Father Goriot / Le Père Goriot
Honoré de Balzac
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Father Goriot is an 1835 novel by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), included in the Scènes de la vie privée section of his novel sequence La Comédie humaine. Set in Paris in 1819, it follows the intertwined lives of three characters: the elderly doting Goriot, a mysterious criminal-in-hiding named Vautrin, and a naive law student named Eugène de Rastignac.
Originally published in serial form during the winter of 1834–35, Le Père Goriot is widely considered Balzac's most important novel. It marks the first serious use by the author of characters who had appeared in other books, a technique that distinguishes Balzac's fiction. The novel is also noted as an example of his realist style, using minute details to create character and subtext.
The novel takes place during the Bourbon Restoration, which brought profound changes to French society; the struggle by individuals to secure a higher social status is a major theme in the book. The city of Paris also impresses itself on the characters – especially young Rastignac, who grew up in the provinces of southern France. Balzac analyzes, through Goriot and others, the nature of family and marriage, providing a pessimistic view of these institutions.
Translated by Ellen Marriage.