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Literature / Le Père Goriot

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Set in Paris in 1819, Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac is the story of an overly indulgent father and his two spoiled daughters, and a naive young student who is determined to learn the social climbing game. Goriot's daughters Anastasie and Delphine have married powerful wealthy men, yet they can't stay out of debt and suck their father financially and emotionally dry. Meanwhile, Eugène de Rastignac loses his innocence in his pursuit of money and status, first being told the price by the sinister and enigmatic Vautrin, and then experiencing it for himself. Père Goriot, sometimes translated Old Goriot, is one novel in a vast series of stories by Balzac called La Comédie Humaine, or The Human Comedy.


This work provides examples of:

  • Above Good and Evil: Vautrin.
  • All Jews Are Cheapskates: Vautrin's mentions this.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Vautrin is one of the first strong gay (even if not openly stated) characters in literature.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Eugène's goals eventually lead him to corruption, as illustrated in novels he reappears in.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Actually, the line from The Godfather was taken almost verbatim from here, where Vautrin makes the same comment to Eugène. This, in turn, is based on a concept mentioned by Jean-Jacques Rosseau (the philosopher, not a character in the book).
  • Badass Gay: Vautrin.
  • The Bard on Board: An old man gives up everything to his daughters, then loses both his power and his mind.
  • Being Good Sucks: Vautrin's famous dialogue with Eugène revolves entirely on this. Vautrin points out that it's simply impossible to make a good living in France at that time, on a salary drawn from honest work. Rastignac as a student would not be able to afford and maintain a house for himself, nor would he be able to earn enough to maintain the lifestyle that a career would need, or money for books. Rastignac's only real hope for advancement is to marry into money, forgo any lingering ideals and become a pure Social Climber since those are the kind of people society rewards.
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  • Big Fancy House: The homes of Madame de Beauséant, Delphine, and Anastasie.
  • Character Title
  • Conspicuous Consumption: This trope makes several appearances, one of the most notable being when Anastasie de Restaud's husband buys back the diamonds she pawned so that she can wear them to a ball to defy the rumors of her debt.
  • The Corrupter: Vautrin plays this role to Eugène.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Eugène is a male example of this trope.
  • Crapsack World: Both Vautrin and Madame de Beauséant explain to Eugène how Parisian high society is this.
  • Crunchtastic: Residents of the Maison Vauquer love making up new words ending in "-orama."
  • The Cynic: Vautrin.
  • Daddy's Girl: Twisted because Goriot's reverent love for his daughters is one-sided.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Vautrin is this in Spades. Rastignac, to an extent and his friend Bianchon.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Vautrin, who manages to charm just about everyone at the boarding house.
  • Emotional Torque
  • The Gambling Addict: Anastie's lover.
  • Gayngster: Vautrin is O.G.
  • Gay Paree
  • Get Rich Quick Scheme:
    • Eugène courting Delphine and introducing her to Madame de Beuséant, which would enter both lovers into the realm of top-tier society.
    • Vautrin's proposal to Eugène: kill Victorine Taillefer's brother so she can solely inherit her father's vast fortune, and marry her.
  • Gossipy Hens: Just about everybody in the boarding house, male or female.
  • Greed: A major theme of the novel.
  • Grey and Gray Morality
  • Gold Digger:
    • A major motive of Eugène's considering Anastasie de Restaud, Delphine de Nucingen, and Victorine Taillefer as potential partners.
    • Delphine's reason for wanting to make acquaintances with Madame de Beuséant.
  • Historical Domain Character: The detective Eugène François Vidocq.
  • If I Were a Rich Man: Eugène
  • Impoverished Patrician: What Goriot's two daughters have become, due to their material indulgence and their financially broke lovers.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: The eternally forgiving Victorine.
  • It's Personal: Eugène's attitude towards Paris at the end.
    "It's between you and me now!"
  • Love Martyr: Goriot who lives in near poverty to fund his spoilt daughters' lavish lifestyles.
  • Meal Ticket: Anastasie, Delphine, and Victorine, to Eugène.
  • Meaningful Name: Vautrin evokes a person who's sprawled out, Beauséant can be translated as "nice ass".
  • Naïve Newcomer: Eugène.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Vautrin is based on criminal-turned-detective Eugène François Vidocq. This gets dizzying when Vidocq shows up to arrest Vautrin.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: What else would the classiest ladies of 19th-century Paris wear?
  • Secretly Wealthy: Madame Vauquer has a secret savings of 40,000 francs, but remains landlady of a modest boardinghouse.
  • Self-Made Man: Goriot earned his fortune using his own business smarts as a flour merchant.
  • Shipper on Deck: Goriot ships Eugéne with his daughter Delphine.
  • Smug Snake: Vautrin
  • Socialite: Nearly all the novel's major characters either are or aspire to be this.
  • Spoiled Brat: The unfortunate result of Goriot's never-ending desire to indulge his daughters' every wish.
    • Eugène himself, who asks his mother, aunt and sisters to give him their jewels and meagre savings to fund his launch into high society, even though his family has already spent the better part of its income funding his studies in Paris.
  • Starving Student: Eugène
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Vautrin delivers one to the residents of the boarding house when he is finally arrested by Vidocq. He is not wrong, but the manipulative speech is essentially meant to distract the boarders from how much he himself sucks.
  • Upperclass Twit: Most of the socialites.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Back when his daughters still visited him, no one believed Goriot when he said they were his daughters because they wore different dresses every time. They took him for a Dirty Old Man hiring far more High Class Call Girls than he could afford.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Eugène, at the novel's beginning.
  • Woman Scorned: Madame Vauquer's spite towards Old Goriot began after he rejected or ignored her romantic overtures.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Just about all of the high society characters are having affairs. As long as there's no scandal, the other married half is often complaisant.


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