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Eugenie Grandet - Essay Example

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Eugnie Grandet was one of the few Balzac novels Flaubert prized highly. The point of our otherwise absurd speculative fable is that it catches something fundamental in the nature of Balzac's artistic energies and commitments -namely, an intensity of identification which not only blurs the distinction between imagination and reality, but also questions the hierarchy whereby the former is made subordinate to the latter…
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Eugenie Grandet

Download file to see previous pages... Both women are stubborn, Eugenie in catering to Charles, and Eugnie in her marketing. The two also share a simple modesty: Eugenie expects no reward when she pays all of Charles's creditors, even as she grieves at her loss of his love; when Eugnie saves the children from the bull, she "n'en tira aucun orgueil, ne se dourant meme pas qu'elle eut rien fait d'heroique" (17). While both show a certain strength of character, they also have a vulnerable side which allows others to exploit them. Eugenie and Eugnie both persist in seeing only the good in others: Eugenie first defies her father, then softens toward him, even as his avarice becomes more and more extreme. Eugnie's respect for Mme Aubain, "qui cependant n'etait pas une personne agreable", never flags. Upon embracing her mistress for the first time, Eugnie "la cherit avec un devouement bestial et une veneration religieuse" (49); it is the narrator's more realistic appraisal of the gesture that deflates Eugnie's optimism in the reader's eyes. In short, both heroines are fundamentally and profoundly good and this goodness, perhaps the most important aspect of their "coeurs simples," only increases as their stories unfold. When Eugnie reads Charles's letter to Annette, she finds in it what she herself has put in:
"For young women who get a religious upbringing and who are innocent and pure, everything is love as soon as they step in the enchanted regions of love. They walk surrounded by the celestial light that their soul projects and that fall like rays on their lover; they color him with the fires of their own feeling and lend him their most beautiful thoughts".
The association between Eugenie and Eugnie that emerges in the mind of the reader is confirmed by the conclusions of the two works, particularly by the emphasis in Eugenie Grandet on the contrasting fate of her character towards Charles. Not only does her character towards Charles become Eugenie's soul mate, but more important, she literally changes functions, escaping the destiny of a servant. While her character towards Charles ultimately appears to have overcome all obstacles and found happiness, Eugenie, like Eugnie, continues to suffer. The initial bond that seemed to link her character towards Charles and Eugnie is thus weakened in the reader's eyes, and that between Eugenie and Eugnie strengthened.
It is important to recognize, however, that Eugenie's suffering is itself proof that she feels and understands much more than her character towards Charles; indeed, her character towards Charles's prosperity is superficial. The fact that the narrator focuses on her character towards Charles at this critical point in the novel only underlines the irony of the swift change in fortune that the servant experiences, and deepens our appreciation of Eugenie's psychological transformation. Although both Eugenie and Eugnie face a future that seems bleak in comparison to that of her character towards Charles, it is perhaps not entirely pessimistic.
We are reminded at the end of Eugenie Grandet of the heroine's lack of formal education, but also that her inherent goodness, the most important aspect of her simplicity, assures her of a place in heaven. The fact that she has ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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