by winning seven thousand francs: the banker's wife cannot pay off the debt - her husband, having pocketed a dowry of seven hundred thousand, left her practically penniless.

Rastignac begins to lead the life of a secular dandy, although he still has no money, and the tempter-Vautrin constantly reminds him of Victoria's future millions. However, clouds are gathering over Vautrin himself: the police suspect that under this name the fugitive convict Jacques Collin, nicknamed Deception-Death, is hiding - the help of one of the "freeloaders" of the Vauquet boarding house is needed to expose him. For a solid bribe, Poiret and Michonot agree to play the role of detectives: they must find out if Vautrin has a stigma on his shoulder.
The day before the fatal denouement, Vautrin informs Rastignac that his friend Colonel Francessini has challenged Thyfer the son to a duel. At the same time, the young man learns that papa Goriot wasted no time: he rented a lovely apartment for Eugene and Delphine and instructed the lawyer Derville to put an end to Nusingen's atrocities - from now on, his daughter will have thirty-six thousand francs of annual income. This news puts an end to Rastignac's hesitations - he wants to warn the Thaifer father and son, but the prudent Vautrin tops him with wine mixed with sleeping pills. The next morning they do the same trick with him: Michonneau mixes a drug in his coffee that causes a rush of blood to his head - the insensitive Vautrin is undressed, and the brand appears on his shoulder after clapping his palm.

Further events are happening rapidly, and mother Voke suddenly loses all her guests. First, they come for Victorina Tayfer: the father summons the girl to him, because her brother is mortally wounded in a duel. Then the gendarmes burst into the boarding house: they were ordered to kill Vautrin at the slightest attempt to resist, but he demonstrates the greatest composure and calmly surrenders to the police. Imbued with an involuntary admiration for this "genius of hard labor", the students dining at the boarding house drive out voluntary spies - Michonneau and Poiret. And papa Goriot shows Rastignac a new apartment, begging for one thing - to allow him to live on the floor above, next to his beloved Delphine. But all the old man's dreams are crumbling. Pressed against the wall by Derville, Baron de Nucingen confesses that his wife's dowry was invested in financial fraud. Goriot is horrified: his daughter is completely at the mercy of the dishonest banker. However, Anastasi's situation is even worse: saving Maxime de Trai from a debt prison, she pawns the family diamonds to Gobsek, and Count de Resto finds out about it. She needs another twelve thousand, and her father spent the last money on an apartment for Rastignac. The sisters begin to shower each other with insults, and in the midst of their quarrel, the old man falls as if knocked down - he had a blow.

Papa Goriot dies on the day when the Viscountess de Beauceant gives her last ball - unable to survive the separation from the Marquis d'Ajuda, she leaves the world forever. Having said goodbye to this amazing woman, Rastignac hurries to the old man, who in vain calls his daughters to him. Poor students - Rastignac and Bianchon - are burying the unfortunate father with their last pennies. Two empty carriages with coats of arms escort the coffin to the Père Lachaise cemetery. From the top of the hill, Rastignac looks at Paris and vows to succeed at any cost - and first goes to dinner at the Delphine de Nucingen.