Note: I thought I posted last week but apparently it never went up! I discovered that the library newsletter misprinted the schedule. This month, that is this week (Wednesday), we will be discussing Père Goriot by Honore de Balzac. Next month, July, we will be reading and discussing Camus’ The Stranger. I hope you all have been reading and enjoying the Balzac! I look forward to Wednesday’s meeting!
Balzac wrote a series of novels, called La Comédie humaine, which followed the same characters through Paris in different settings. Here are the significant characters I found in the first sections of Père Goriot. Please note that I’m just a reader like you: I’m not an expected in these Balzac stories. Please leave a comment if you find some errors or if there is someone important I’ve missed. (All page numbers are from the Norton Critical Edition, trans. by Burton Raffel.)
- Madame Vauquer (maiden name Conflans). Head of a rundown boarding house called Maison Vauquer. Fifty years old. “In short, everything about her seems to embody her pension, just as her pension invokes her image.” (page 10)
- Sylvie, the fat cook and Christophe, the handyman.
- Madame Couture, widow of a Miltary Paymaster under the old French Republic. (First floor of MV.) Left with little money, she takes Victorine to mass regularly hoping it will make up for the girl’s poverty.
- Victorine Taillefer, lived with Mme Couture. (First floor of MV.) Sickly pale. Father has disowned her on her mother’s death; he invests all his money and energies in his oldest child, a son. Yet she “spoke nothing but sweet-sounding words.” (page 14)
- M. Poiret, graybeard. (Second floor of MV.) “More machine than man” (page 12). Unknown past is etched on his face.
- Monsieur Vautrin, about 40, wears a black wig, dyed side-whiskers. (Second floor of MV.) He was “obliging and full of laughter” (page 15).
- Mademoiselle Michonneau, an old maid. (Third floor of MV.) Supposedly, she had a hidden fortune, bequeathed from a man who she’d nursed through his death.
- Père Goriot. Old man, once a manufacturer of pasta. (Third floor of MV.) Earned his fortune during Revolution. Dots on his two married daughters. The target of all the other pension inhabitants.
- Eugène de Rastignac. Come to Paris from the country (Angoulême). Family scrimped and saved to send him to law school. (Third floor of MV, he’s a “bird of passage” and not an annually rented room.)
- At dinners at MV: Eight students of law or medicine, two or three regular from the neighborhood, including Horace Bianchon, Rastignac’s medical student friend.
- Madame Claire de Beauséant (Viscomtesse). Lover is M. Ajuda-Pinto, who is getting married to Mlle Rochefide. She is Rastignac’s cousin. Her house and “Society” impress him that such is the life he desires.
- Mme Anastasie de Restaud (Countess). Lover is Maxime de Trailles. Oldest daughter of Goriot; married for aristocratic position. She is beautiful.
- Mme Delphine de Nucingen (Baroness). Second daughter of Goriot; married for Nucingen fortune, for her husband is a wealthy banker.