Created from 1835 to 1843, the novel Lost Illusions is one of the longest in the Human Comedy by Honore de Balzac. The work refers to the “scenes of provincial life.” The central theme of the “Lost Illusions” is the process of the formation of two Angouleme personalities – the young poet and writer Lucien Chardon (after the mother de Ryubampre) and his friend and husband’s sister, the owner of the printing house, and inventor David Séchard.
His heroes Balzac gives an exhaustive description on the first pages of the novel. He describes in detail the appearance of the characters and the device of their nature. Lucien de Ryubampre, as befits the aristocrats, is a model of the perfect ancient beauty: slim, of medium height, he is the owner of the greek forehead and nose, blue, to black, eyes, long brown eyelashes, coral lips, snow-white teeth, elegant hands and light wavy hair. David Séchar, on the other hand, is a man of powerful stature: his chest is wide, his shoulders are powerful, his hair is thick and black, and his dark full face is decorated with a wide nose and thick lips. At the same time, the typographer is a melancholic self-doubter by nature, while Lucien is a bold, courageous, enterprising personality, endowed with a mind, but … non-permanent. At the first description of the main character, Balzac points to his inner flaw – the tendency to “exaggerate the good and underestimate the bad”: Lucien “did not frighten the offense if it promised good luck, and he did not disdain the vice if he served as a step towards the goal”.
The inner weakness of the young poet, his carelessness, impatience, thirst for glory, the desire for success, the desire to take revenge on his beloved who left him, Mrs. de Barzheton naturally brings Lucien into the world of journalism. Above the novel “The Archer of Charles IX,” the hero works seriously until the minute he finds out that it’s possible to live differently. Lucien does not want to follow the example of the Commonwealth honestly, improving his talent year after year. He chooses a simpler and, as it seems to him, easy way of advancement in the literary world.
Fascinated by the arguments of a familiar journalist Etienne Lusto Lucien rushes to work, the basic principle of which is always and in everything to help his colleagues: to work together to protect friends and attack enemies. Working for the benefit of the liberal press, Lucien learns how reviews are written on published books (the same journalist can simultaneously write a crushing, laudatory and objective article, thereby causing controversy and making the book a good advertisement), how publishers work (they buy everything that seems successful to them, and money is made on the “shot” works), as booksellers relate to what they sell (in the books they see not the ingenious works of the masters of literature, but an ordinary product). The more a young journalist meets the world around him, the better he understands that talent in him means almost nothing: in journalism, in literature, in the theater, fame is achieved by those who have money and the opportunity to make advertising for themselves.
Lucien’s insight into the modern world order is superficial. The tendency to idealize life and excessive vanity do not give the character “Lost illusions” to stand on the same level with the people around him. Lucien lacks either spiritual meanness or mental resourcefulness to understand that the high society and the monarchist press draw him to their side to avenge the caustic articles about Madame de Bargeton and Baron du Chatelet.
The return of the ruined, thrown out of the literary world and high society Lucien in Angouleme finally opens the eyes of the character to his nature. In a farewell letter to his sister, the failed writer defines himself as a zero person, who can become something only by adding “one” to it. Such a unit, in Lucien’s opinion, could be “a strong woman of unmoved will” – for example, Mme de Bargeton, forever missed. The young poet could rely on Eve and David, but they are, in his opinion, too weak for what he aspires.
David and Eva Séchard are noble and hardworking people. David, like Lucien at the beginning of his “career path”, is very dreamy. When he gets married, he immediately rushes to the invention, without thinking about what the young family will live for in anticipation of wealth. Pregnant Eva has to take the reins of management printing. Only love and deep respect for her husband, who has not changed his dream, does not allow the young woman to despair. A mental break in her does not occur before she is disappointed in her brother.
Month after month, fighting with those in power, looking at the baseness and depravity of the people around her (servants, friends, relatives), Eve gradually comes to the conclusion that the enrichment path was not created for them with David. Their happiness in a simple and unsophisticated life filled with simple homely joys. Such an existence will never make them millionaires, but it will not take away from them the most valuable – peace of mind.
A young couple, like Lucien, loses illusions, but finds the strength to live in accordance with their inner convictions. Unlike friends, the young poet does not succeed either in life or in his own death: deciding to commit suicide, Lucien instantly gives in to the persuasion of the spanish abbot he encounters and sets out on a new journey of life for the ultimate and now proper conquest of the world. On the way, he learns the true value of history and morality, the main measure of which is not talent or inner nobility, but the ability to achieve his own without revealing internal weaknesses and crimes. The supreme law of success, according to Carlos Herrera, is a secret that hides human baseness and reveals to the whole world its ostentatious greatness, talent and everything that he wants to discover in himself.