Thursday, September 27

I don't know if my morals are screwy or what, but it really exasperated me when Eugene decided that he was going to do the right thing, as it were, on p. 232. I think I even said aloud, "Take it, you idiot!" I am continually surprised that Eugene seems to be able to keep more of his scruples than protagonists in some other stories--like, say, "Great Expectations." I like the fact that Eugene tends to be more gray than black-and-white. He was a complete bastard to woo Victorine when he knew how much she wanted him, but I think it was right that he broke it off as soon as she got her money, rather than keeping her on the back burner in case things didn't work out with Delphine, (which may change). He is definitely more interesting to me as a person who is still giving and kind to others (Old Goriot, his sisters) and who still has a conscience despite the fact that he's so focused on money and status, (again, this may change).
I think it would have been really easy, (and didactic—not to mention boring), to make Eugene become completely morally bankrupt as soon as he got some nice clothes or a little bit of notice by the crème de la crème of Parisian society. Some people would probably argue with me, but to me it doesn’t seem like he’s changed much from when he didn’t have any money. He was ambitious then, he’s ambitious now. Then, he studied incessantly and attended law school because his law degree was going to be the means for him to make his way in the world. Now, he studies the manners of the class he wants to emulate, and attends lessons in their drawing rooms and opera boxes.
But are Eugene and Delphine really in love? Their relationship just plagues me with questions. Is Eugene only interested in her because of obligation or pity that he feels towards Old Goriot? Is Old Goriot really just a spectacular puppet-master manipulating Eugene? There is definitely some of both going on. Does Eugene actually feel love for Delphine? I know there was some part earlier in the novel where it said, “He feel more deeply in love with her every day,” but this was shortly after he decided to take up with her because she was his best chance at advancing in society. I think his judgment is a little too clouded by money and status for him to truly love her, in the Renzo and Lucia sense. Although it could be that he only got into it for the social benefit at first, but he ended up falling in love with her for real. And the same with her; does she just want to be with him because he’s young, kind, malleable, moldable, the opposite of her husband? And who the hell am I to judge what “true” love is, anyway? It just seems to me to be very convenient that these two hooked up for convenience’s sake, and “poof!” now they are in love. It’s just so hard for me to believe people can really be in love under the circumstances, awash in the superficiality of Parisian society. The fact that the two haven’t consummated their relationship is something that I could use to argue either the idea of love-by-convenience for them, or that they are truly in love and are waiting for that special moment.
Also, there’s something to be said about the idea of wanting what you can’t have. At the beginning of the story, Eugene was mad for Madame de Restaud, whom he could not have, and that is what drove his ambition. Has he found some way to overcome that part of human nature that makes us prefer what we can’t have over that which we can have easily, (now I am like those authoritative 19th century narrators—but it is so true!), and if so, will he share that secret please? Are we to believe that he has overcome this and will happily settle with Delphine?
Will Eugene show up at de Restaud’s door years from now, making grandiose overtures to her, breaking Delphine’s heart and causing the elderly Goriot to kill him with his own last breath? Will Papa Taillefer call out Eugene in a duel for breaking his daughter’s heart and kill either Eugene or Old Goriot? Will Goriot be revealed as some sort of dastardly mastermind after ruining Eugene? Will Vautrin escape and seek revenge on Goriot for informing the police about him in the first place (which is where, we find out, Goriot got the money to purchase Eugene’s fancy new digs)? So many questions!

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