The novella “Gobseck” was written by Honore de Balzac in January 1830, is part of the series The Human Comedy and belongs to Scenes from Private Life. The main characters in it are the old usurer Gobseck, Derville and the count family of Resto.
The main theme of the novella is passion. It is explored in a story on two levels: on the one hand, Gobseck studies human passions (love of wealth, power, women, selfish selfishness, etc.), on the other, Balzac himself explores the nature of the old usurer and shows us that even the mask of a wise person’s life can hide one all-consuming and all-destroying passion – the craving for gold, for accumulation, for constant enrichment.
The life story Gobseck, the son of a jew and a dutchman, is presented to the reader through the story of the interpreter Dervil, who decided to reassure the young girl Camille de Granlye about the brilliant position of her beloved earl Ernest de Resto.
Derville met Gobseck when he was a student. The old usurer at the time was 76 years old. The story in the cabin of the vicomtesse de Granlier Derville leads a few days after the death of 89-year-old Gobseck.
Thirteen years of acquaintance allowed the solicitor to make friends and penetrate the secrets of the soul of an adamant usurer, awe-inspiring in Paris. The first impression from Gobseck s created by a colorful description of his appearance, each feature of which is metaphorically correlated with wealth, old age or cunning.
The face of the old usurer with its “yellowish pallor”, similar to “the color of silver, from which the gilding has come down,” reminds Derville of “moon face”. Gobseck’s eyes are “small and yellow, like a ferret”, the nose is long with a sharp tip, the lips are thin, “like those of alchemists”, the features of the face are “motionless, impassive, seemed to be cast in bronze.” When the usurer raises the tattered cap, the gaze opens “a strip of bare skull, yellow as old marble.” “All his actions were measured, like the movements of a pendulum. It was some kind of automaton who was turned up daily. ” At first, Derville could not even tell how old Gobseck was, since the latter looked either aged or well preserved for ever.
The artistic space in which there is a Parisian usurer, to match his prudent and cold nature. Things in his room are shabby and tidy, and the fire in the fireplace does not flare up to full capacity even in winter. Gobseck’s room is located in a damp house without a courtyard, with windows facing the street. It is no different from the rest of the building, each of which with its device reminds Derville of a monastic cell.
The feeling of contentment in the past day and the inner joy in Gobseck could be seen only by rubbing hands and changing the position of wrinkles on the face. Being a young man in his youth and having learned a lot of dangers, in old age the usurer reached a state of peculiar wisdom: he made his own conclusion about life and began to live in accordance with it. The existence, in the opinion, of Gobseck is “only a habit of a favorite environment.” Moral rules are different for different nations, internal passions are destructive for people and only the instinct of self-preservation is the only thing that is valuable in life. Firmly standing on your feet in a world immersed in vanity vanity is possible only with the help of gold. It gives everything – wealth, power, position, favor of women. Passion is best to learn and profit from them. The last two things – the main entertainment of Gobseck.
The moneylender treats his clients as a means of profit. Gobseсk cannot accept perverse people in another way. Only simple, honest, hardworking personalities such as seamstress Fanny Malvo are involved in it. At the same time, Gobseсk helps only those who can return the money taken from him with interest. In Dervilду, a usurer bribes his youth (Gobseсk believes that up to thirty years people still maintain their reserve of honesty and nobility), knowledge (Gobseсk uses his advice), sober mind, a desire to work and the ability to clearly express their thoughts, not playing with feelings, but reasoning logically.
Participation in the hereditary affairs of the family of the count de Resto Gobseсk explains simply: he agreed to help the unfortunate father because he trusted him “without any tricks.” The wife of сount de Resto, the beautiful Anastasi, day after day, wasted the state of the family, letting him fall on Maxim de Tray’s young lover, and with that it was necessary to do something. The character of the heroine is devoid of unambiguity: she is both an unhappy woman, succumbing to love passion, and a betraying wife (the younger children of Anastasi are not from her husband), and an indignant miser who aspires to wealth, and, perhaps, a good mother who equally wants good all children.
For all his rationality Gobseck on the verge of death faces one on one with his individual passion – he dies without leaving a will (varbal, given in words to Derville – not counted), in the house, to the eyeballs filled with rotting delicacies, money and the last he received a handful of gold hidden by weakness in the chimney ash.