Reading Aloud: Old Man Goriot

Written by Honore de Balzac, Old Man Goriot is another one of Balzac’s novels exploring the human condition. The book follows Eugene Rastignac, an ambitious student, and Goriot, an outcast, yet devout, father. 
Rastignac seeks to establish himself in Parisian society by having an affair with Goriot’s daughter, but circumstances throughout the novel cause him to constantly reconsider his dreams of dancing and champagne against the stark reality of Maison Vauquer, the boarding house he lives in.   
Old Man Goriot exposes how not everything is as it seems. After all, “the heaviest chains are made of gold.”

What I enjoyed most about this book was that the constructs Balzac points out are still relevant today. People are still dreaming of riches, still wishing for love, still praying for a better life than the one they lead. The appetite of “want” is insatiable and sometimes whatever efforts we put forth never seem like they are enough. 
Old Man Goriot is the first book my 19th century Parisian literature class read–Madame Bovary is soon to come, as well as Zola’s Nana.

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A Francophile based in coastal New England

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