Honore De Balzac And Gustave Flaubert's Writings On Capitalism

2607 words - 10 pages

Honore de Balzac and Gustave Flaubert's Writings on Capitalism

The Revolution in France, during the 19th century, gave power to the people for the first time in France. French citizens now had faith that they could form a strong, independent country; but what they did not realize was that there must be some form of financial or monetary backbone present for a country to excel on its own in the modern world. This gave way to the rise of capitalism and all its follies, debaucheries, and mainly the exploitive nature it excites in people. Two authors, who were writing and observing these changes during this time in France, Honore de Balzac, and Gustave Flaubert, exemplify the demoralization of a people caused by the onslaught of capitalism, especially concerning the influence of this exploitive system as it stains everyday life with its deceptive characteristics. Through evaluating Balzac’s Pere Goriot and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, it is evident that the exploitive aspects of capitalism permeate not only through the lives of a spectrum of characters, but also throughout the government as it exploits its country’s citizens.

Balzac comments on the exploitation of family member via the actions of Eugene Rastignac and Pere Goriot, the main characters in Balzac’s Pere Goriot. Pere Goriot’s role in the exploitation of family members is rather overt; however, Eugene’s role is easy to overlook. Eugene uses whatever means necessary to work his way into the high ranks of Parisian society. His desperation to join these wealthy individuals proves to be his demise, but it is not the entirety of his flaws. The influence of capitalistic ideals of Eugene’s time forces him to exploit his family for his own selfish ends by requesting that his mother and sister send the little money they have. Vautrin comments to Eugene about his actions, as he sees through the deception of Eugene, by saying that his mother has “bled herself white” so that Eugene may “be able to have [his] fun,” and “go around in high society” (Balzac 88). Eugene’s actions are exploitive because he has no regard for the well-being of his family by asking for their life-savings. Eugene also does not take into account how he is going to recover the sums he unethically acquires. However, capitalism’s influence does not stop with Eugene in this instance. The idea of needing expensive clothes and flashy attire influences his sister Laura that she should use her sewing and clothes making skills in order to save Eugene some money, and therefore have a better chance of Parisian high society accepting him. Eugene says that his sister has “become as crafty as a thief” (87), which comments on the changes within her caused by the minute exposure to modern, capitalistic, ideals. However, really Laura is stealing from herself by willingly exploiting her own labor without compensation of any sort. Here, along with the ever-present portrayal of Goriot’s daughters bamboozling him for...

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