Balzac says this is a true story of real events and real people and an honest reader will admit that this is how life is.
Balzac fears that after reading of the secret misfortunes of Le Père Goriot, which he describes as a Paris tragedy, readers may comfort themselves that there is artistic exaggeration in the author’s telling of these events.  However, Balzac maintains all that he relates is true. Page 6:
Ah! sachez-le : ce drame n'est ni une fiction, ni un roman. All is true, il est si véritable, que chacun peut en reconnaître les éléments chez soi, dans son cœur peut-être.



  1. His career as a vermicellier
  2. Marriage and fatherhood
  3. How Goriot brought up his two daughters
  4. The change in Goriot’s life after the marriage of his daughters
  5. How the daughters drained his wealth in the first years of their marriage


  1. The over-developed emotional element in Goriot’s character
  2. Balzac’s theories on the power of concentrated emotion
  3. How Goriot came to live solely on the plane of his emotions


  1. The pathos of the story of his decline 1813 -1819
  2. Goriot in1813
  3. Goriot from the end of the second year
  4. Goriot from the end of the third year
  5. Goriot from the fourth year onwards
  6. Goriot when Rastignac arrived
  7. The sacrifice of Goriot’s last possession of value
  8. A period of respite. The protection of Rastignac and the change it brought into Goriot’s life - end of 1819
  9. Rastignac’s protection begins
  10. The friendship of Rastignac and Goriot
  11. Rastignac brings Delphine back into Goriot’s life.
  12. The transformation of Goriot in this period
  13. Goriot’s brief moment of sublime happiness at the apartment
  14. The cruel end of this respite in Goriot’s life
  15. The very bad news brought by the sisters
  16. The onset of Goriot’s first stroke
  17. On this occasion Goriot has no money to solve their problems
  18. The sisters’ quarrel seriously aggravates his condition
  19. Anastasie’s fatal last demand.


  1. The state of the empty room portrays his sacrifice.
  2. There is nothing at all in Goriot’s room
  3. Goriot is absolutely penniless
  4. Throughout life, his thoughts had been only for the happiness of his daughters and this continues even in the throes of death.
  5. The self-deception on which he relied in the past. This Goriot temporarily suspends
  6. He recognises that they had a hand in driving him out of their lives
  7. He acknowledges his previous self-deception
  8. He recognises their heartlessness
  9. He tells how he bought their affection with gifts
  10. He describes how he suffered in the years of their indifference
  11. However, he admits that he had caused their behaviour because he had spoiled them so much
  12. They live solely for pleasure now and it is his fault
  13. The involved and selfish lives of the daughters that had no place for him in life, have no place for him in death
  14. The absence of the daughters from his bedside
  15. The absence of the daughters from the funeral
  16. He describes how deeply he feels the betrayal of their desertion and curses them
  17. Yet we see that his daughters truly loved him
  18. Goriot’s love for his daughters is as indestructible in death as it had been in life. His self deception is restored.



Goriot at the start of the novel
At the time when the novel begins in 1819, Goriot was about 69 years old. 
He had been at Madame Vauquer's house since 1813.  He had once been a very prosperous businessman.  . However, we find him, in 1819, living in one of the poorest rooms on the third floor of a very dilapidated boarding house where he had been since 1813. Balzac maintains that in all gatherings of people, there is one unfortunate person who is picked on as the butt of all the jokes.  In Mme Vauquer’s boarding house, this was Père Goriot.

A) The story of Goriot’s life up to the start of the novel
We are given details about Goriot’s life history at a number of points in the novel and these add up to a full biography. A lot of information comes from the investigation, which Rastignac made into the background of the Goriot family to ensure that he did not make another faux pas with his daughters.  His source was the man who had bought Goriot’s business, when he retired.
1) His career as a vermicellier
Goriot had begun as a simple labourer working for a flour merchant. His employer was condemned by the revolutionaries during the violent upheavals of the Revolution of 1789 and Goriot was able to buy the business. Goriot associated himself with the revolutionaries for the self-protection, not wishing to share his former employer’s fate and he rose to the important position of President of the Revolutionary Section in his district of Paris.   His experience as a flour merchant proved very useful to him during the period of acute food shortage of 1793 when the price of grain shot sky high and there was bloody rioting outside the bakeries. Page 102:
Pendant cette année, le citoyen Goriot amassa les capitaux qui plus tard lui servirent à faire son commerce avec toute la supériorité que donne une grande masse d'argent à celui qui la possède.
The Duchess de Langeais has no doubt about Goriot’s dealings were dishonest. She states categorically that, in corrupt league with other revolutionaries, Goriot had exploited the food shortage by selling flour at exorbitant rates.

Le vermicellier
Balzac’s word for Goriot’s profession is “vermicellier”.  To say he is a merchant of vermicelli sounds somewhat quirky - at least to English readers. When we read on page 102 that his work involved importing grain from many corners of the world, at the best prices, with an expert knowledge of the many kinds of grain, of  the many different qualities and of the fluctuating markets,  we understand the scope of his work more clearly.  Perhaps we can use a more general word e.g. flour merchant, to give a picture of his commercial status.

Although Goriot showed opportunism in looking after his interests in the precarious early 1790s, it is possible that the charge of corruption is only gossip.  Otherwise, except for an eccentric attempt at deceit as a sick old man, he acts an honourable man.  His fortune was certainly built on ability as well. We are told that Goriot showed remarkable business skills, building up a vast amount of knowledge about the range of commodities, the suppliers and the markets, becoming the foremost expert in this field of work - Page 102: 
A lui voir conduire ses affaires, expliquer les lois sur l'exportation, sur l'importation des grains, étudier leur esprit, saisir leurs défauts, un homme l'eut juge capable d'être ministre d'état. Patient, actif, énergique, constant, rapide dans ses expéditions, il avait un coup d'œil d'aigle, devançait tout, prévoyait tout, savait tout, cachait tout;

However, he concentrated all his intelligence on his narrow business activities and excluded any wider interests.  In areas of his life outside the skills of his profession, he was still a coarse workman with no intellectual interest- Page 102:
……il redevenait l'ouvrier stupide et grossier, l'homme incapable de comprendre un raisonnement, insensible a tous les plaisirs de l'esprit, l’homme qui s'endormait au spectacle, un de ces d'Oliban parisien, fort seulement en bêtise.

He still retained the brute strength of the labourer.  This can be calculated by the distance that the man who called him an insulting name travelled, when Goriot hit him with his mighty fist.

2) The marriage of Goriot 
The novel does not provide a date, but it can be calculated that Goriot got married around 1790, at approximately 40 years of age.  Goriot’s wife was the daughter of a rich farmer and his love for her knew no bounds.   He admired the delicate, sensitive, good-looking young lady, who contrasted with his own rough character.

After his marriage, Goriot had a strong focus for his emotional life.  While his work totally absorbed all his intelligence, his heart developed its own new focus, directed into the care of his wife and the two daughters that were born to them. Unfortunately, his beloved wife, who could have brought wider interests and a new  balance into his life, died after seven years of blissful marriage.  
3) How Goriot brought up his two daughters
After the death of his wife, he passed on all the love that he had had for her, to swell the great devotion he already felt for his daughters. With a high income and little personal expense, he lavished his money on the education of his daughters to make them into ladies and on their pleasures to make them perfectly happy.  He paid for the very best tutors so that they were endowed with the talents of the best educated children.  For their lady companion he chose a woman with wit and good taste.  The girls went horse riding and had their own carriage.

Goriot afforded for Anastasie and Delphine the lifestyle that rich old nobleman gave to their mistresses – Page 104
… elles vivaient comme auraient vécu les maîtresses d'un vieux seigneur riche
He loved them even when they misbehaved and he would grant their most expensive wishes asking only a gesture of affection in return.
4 The change in Goriot’s life after the marriage of his daughters

Goriot had married his daughters well at the time of Bonaparte, when it was not an embarrassment to have a former leading revolutionary as a father-in-law.  Anastasie married a member of one leading noble families in France; Delphine had married a leading banker. Goriot gave each daughter half his fortune as dowry.  The Duchesse de Langeais estimated each dowry at five to six hundred thousand francs. On his deathbed, Goriot quotes a higher figure, and bitterly tells how he was well received at his daughters’ houses in the first years of their marriages, when he was still rich. -Page 290:
Un homme qui donne huit cent mille francs à ses filles était un homme à soigner. Et l'on était aux petits soins, mais c'était pour mon argent

Later, his sons in law and his daughters thought it was demeaning to have a father-n law, who was a flour merchant and tried to persuade him to retire.  After five years of persuasion, he gave way and sold his business even though this was his life.

It was in 1813 that Goriot went to live at Mme. Vauquer’s.  He had all the wealth from the sale of his business and from its recent profits.  Mme Vauquer with her intimate knowledge of the assets of her guests valued his annual income at 8,000- 10.000 livres per year. 

Goriot was rich enough to stay in his own home.  There was no financial reason for him to move into a boarding house, but Rastignac’s informant says that he took this step in despair because his daughters’ husbands ordered them neither to give him a home in their houses, nor to entertain him publicly.

The Duchesse de Langeais says that the husbands excluded Goriot after the Monarchy was restored after the fall of Napoleon.  She tells Mme de Beauséant and Rastignac that, after this regime change, Goriot was an embarrassment to his daughters and their husbands, because it was well known that he had been a prominent revolutionary.  The girls had started to see their father only in private.  When Goriot recognised the difficulty he caused for them, he sacrificed himself and had stopped the visits.  Mme de Langeais summed up the situation bluntly - the daughters had disowned the father who had given a huge dowry to each of them.

The contacts recorded between father and daughters in the book are very few.  Those living at Mme Vauquer’s had seen two young ladies, who they refused to believe to be his daughters, visit Goriot occasionally.  These visits eventually stopped almost completely (see below).   Rastignac sees Goriot visit Anastasie, using the tradesmen’s entrance and almost run over on his departure by her husband who gives him the briefest of waves.  
5) How the daughters drained his wealth in the first years of their marriage
Delphine admits that in the first years of marriage she and he sister solved their financial problems by taking their father’s money. On their first evening alone together, Delphine tells him that both she and her sister have been guilty of impoverishing Goriot, while he has been living in retirement.  By the end of 1719, they had taken his every penny. As a result, Delphine had been unable to borrow from her father to repay her debts to De Marsay.  Delphine tells Rastignac -Page 165:
Anastasie et moi nous l’avons égorgé;  mon pauvre père se serait vendu s'il pouvait valoir six mille francs. J'aurais été le désespérer en vain.


1) The over-developed emotional element in Goriot’s character
Balzac says that when protectiveness for someone weaker is combined with real love, a powerful sentiment is created which is the basis for some strange happenings in life. This theory would seem to apply to the subsequent life of Goriot- Page 103
S'il est un sentiment inné dans le cœur de l'homme, n'est-ce pas l'orgueil de la protection exercée à tout moment en faveur d'un être faible ? Joignez-y l'amour, cette reconnaissance vive de toutes les âmes franches pour le principe de leurs plaisirs, et vous comprendrez une foule de bizarreries morales.

The author says that it was probably inevitable, that, after the death of his wife, Goriot’s love for his daughters would grow out of all proportion.  Page 103:
Dans cette situation, le sentiment de la paternité se développa chez Goriot jusqu'a la déraison. Il reporta ses affections trompées par la mort sur ses deux filles, qui, d'abord, satisfirent pleinement tous ses sentiments.

The ruthlessness of which he was capable when his daughters were involved is illustrated by an incident in Goriot’s professional life. One day, when Goriot was at an auction, a rival bidder told him, untruthfully, that his daughter had been knocked down by a cab, in order to get him away and give him a clear field. Goriot was made ill by the shock and although he did not use his well-known murderous fist, he deliberately brought about the man’s bankruptcy.

Reading his physiognomy, Mme. Vauquer recognised the highly emotional nature of Goriot, which promised satisfaction for her sensual appetite. Page 23.
Ce devait être une bête solidement bâtie, capable de dépenser tout son esprit en sentiment. 
It was this overwhelming passion that was channelled into the one focus of his emotional life: his love for his daughters, which obliged him to give them the closest protection and to provide them with the maximum happiness. 
 2) Balzac’s theories on the power of concentrated emotion
We see in the notes on Balzac’s view of the human character (Section 12- Balzac – his theories- from which the following paragraphs are largely copied) that he believed that emotions, when concentrated, developed an overwhelming force that could be destructive.  In an unfinished work: “Martyrs ignores” (1836), Balzac says:
Les passions, les vices, les occupations extrêmes, les douleurs, les plaisirs sont des torrents de pensée.  Réunissez sur point donné quelques quelques idées violentes, un homme est tué par elles comme s’il recevait un coup de poignard.

With a similar choice of image, Balzac's friend, the critic, Félix Davin, said, in 1834, that the majority of Balzac stories show the sword wearing out the scabbard.

Vautrin, who often expresses the opinions of the author, describes the irresistible force that an obsession possesses, once it has become implanted in a person's heart.  He is arguing that it is perfectly feasible that an old man like Goriot will have spent the whole of his wealth buying the favours of young women.    He argues that obsessive behaviour is a known feature of the human character- (Page 58):

(Certain people)…… …..  chaussent une idée et n’en démordent pas.  Ils n’ont soif que d’une certaine eau prise à une certaine fontaine et souvent croupie ;  pour en boire ils vendraient leurs femmes, leurs enfants, ils vendraient leur âme au diable.  Pour les uns, cette fontaine est le jeu, la Bourse, une collection de tableaux, ou d’insectes, la musique ; pour d’autres, c’est une femme qui sait bien leur cuisiner des friandises.
Vautrin recognises that Goriot is such a man. Without his passions he is nothing, a brute beast, but this one passion of his gives him the sole motivation of his life.

3) How Goriot came to live solely on the plane of his emotions
Once Goriot retired from his business, he lived solely on the plane of his emotions. Balzac describes his nature as confined totally to feeling like a dog’s.  When Eugène and Goriot became good friends, it was with the primitive instincts you find in a dog that Goriot recognised the kindness and compassion of Eugène -Page 135:
Le père Goriot, que son sentiment irréfléchi élevait jusqu'au sublime de la nature canine, avait flairé la compassion, l'admirative bonté, les sympathies juvéniles qui s'étaient émues pour lui dans le cœur de  l'étudiant

Goriot had descended into a state of torpor when he lost real contact with his daughters.   However, even in that state he  can stir himself to go out and wait in the street for a chance glimpse of his daughters as they go past in their carriages.  At table in the boarding house, Goriot took no interest in the world around him, looked like an idiot and was treated like one but he changed at the mention of his daughters. Rastignac’s affair with Delphine restored his daughter to him

After Rastignac told him news of Delphine, Goriot told Rastignac of the joy he felt from knowing his daughters were happy.  He says that his daughters are his sole reason for living and that he only exists on this emotional plane - Page 150:
……je ne sais pas dire deux paroles de suite comme il faut. Tout est là, ajouta-t-il en se frappant le cœur. Ma vie, à moi, est dans mes deux filles. Si elles s'amusent, si elles sont heureuses, bravement mises, si elles marchent sur des tapis, qu'importe de quel drap je sois vêtu, et comment est l'endroit où je me couche?
As Goriot speaks Rastignac sees him illuminated by the fire of his paternal passion.

The extremes of his affection are shown when Goriot shares an evening with Rastignac and Delphine in the apartment he has provided.  At one point he embraces his daughter so hard that he hurts her and then is very alarmed in case he has done her physical harm.  He fusses over her like the tenderest lover and in fact embarrasses Delphine - -Page 240:
….enfin il faisait des folies comme en aurait fait l'amant le plus jeune et le plus tendre.
 Voyez-vous? dit De1phine    Eugene, quand mon père est avec nous, il faut être tout à lui.  Ce sera pourtant bien gênant quelquefois.
His protectiveness of his girls has the same potential for violence even in his old age. Even though he is pleased that Eugene has come into Delphine’s life (Page 150), at the same time he threatens Rastignac if he does anything to hurt his daughter.

Some of the plans that he suggests at the end of his life for raising money for his girls are extreme to the point of insanity.  He will rob a bank. Equally insane is his plan of kidnapping his own grandson Ernest, the Restaud’s eldest son and the only one of Anastasie’s children not fathered by her lover, to prevent him seizing all her property.
Goriot’s love of Anastasie and Delphine was an all-consuming passion in the manner described by Balzac.  It is the destructive force of this obsessive love which we are charting when we look at the decline in the circumstances of Goriot’s life and when we then present the events of his death.


The above are the facts of Goriot’s history.  It is when then the novel takes us to live these events through Goriot’s personal experience that the reader appreciates the full poignancy of the Parisian tragedy that Balzac promised at the start of “Le Père Goriot”.  Balzac describes his story as - Page 105:
….cette obscure mais effroyable tragédie parisienne

1) The pathos of the story of his decline 1813 -1819

a) Goriot in1813
Goriot was about 69 years old when he moved into Madame Vauquer's boarding house. The year was 1813.  At that time he was wealthy and he took the best room of the house, on the first floor - occupied by Mme. Couture and Victorine in 1819.  He brought with him a fine wardrobe of expensive clothes and cupboards of cutlery and crockery including valued silverware.  His appearance earned him respect, and people addressed him politely as Monsieur Goriot – not the dismissive familiarity of “Père Goriot” that was in general use when Rastignac became a fellow boarder.  . 

Mme. Vauquer had been immediately strongly attracted to Goriot’s wealth and person and had resolved to become the second Mme Goriot. She began to take pride in her appearance and to smarten up the boarding house.  There was another new boarder: the Comtesse d'Ambermesnil, a woman of 36 years of age.  Although Mme Vauquer hardly knew her new lady guest, she chose her to act as her go-between in approaching Goriot.  Mme. de l'Ambersnil cooperated with her, hoping to win Goriot for herself. However, when Mme. de l’Ambersnil attempted to use her charms on Goriot, she was rebuffed by Goriot in a manner that caused her great offence.  The next day, she went off, owing her rent and leaving no belongings behind. In fact she had been an impostor.

Afterwards, Mme. Vauquer blamed Goriot for this unfortunate incident of her own making. Her animosity towards Goriot now surpassed the intensity of her previous attraction to him.  Out of spite, she cut down on the extras that she had originally provided for him. However, Goriot, being a frugal man, was unaware of her unfriendly gesture.  Therefore she began to treat him with contempt and her boarders joined in.  Goriot, who had once used his mighty fist at a personal insult, just seemed oblivious

b) Goriot from the end of the second year 
As the months of the first year went by, Goriot began to dine out less and less often.  
At the end of the second year he asked to move upstairs where he would pay only 900 francs.  He did not light a fire in his room.  From then on he was no longer “Monsieur Goriot” but “le père Goriot.”

To the people in the boarding house it was obvious that Goriot was losing his money and they tried to work out how.  The explanations put forward were unflattering -  he was a small time gambler or he was a small scale money lender. From Mme. Vauquer’s mean and dirty mind came the idea that he was a libertine with strange tastes!

Her theory seemed to be confirmed by the secret visit of a beautiful girl who, Goriot claimed, was his daughter.  When this beautiful slim blonde (Delphine) appeared a month later in evening dress, she was taken for a second girl friend.  Several days later, a tall shapely brunette came to visit (Anastasie). When she returned several days later in evening dress, Mme. Vauquer counted her as the fourth lady-friend. Goriot’s said that she was his elder daughter, but that was dismissed as a feeble cover-up.

c) Goriot from the end of the third year
Towards the end of the third year, Goriot had moved up to the third floor, the very poorest rooms. He gave up his snuff, no longer powdered his hair and gave up his good clothes for rough old clothes.  Once well-built, he was now losing weight and his face had become gaunt and excessively wrinkled

d) Goriot from the fourth year onwards
During the fourth year, he no longer looked the same man who had arrived in 1814, looking like a man in his forties- Page 38:
Le bon vermicellier de soixante-deux ans qui ne paraissait pas en avoir quarante, le bourgeois gros et gras, frais de bêtise, dont la tenue égrillarde réjouissait les passants, qui avait quelque chose de jeune dans le sourire, semblait être un septuagénaire hébété, vacillant.

Now he was like a doddering seventy year old.  Some thought he was a cretin, 
One evening after dinner Mme Vauquer taunted him by saying, as if as a joke, that his daughters did not come to see him any more – meaning that they had never been his daughters.  Goriot jumped as if violently startled.  Then he replied in an emotional voice that they came from time to time. As the mockery broke out around him, he went into his private meditation that some took for senile dementia.  This incident marked the bitterest time of Anastasie’s and Delphine’s desertion of their father

e) Goriot when Rastignac arrived
Therefore at the end of November 1819 when this drama begins, everyone had set ideas about Goriot.  A man living in such poverty could not have rich daughters. He had never had a wife or daughters.  He was worse than Poiret who at least had something to say – even though he merely repeated the words spoken by the previous person, whereas Goriot was zero.  Here is Goriot at the lowest depths of his depression, brought on by the indifference to him shown by his daughters.

f) The sacrifice of Goriot’s last possession of value
This was the very sad state of Goriot’s life when Rastignac started taking a real interest in him.   Their contact came about because Rastignac, in his poverty, had a room on the same floor as Goriot.  After Rastignac’s first outing in high society at a ball at Mme de Beauséant’s, he had arrived back at Mme Vauquer’s at 2am.  Hearing a great sigh coming from Goriot's room, Rastignac feared for the old man’s health and went to investigate by peeping through the key-hole.  There he saw Goriot with unsuspected strength twisting silver plate into ingots. 

The next morning at breakfast, Vautrin said that he had been out early and had seen Goriot sell silver to a dealer and then go to pay off money to the notorious money-lender, Gobseck.  As the guests discuss these mysteries, Mme Vauquer realized that Goriot has sacrificed the first anniversary present given to him by his wife.  This was a dish with two turtledoves on the lid, which he had previously treasured it so dearly.  On first coming to the boarding house he had proudly shown it to Mme Vauquer and had said- Page27:
Voyez-vous, madame ? J’aimerais mieux gratter la terre avec mes ongles que de me séparer de cela. Dieu merci! Je pourrai prendre dans cette écuelle mon café tous les matins durant le reste de mes jours.

This is the moment when Goriot reaches the point when has nothing left, other than his everyday necessities. His room, which had been packed with his belongings when he first came, is now empty and he has given up the very last possession of substantial financial value the one that had the greatest sentimental value to him. He had made this sacrifice so that his elder daughter could pay off the debts of her profligate lover, the Comte de Trailles.

2) A period of respite. The protection of Rastignac and the change it brought into Goriot’s life - end of 1819

a) Rastignac’s protection begins
When Rastignac went to Goriot’s door in the night, he heard him utter the words “The poor child” with such a depth of emotion that Rastignac appreciated the sincerity of the old man.  From that moment, Rastignac became less ready to condemn his neighbour, whereas previously he had accepted the calumnious verdict on his character made by his fellow boarders.

After his discoveries in society, Rastignac stuns all those at dinner at Mme Vauquer’s with the truth about Goriot.  Taking no account of Goriot at table, Rastignac tells them that he had the door of the Restauds closed on him for saying that Goriot was his fellow boarder.  This story brings a tear to Goriot’s eye. 

In spite of the lack of consideration of this public revelation, Rastignac is filled with pity for the old man and says that henceforth whoever attacks Goriot attacks him as well. He says Goriot is a better man than any present there.

Goriot is so preoccupied with the story of Anastasie’s reaction that he fails to realise that attitudes to him are now changed and that he now has a defender who is capable of enforcing his will.  Goriot wants to talk alone to Eugène about his meeting with his daughter. Rastignac needs to leave to urgently – to write the begging letter to his family. He has time, however, to pay an emotional tribute to Goriot- Page 98:
Eugène lui prit la main, et le contemplant avec une sorte d'attendrissement : — Vous êtes un brave et digne homme.

b) The friendship of Rastignac and Goriot
Eugène and old Goriot soon formed a strong friendship. With the primitive instincts you find in a dog, Goriot recognised the kindness and compassion of. Eugène -Page 135:
Le père Goriot, que son sentiment irréfléchi élevait jusqu'au sublime de la nature canine, avait flairé la compassion, l'admirative bonté, les sympathies juvéniles qui s'étaient émues pour lui dans le cœur de  l'étudiant.

Eugene’s story of the embarrassment that he had caused at the Restauds by mentioning his name still concerned him. He denied that Anastasie had been angry with Rastignac and is sure that both his daughters love him. - Page l35:
Mon cher monsieur, lui avait-il dit le lendemain, comment avez-vous pu croire que madame de Restaud vous en ait voulu d'avoir prononcé mon nom? Mes deux filles m'aiment bien.  Je suis un heureux père.

He explains that the problem is that their husbands are hostile to him.  As a result, to avoid causing difficulties for his daughters, he prefers to see them in secret. He waits on the street to glimpse Anastasie and Delphine as they pass by in their coaches and this is enough to make him happy.  His daughters wish to give him presents but he refuses. We see in all this his sad self-deception

c) Rastignac brings Delphine back into Goriot’s life.
After Rastignac has been to the theatre and had had dinner with Delphine, he is able give Goriot news of one daughter.  Goriot responds by telling of the joy which he gets from knowing his daughters are happy.  At the end of that evening, Delphine had had no thought of sending a message for her father, but Eugene lies, out of kindness,  and delights him by saying she sends him a kiss. He realises, however, that Delphine gives no thought to her father- Page 152:
Le pauvre homme, se dit Eugène en se couchant, il y a de quoi toucher des cœurs de marbre. Sa fille n'a pas plus pensé à lui qu'au grand-Turc

As Eugène was involved in the only area of Goriot's life, where the old man became alive- his love of his daughters- the two became close friends- Page 153
Le bonhomme se prit donc pour son voisin d'une amitié qui, alla croissant et sans laquelle il eût été sans doute impossible de connaître le dénouement de cette histoire

d) The transformation of Goriot in this period
Their relationship brought about a change in Goriot, noticed by the other boarders – Page 153
……. au déjeuner, l'affectation avec laquelle le père Goriot regardait Eugène, près duquel il se plaça, les quelques paroles qu'il lui dit, et le changement de sa physionomie, ordinairement semblable à un masque de plâtre surprirent les pensionnaires.

For his part, Rastignac, whose conscience was troubled by the morally doubtful path he was taking, hoped to atone by looking after Goriot who had suffered so much -. Page 220:
Cc pauvre vieillard a bien souffert par le cœur.  Il ne dit rien de ses chagrins, mais qui ne les devinerait pas! Eh! bien, j'aurai soin de lui comme d'un père, je lui donnerai mille jouissances.

The revitalised Goriot, with the help of Delphine, worked in secret over a period of four weeks, to find a smart bachelor apartment for Rastignac. Finally, in a state of great excitement he is able to take Rastignac by coach to see the great surprise that they had prepared.  Rastignac, bewildered by all the dramatic events of the day of Vautrin’s arrest, exclaims that the world has been turned upside down. Goriot disagrees speaking with a new optimism-­Page 233:
Renversé? dit le père Goriot. Mais à aucune époque le monde n'a si bien été. Je ne vois que des figures gaies dans les rues, des gens qui se donnent des poignées de main, et qui s'embrassent; des gens heureux comme s'ils allaient tous diner chez leurs filles,

Goriot said that his solicitor had arranged for Rastignac an annual allowance of 36,000 , which the lawyer would free from the interest on Delphine’s dowry that her husband was holding.  In the meantime, he had paid everything from a small annuity that he still had left.  Goriot says his self interest is involved, as he will live upstairs and will see his daughter from time to time. He is delighted to be with his daughter again and to have done these things in collaboration with her.

At this moment he had become again the astute businessman and he had regained his energy and his strength.  He told Rastignac that he had done the labouring, carrying furniture round.

When Eugène finds it impossible to accept generosity on this scale, Goriot tells him to regard it as a loan.   Eugène can write a receipt and pay him back in the future when attains the success which is certain for a young man of his talents

e) Goriot’s brief moment of sublime happiness at the apartment
Delphine is filled with gratitude and sitting on his lap as in time gone by she covers him with kisses. She tells him - page 238:
Cher père, vous êtes un père!  Non, il n'existe pas deux pères comme vous sous le ciel. Eugène vous aimait bien déjà, que sera-ce maintenant ! 
Goriot warns her that she will make him die with joy.

3) The cruel end of this respite in Goriot’s life

Unfortunately, this happy situation proved to be short-lived.  The destructive forces set up by the disordered lives of his two daughters took little more than a day to re-assert themselves.

a) The very bad news brought by the sisters
On that morning, Delphine in a frantic hurry, went in her coach to Mme Vauquer’s, dashed upstairs to her father’s room and told him brutally that she was afraid that he had taken the steps over her dowry too late to save her from ruin.

Delphine’s dramatic arrival and her desperate words shook Goriot badly and she saw an immediate dramatic change in Goriot’s appearance. Gripped by intense emotion he felt a burning sensation in his head and collapsed to his knees.

At that point Anastasie arrives and the two sisters greet each other with a bad tempered exchange. 

b) It takes the frantic voice of their father, speaking in a kind of death rattle, to make makes the sisters think of him for a moment. -Page 256 
A ce mot lugubrement jeté, comme un son du râle d'un mourant, et qui accusait l'agonie du sentiment paternel réduit à l'impuissance, les deux sœurs firent une pause. Quel égoïsme serait reste froid à ce cri de désespoir qui, semblable a une pierre lancé dans un gouffre, en révélant la profondeur?
Anastasie has brought further troubles to add to Goriot’s anguish: the diamonds she sold raised only 88,000 francs and so her lover still owes 12,000 francs. She loves him and wants to save him for her sake from debtor’s prison, and also for the sake of their children. She asks Goriot to give her the remainder.

c) On this occasion Goriot has no money to solve their problems
Suddenly, after a period of hope, Goriot finds himself back again in a state of impotent poverty.  In obvious physical distress, he has to tell his daughters that he has nothing left and the world is collapsing around him. -Page 259:
Je ne les ai pas, Nasie. Plus, plus rien, plus rien! C'est la fin du monde. Oh! Le monde va crouler,

d) The sisters’ quarrel seriously aggravates his condition
The sisters’ quarrel reignites when Anastasie discovers her father has spent the money on an apartment for Delphine's lover, Rastignac.  Their angry words aggravate the burning sensation in Goriot’s head and still on his knees and in tears he begs them to make peace. Delphine sees his wild expression and the girls embrace.

It is at this point that Rastignac, who had returned from university unexpectedly and had had heard everything, intervened to solve Anastasie’s problems with Vautrin’s bill of exchange.

Once the elder sister had departed, Rastignac and Delphine laid Goriot onto his bed and he fell asleep.  Fatal damage had been done by emotion of the bitter quarrel of his daughters.  When Bianchon examined him later, he said that the old man was on the brink of a stroke and there was little to be done.  He asked Rastignac what was the cause of this sudden change - Page 267:
Sais-tu par quel événement la maladie a été causée il a dû recevoir un coup violent sous lequel son moral aura succombé.
— Oui, dit Rastignac en se rappelant que les deux filles avaient battu sans relâche sur le cœur de leur père.

e) Anastasie’s fatal last demand upon him.
Incredibly, the next morning, Anastasie, who had seen how ill her father was, returned the next morning to ask him to give her 1,000 francs, which she needed to buy a dress suitable for the ball that evening at Mme de Beauséant’s.  She had been refused credit.

Goriot got up from his sick bed.  Having no more money, he sold his remaining essential belongings and raised 600 francs.  Then he obtained 400 francs credit on one year of his future yearly income.  In order to convince the money-lender, Gobseck, that he was likely to live another twelve months, he had made himself look younger - According. To Mme Vauquer, he was successful - Page 270
Il a emporté ce matin ses derniers couverts, je ne sais pourquoi. Il s'était mis en jeune homme. Dieu me pardonne, je crois qu'il avait du rouge, il m'a paru rajeuni

Eugène returned to the boarding house only in the evening of the day after the ball. He had overslept in his new apartment after leaving the Beauséant mansion in the early hours of the morning.  He found neither Goriot nor Bianchon at table and was told Goriot has collapsed.

Bianchon says Goriot has had a stroke. They could not move him to the new apartment as Rastignac had intended.   Bianchon had no doubt who was guilty of bringing on this attack.  He says that Goriot’s efforts on some strange mission the previous morning had been the final straw- Page 271:
Il est sorti vers le matin, il a été à pied dans Paris, on ne sait où.  Il a emporté tout ce qu’il possédait de vaillant, il a été faire quelque sacré trafic pour lequel il a outrepassé ses forces! Une de ses filles est venue.

Rastignac had anticipated that Anastasie’s selfishness would be the death of her father. At the ball, the previous evening, when Anastasie, resplendent in her beauty, was wearing her mass of glittering diamonds for the last time,Delphine asked Eugène what he thought of her sister. He replied that she had cashed in on the very death of her father- Page 281
Elle a, dit Rastignac, escompté jusqu’à la mort de son père

D) How the tragedy of Goriot’s life is summarised in the deathbed scene.

In world literature, there are a number of famous deathbed scenes.  Some critics have maintained that the death of Goriot is the most memorable of all.  In the account of the final hours of his life, the tragedy of Goriot’s life is summarised.

1) The crime of his daughters against him is presented in the description of his dreadful circumstances at the end.

a) There is nothing at all in Goriot’s room
Bianchon has been trying to get the room warm, because the walls are running with damp. Eugène thinks bitterly of the life of his daughters- Page 284:
Il faisait humide, l'eau dégouttait des murs. A peine ai-je pu sécher la chambre. Christophe l'a balayée, c'est vraiment une écurie. J'y ai brûlé du genièvre, ça puait trop. 
Mon Dieu! dit Rastignac, mais ses filles!

b) Goriot is absolutely penniless
Goriot says that he does not have a penny and is living off charity.  When Christophe brings firewood, Goriot tells the servant he has no money to pay him - Page 287:

Bon ! Mais comment payer le bois? Je n'ai pas un sou, mon enfant. J'ai tout donné, tout. Je suis à la charité. La robe lamée était-elle belle au moins? (Ah! je souffre!) Merci Christophe. Dieu vous récompensera, mon garçon; moi, je n'ai plus rien.

Rastignac and Bianchon need money for medicine. Rastignac gives Bianchon his watch to pawn (Page 296), to raise money for the care of the old man.

Bianchon puts Goriot in a pauper’s coffin that he was able to buy cheaply at his hospital.  He says that to show the families up, they should buy a cheap grave, arrange a cheap funeral and then write on the grave stone. - Page 306:
« Ci-gît monsieur Goriot, père de la comtesse de Restaud et de la baronne de Nucingen, enterré aux frais de deux étudiants. »

The gravedigger asks for a tip and Rastignac has to borrow 20 pence from Christophe

2) Throughout life, his thoughts had been only for the happiness of his daughters and this continues even in the throes of death,

Goriot had his fatal stroke on the day of the Beauséants ball. Rastignac was not t Mme Vauquer’s at that time and was unaware of the deterioration in Goriot’s condition as a result, Bianchon attended Goriot throughout the night of the ball.   He was very moved to see that Goriot, although mortally ill, was preoccupied with thoughts about his two daughters at the ball, taking delight in the thought of them dancing at this glittering occasion and imagining Bianchon said Goriot had talked about the daughters all night, about their dancing, about Anastasie’s new dress.  He called out their names.  All this brought Bianchon to the point of tears- Page 285:
Se sont-elles bien amusées? dit le père Goriot, qui reconnut Eugène.
Oh ! il ne pense qu'à ses filles, dit Bianchon. Il m'a dit plus de cent fois cette nuit : « Elles dansent ! Elle a sa robe. » Il les appelait par leurs noms. Il me faisait pleurer, diable m'emporte ! Avec ses intonations : « Delphine ! Ma petite Delphine ! Nasie !

During his last hours Goriot’s thoughts went back to the happiest years of his life when Anastasie and Delphine were affectionate little girls - Page 287
Mon paradis était rue de la Jussienne……Je crois les voir en ce moment telles qu'elles e étaient rue de la Jussienne. Elles descendaient le matin. Bonjour, papa, disaient-elles. Je les prenais sur mes genoux, je leur faisais mille agaceries, des niches. Elles me caressaient gentiment.

3) Goriot had deceived himself in the past  There is self deception in the death scene, but first Goriot temporarily suspends it 
Putting aside his habitual self deception, he faces a series of harsh truths:
a) That they had a hand in driving him out of their livesPage 289
Vous les faites entrer dans le monde, ils vous en chassent. 
b) He acknowledges his previous self-deception: Page 289
Non, elles ne viendront pas! Je sais cela depuis dix ans. Je me le disais quelquefois, mais je n’osais pas y croire.
c) He recognises their heartlessness.  What he had done wrong was to love them too much: -Page 209:
Ma foi, qui sait? Elles ont toutes les deux des cœurs de roche. J'avais trop d'amour pour elles pour qu'elles en eussent pour moi. 
d) He tells how he bought their affection with gifts as any attention they gave him was for his money:.  He describes how loving they were to him and how respectful their husbands were in the first years of marriage when he was still rich. (See above).  As a result, (Page 291) he began to give his daughters things just so that they would come to see him
e) He describes how he suffered in the years of their indifference and neglect. He says they made him afraid to go to their houses and this had aged him rapidly.  Page 291:
0 mon Dieu! Puisque tu connais les misères, les souffrances que j’ai endurées, puisque tu as compté les coups de poignard que j'ai reçus, dans ce temps qui m'a vieilli, changé, tué, blanchi, pourquoi me fais-tu donc souffrir aujourd'hui? J'ai bien expié le péché de les trop aimer.

f) However, he admits that he had caused their behaviour because he had spoiled them so much and had enjoyed the sacrifices he made.  He blames himself for teaching them to trample on him. -Page 292:
Tout est de ma faute, je les ai habituées à me fouler aux pieds. J'aimais cela, moi. Ca ne regarde personne,…………………………………………………………….
Je suis un misérable, je suis justement puni. Moi seul ai causé les désordres de mes filles, je les ai gâtées. 
 g) They live solely for pleasure now and it is his fault. 
Elles veulent aujourd’hui le plaisir, comme elles voulaient autrefois du bonbon.

4)The involved and selfish lives of the daughters that had no place for him in life, have no place for him in death

a) The absence of the daughters from his bedside

Christophe tells Eugène he went first to Anastasie’s home and was told she was busy.  When Christophe insisted saying her father was dying, M de Restaud came to speak to him, in a very bad temper, and said it was the best thing Goriot could do. The Comte de Restaud said he had business with Anastasie and she would come when it was over. Anastasie managed furtively to catch Christophe as he left to tell him she was involved in something that was a matter of life or death for her children.  She promised to come to see her father afterwards.

At Delphine’s house, her maid told him that she was still asleep after coming back from the ball at 5.15a.m.and her maid said she would be in trouble if she woke her.

When Rastignac makes a second attempt to persuade the girls to come to their father’s side, he is also unsuccessful.  At Anastasie’s home, Restaud takes Rastignac to see his wife and Eugène pities her when he sees the state of mental and physical prostration to which the lady has been reduced. He recognises that she is not free to come.-Page 297:  
Elle  lui fit pitié. Avant de regarder Rastignac, elle jeta sur son mari de craintifs regards qui annonçaient une prostration complète de ses forces écrasées par une tyrannie morale et physique.

When he goes to the Nucingen home, Eugène finds Delphine in bed claiming she has caught cold. She doesn't believe her father is so ill.  In any case he would not want her to risk her health. From what we have seen of Goriot’s over-protectiveness, this latter statement is most probably true.  However, it is to be hoped that most children would not notice that they had a cold when a parent lies dying.

b) The absence of the daughters from the funeral

Before the funeral, Anastasie and Delphine take no part in the arrangements and offer no money for the costs. Rastignac and Bianchon check the cost of the funeral and write to inform the families and till no money is forthcoming.  On the next day it is the two young men, who have to register the death, pay the priest and pay Sylvie 10 francs to sew him in a shroud. Bianchon puts Goriot in a pauper’s coffin that he was able to buy cheaply at his hospital.

Bianchon says that to show the families up, they should buy a cheap grave, arrange a cheap funeral and then write on the grave stone. - Page 306:
« Ci-gît monsieur Goriot, père de la comtesse de Restaud et de la baronne de Nucingen, enterré aux frais de deux étudiants. »

The strange proceedings at the père Lachaise cemetery are symbolic of the failure of love on the part of the daughters.  At first there was only the one funeral coach, which the two students had ordered to convey the priest, and the choirboy. Eugène and Christophe used it to get a lift.

Just when the body was put in the hearse, two coaches bearing aristocratic crests followed in procession to the cemetery -but the coaches were empty. Those who came from them to join the mourners at the graveside were just the coachmen. 

c) On his deathbed Goriot describes how deeply he feels the betrayal of their desertion and this leads him to curse them
He described the hell of his suffering in the past when he was unable to see them - Page 287
Pour un père, l'enfer c'est d'être sans enfants, et j'ai déjà fait mon apprentissage depuis qu'elles sont mariées. Mon paradis était rue de la Jussienne

He is in desperate need for their support in the throes of death.  Their presence would make him unaware of his pain. -Page 288:
Mon Dieu! Si j'avais seulement leurs mains dans les miennes, je ne sentirais point mon mal. Croyez-vous qu'elles viennent?

Goriot, unfortunately, heard Rastignac exclaim indignantly that neither daughter would be coming to his bedside. Unconscious a moment ago, he sat up in despair. -Page 289:
Il faut mourir pour savoir ce que c’est que des enfants. Ah! Mon ami, ne vous mariez pas, n'ayez pas d'enfants! Vous leur donnez la vie, ils vous donnent la mort.

He realises they may not come and do not love him. -Page 293:
Je suis dupe! Elles ne m'aiment pas, elles ne m ont jamais aimé! Cela est clair. Si elles ne sont pas venues, elles ne viendront pas. Plus elles auront tardé, moins elles se décideront à me faire cette joie.

He calls for them. Then he curses them. - Page 293:
Mourrai-je donc comme un chien? Voila ma récompense, l'abandon. Cc sont des infâmes, des scélérates; je les abomine, je les maudis; je me relèverai, la nuit, de mon cercueil pour les remaudire,

Rastignac tells Bianchon how deeply affected he is by the tragedy he is witnessing. -Page 296:
Mon ami, je viens d'entendre  des cris et des plaintes.  Il y a un Dieu! Oh! Oui! Il y a un Dieu, et il nous a fait un monde meilleur, où notre terre est un non-sens. Si ce n'avait pas été si tragique, je fondrais en larmes, mais j'ai le cœur et l'estomac horriblement serrés.

5) Yet his daughters truly loved him and revealed this at his death

Even though the daughters treated him so badly, the great irony is that they never ceased to love their father.  In his early foray into the social life of Paris, Rastignac disrespectfully called her father “Père Goriot” and Anastasie was genuinely angry and refused any future contact. 

Delphine described her father as the best father in the world - Page 238:
— Cher père, vous êtes un père!  Non, il n'existe pas deux pères comme vous sous le ciel.

Delphine give a spontaneous gesture of love after she and her sister have brought on his illness by their furious quarrel.  With Goriot in bed, the couple were going to Eugène's room when they heard Goriot moan in his sleep. His words moved her profoundly and she ran back to give him a kiss.-Page 265-266:
— Elles ne sont pas heureuses!  Qu’il dormît ou qu’il veillât, l'accent de cette phrase frappa si vivement le cœur de sa fille, qu’elle s'approcha du grabat sur lequel gisait son père, et le baisa au front. Il ouvrit les yeux en disant. :C'est Delphine!

Too late for Goriot, they show their true feelings.  Thérèse, Delphine’s maid arrives to say that Delphine has quarrelled with her husband because of his refusal to let her any money for her father.  The argument became so emotional that Delphine collapsed and neded medical attention.  She is heartbroken to think that her father is dying. Elle s'est évanouie, le médecin est venu, il a fallu la saigner, elle criait : — Mon père se meurt, je veux voir papa!' Enfin, des cris à fendre l'âme

Anastasie finally arrives at Mme Vauquer’s after Goriot has lost consciousness for the last time.  She is full of regrets and confesses the wrongs she has done to him. -Page 304:
J'ai perdu toutes mes illusions. Hélas! Pour qui ai-je trahi le seul cœur (elle montra son père) où j'étais adorée! Je l'ai méconnu, je l'ai repoussé, je lui ai fait mille maux, infâme que je suis!

The others leave the room so that the elder daughter can be alone with Goriot. A few moments later she cries that he is dead. Anastasie is in a state of great distress and they send her to Delphine’s house, for the two sisters to mourn together.

7) Goriot’s love for his daughters is an indestructible in death as it had been in life
On the very brink of death, his self-deception returns to give him consolation.
He denies that he ever cursed his daughters and restates his love, expressing instead his rage against their husbands - .  – Page 294
Qui est-ce qui a dit cela ? répondit le vieillard stupéfait. Vous savez bien que je les aime, je les adore! Je suis guéri si je les vois...

Confused he gives his final blessing to their imaginary presence. 
He gets to such a pitch of anger against his sons-in-law that he brings on  a further stroke and his head falls like a stone onto the pillow.  As he lies prostrate, his hands scramble across the blanket as if to hold his daughters hair- (Page 295) –
Je les bénis, dit-il en faisant un effort, bénis.

This is repeated later just before his final loss of consciousness.  In order to allow Sylvie to change the sheet, Rastignac and Bianchon on each side of the bed leaned over to lift Goriot’s body. Goriot’s hands reached out to the bent heads at his side, which he mistook for his girls - Page 302 :
……et l'on entendit fàiblement — « Ah! mes anges! » Deux mots, deux murmures accentués par l'âme qui s'envola sur cette parole.


As we cast a general eye over the character of Goriot, there is a danger of too readily summing him up as a sad, pathetic figure, whose love grew so completely out of proportion that it finally destroyed him.  All this is true but it ignores a  further dimension.  His love of his daughters was very commendable and his persistence was remarkable. Rastignac was filled with admiration for this devoted old man.  As he contemplated the desperately ill Goriot, he saw his imminent death as the defeat of another person of noble sentiment. -Page 286:
Madame de Beauséant s'enfuit, celui-ci se meurt, dit-il. Les belles âmes ne peuvent pas rester longtemps en ce monde. Comment les grands sentiments s'allieraient-­ils, en effet, à une société mesquine, petite, superficielle?
The servant, Christophe speaks of Goriot’s goodness in the tribute he makes at the graveside –Page 307:
Oui, monsieur Eugène, dit Christophe, c'était un brave et honnête homme, qui n'a jamais dit une parole plus haut que l'autre, qui ne nuisait à personne et n'a jamais fait de mal.
When Goriot’s wife had died tragically young twenty years before, he had assumed the sole care of his two little daughters and had kept them in the protection of his powerful love through everything that ensued. His love had survived intact his years in the lonely depths of the psychological depression, brought on when he was permitted no more than the briefest glimpses of his daughters; it had withstood the crippling demands they made on him; as he “died like a dog” and separated from them, his love had reasserted itself as strong as before and after some moments of anger and despair, he died with his girls, Anastasie and Delphine in his heart.  The story of Goriot is the story of the triumph of love, whatever its defects.

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