Short summary - Eugénie Grandet - Honoré de Balzac

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Eugénie Grandet
Honoré de Balzac

Eugenia Grande was considered the most enviable bride in Saumur. Her father, a simple keeper, became rich during the Revolution, buying up confiscated church estates for a pittance - the best vineyards in the Saumur district and several farms. At the Consulate, he was elected mayor, and in the days of the Empire he was already called only Monsieur Grande - however, behind his back, he was familiarly called "daddy". No one knew exactly what capital the former bochard had, but smart people said that Grandet's father had six to seven million francs. Only two people could confirm this, but the notary Cruchot and the banker de Grassen knew how to keep their mouths shut. However, both of them fawned at Grandet so openly that the city of Saumur was filled with the deepest respect for the old man. The notary, with the support of numerous relatives, solicited Evgenia's hand for his nephew - the chairman of the court of first instance. In turn, the wife of the banker de Grassen cleverly intrigued, hoping to marry the rich heiress of the son of Adolf.

The Saumurians watched the battle of the titans with interest and wondered who would get the tidbit. Some, however, argued that the old man was going to marry his daughter to his nephew - the son of Guillaume Grandet, who made a million dollar fortune in the wholesale wine trade and settled in Paris. The Kryushotins and Grassenists together denied this, stating that the Parisian Grandet aims much higher for his son and may well become related to some "duke by the grace of Napoleon." At the beginning of 1819, Father Grandet, with the help of the Cruchot family, acquired the magnificent estate of the Marquis de Frouafon. But this circumstance did not at all change the old man's usual way of life: he still lived in his dilapidated house with his wife, daughter and the only servant, Naneta, nicknamed the Huge for his tall stature and masculine appearance. Thirty-five years ago, Papa Grandet warmed a poor peasant girl who was being driven from every door, and from that time on, Naneta performed any work for a tiny salary, tirelessly blessing her owner for her kindness. However, Yevgenia and her mother spent whole days at needlework, and the old curmudgeon gave them candles by count.

The event that turned the life of Eugenia Grandet took place in the first half of October 1819, on her birthday. On the occasion of the holiday, Grande's father allowed the fireplace to be lit, although November had not yet arrived, and presented his daughter with the usual gift - a gold coin. Cruchot and de Grassens, ready for a decisive battle, attended a dinner that was memorable to all Somurians. At the height of the lotto game, there was a knock at the door, and the son of the Parisian millionaire Charles Grandet appeared before the astonished provincials. Having handed his uncle a letter from his father, he began to look around, clearly amazed at the scarcity of the table and furnishings. Everything convinced the young man that the Saumur family was living in poverty - a mistake that would become fatal for Eugene. At twenty-three years old, this timid, pure girl did not know either about her wealth or about her beauty. The adorable, graceful cousin seemed to her like a stranger from another world. A still vague feeling arose in her heart, and she begged Nanet to light the fireplace in Charles's bedroom - a luxury unheard of in this house.
Parisian Grandet, in a suicide letter, informed his brother of his bankruptcy and his intention to shoot himself, begging for only one thing - to take care of Charles. The poor boy is spoiled by the love of his family and is treated kindly by the attention of the world - he will not bear shame and poverty. In the morning in Saumur, everyone already knew about Guillaume Grande's suicide. The old curmudgeon, with rude directness, told his nephew the terrible news, and the gentle youth could not refrain from sobbing. Eugenia was imbued with such compassion for him that even the meek Madame Grandet considered it necessary to warn her daughter, for there is only one step from pity to love. And Charles was deeply moved by the sincere participation of his aunt and cousin - he knew very well with what indifferent contempt he would have met in Paris.

Having heard enough talk about her uncle's bankruptcy and furtively reading Charles' letters, Eugenia first thought about money. She realized that her father could have helped her cousin, but the old curmudgeon was furious at the mere suggestion that she would have to fork out for the pitiful boy. However, daddy Grandet soon relented: after all, the good name of the family was affected, and even the arrogant Parisians had to get even with the arrogant Parisians. The banker de Grassen went to the capital to liquidate the burned-out company, and at the same time to invest the old man's savings in state rent. The Saumurians praised daddy Grandet to heaven - no one expected such generosity from him.
Meanwhile, Eugene begged Charles to accept her savings as a gift - gold coins worth about six thousand francs. In turn, Charles handed her a gold travel bag with portraits of her father and mother to keep. For both young people came the spring of love: they swore allegiance to each other to the grave and sealed their vow with a chaste kiss. Charles soon traveled to the East Indies in the hope of gaining wealth. And the mother and daughter began to wait with trepidation for the New Year: the old man used to admire Eugenia's gold coins on holidays. A terrifying scene took place: Grande's father almost cursed his daughter and ordered her to be kept in captivity on bread and water. Even the downtrodden Madame Grandet could not bear this: for the first time in her life she dared to contradict her husband, and then fell ill with grief. Evgenia stoically endured her father's disfavor, finding consolation in her love. Only when his wife became very bad, daddy Grandet changed his anger to mercy - the notary Cruchot explained to him that Eugene could demand the division of the inheritance after the death of his mother. To the patient's great joy, the father solemnly forgave his daughter. But then he caught sight of Charles's casket, and the old curmudgeon decided to rip off the gold plates for smelting - only the threat of Eugene to commit suicide stopped him. For the dying woman, this turned out to be the last blow - she died out in October 1822, regretting only her daughter, left to be torn apart by the cruel world. After her death, Evgenia meekly signed a waiver of the inheritance.
The next five years did not change Yevgenia's monotonous existence in any way. True, the Grassenist party suffered a complete collapse; Arriving in Paris on Grande's business, the banker embarked on a revelry, and his wife had to abandon plans to marry Adolphe to Eugene. Papa Grande, through clever manipulations with his brother's promissory notes, reduced the amount of debt from four million to a million two hundred thousand. Feeling the approach of death, the old man began to acquaint his daughter with business and instilled in her his concepts of stinginess. At the end of 1827 he died at the age of eighty-two. By this time, Charles Grandet had already returned to France. The sensitive young man turned into a hardened businessman who made a fortune in the slave trade. He hardly remembered Eugene. It was only in August 1828 that she received the first letter from him, to which a check was attached. From now on, Charles considered himself free from all childish vows and informed his cousin that he wanted to marry Mademoiselle d'Aubrion, who was much more suitable for him in age and position.

This letter alone was enough to crush all Eugenia's hopes. Madame de Grassen, who was burning with a thirst for revenge, added fuel to the fire: Eugene learned from her that her cousin had been in Paris for a long time, but the wedding was still far away - the Marquis d'Aubrion would never give her daughter for the son of an insolvent debtor, and Charles was so stupid that he did not want to part with three thousand francs, which would have fully satisfied the remaining creditors. In the evening of the same day, Evgenia agreed to marry Chairman Cruchot and asked him to immediately leave for Paris - she wanted to pay off all her uncle's debt obligations along with interest and allocated two million for this purpose. Having handed Charles an act of satisfaction of financial claims, the chairman did not deny himself the pleasure of clicking on the nose of a stupid ambitious: he announced that he would marry Mademoiselle Grandet, the owner of seventeen million.
Mindful of the terms of the marriage contract, Monsieur Cruchot always showed the greatest respect for his wife, although in his heart he fervently desired her death. But the all-seeing Lord soon cleaned him up - Eugenia was widowed at thirty-six years old. Despite her enormous wealth, she lives according to the routine established by her father, although, unlike him, she generously donates to godly deeds. In Saumur, they talk about her new marriage - the rich widow is courted in every possible way by the Marquis de Frouafon.