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THEME AND STRUCTURE IN BALZAC'S
SCENES DE LA VIE PRIVEE (1830)
EVE ANN HERSHBERGER
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
TO MY MOTHER
I would like to express my appreciation to Professor J. Wayne
Conner for his guidance and encouragement. His knowledge and
experience were a constant inspiration in my work.
Professors Raymond Gay-Crosier and John J. Allen also provided
many helpful suggestions for which I am grateful.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. THEMATIC UNITY.....................................7
III. STRUCTURAL UNITY ...................................21
IV. INTRODUCTORY SECTION TO THE 1830 SCENES.............32
V. THE PREPARATION...................................47
VI. PARENTAL CONFRONTATION..........................68
VII. THE PROGRESSIVE FAILURE............................91
VIII. THE FINAL CRISIS.................................111
IX. CONCLUDING SECTION TO THE 1830 SCENES.............117
X. CONCLUSION.... ...................................124
APPENDIX: STRUCTURAL OUTLINES FOR THE
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THEME AND STRUCTURE IN BALZAC'S
SCENES DE LA VIE PRIVEE (1830)
Eve Ann Hershberger
Chairman: J. Wayne Conner
Major Department: Romance Languages and Literatures
The original edition (April, 1830) of the Scenes de la vie privee,
one of the earliest building blocks of the edifice we know as La Comedie
humaine, represents Balzac's first grouping of individual works under
a single title. The six stories of this collection--La Vendetta, Les
Dangers de l'inconduite (Gobseck), Le Bal de Sceaux, Gloire et malheur
(La Maison du Chat-qui-pelote), La Femme vertueuse (Une Double Famille),
and La Paix du menage--thus have a special interest. My study examines
the treatment of theme and structure in each of the six stories (in
their original versions), concentrating on direct discourse as a link
between form and content. The stories are shown to display greater
unity than generally recognized as well as an artistry that often anti-
cipates the novelist's mature work.
The thematic unity of the 1830 collection depends on the inter-
action of three forces. Social authority, parental power and the will
of the young people are portrayed as they act in concert to create a
value system common to all the stories. The success or failure of the
characters is determined by their position within this value system.
Not only do the 1830 Scenes show remarkable thematic unity,
they also display similarities in structure. I have demonstrated
this structural unity by establishing an outline to which each story
conforms. In general there are two major divisions in each Scene.
These major divisions both contain three subdivisions. The titles
given to the six subdivisions (Introductory Section, Preparation,
Parental Confrontation, Progressive Failure, Final Crisis, Concluding
Section) are reflective of their content and of their role in the
The consistent use of the basic structural pattern appears to be
a conscious artistic device on the part of the author. Balzac often
states explicitly that he is following a given organization as at the
end of the first part of La Femme vertueuse. At other times he signals
his intentions less explicitly as in Les Dangers de l'inconduite where
the frame conversation interrupts the lawyer's narrative at the major
points of division in the outline.
Within the subdivisions, direct discourse is consistently used
both as a thematic and as a structural unit. A careful study of each
of the six parts shows how Balzac utilizes the technical aspects of
direct speech to create maximum reinforcement of thematic material.
These technical considerations include placement within the narrative,
length and number of speeches, completeness or abbreviation of the
reported exchanges, silence or total omission of dialog, setting of
the conversations in the time reference frame, use of monolog and
choice of interlocutors. Balzac takes full advantage of direct speech
to establish and emphasize the value system of the stories.
The first edition of Balzac's Scenes de la vie priv6e was sold to
the publishers, Mame and Delaunay-Vallge in October, 1829,1 and was
actually put on sale in April of the following year. The stories were
composed, to judge from the dates the author later attached to them,
over the period from July, 1829, to March, 1830.2 These two volumes
thus have a special interest as, with Les Chouans (March, 1829) and La
Physiologie du marriage (December, 1829), they are the earliest build-
ing blocks of the imposing edifice we know as La Comedie humaine. They
also constitute, as has often been noted, Balzac's first grouping of
individual works under a collective title.
Included in the 1830 edition are La Vendetta, Les Dangers de
l'inconduite (Gobseck), Le Bal de Sceaux, Gloire et malheur (La Maison
du Chat-qui-pelote), La Femme vertueuse (Une Double Famille), and La
Paix du manage. These stories have remained, considerably revised, in
the greatly enlarged subdivision of the Scenes de la vie privee.
Individually these nouvelles have been much discussed by critics.
The recent analysis of La Maison du Chat-qui-pelote by Max Andreoli is
an excellent example of one such study.3 An earlier article by B. La-
lande provides a comprehensive history of the various reworkings of Les
Dangers de l'inconduite.4 The character of Gobseck in the same Scene has
received attention from Adrian Cherry5 and Jean-Luc Seylaz.6 I should
also mention the studies of Balzac's short fiction in which one or more
of the 1830 Sc&nes are included, notably the recent dissertation by
McCormick,7 Albert J. George's book8 and articles by Peter W. Lock9 and
In spite of several articles and longer works devoted to the indi-
vidual Scenes, it is surprising that they have not been analyzed in
greater depth as a unit. Various critics have, within the context of
longer, more comprehensive studies, made comments on the 1830 nouvelles.
In this respect I mention the works of Herbert J. Hunt,11 Per Nykrog,12
Brucia Dedinsky,13 and Paul Barriere.14 Additional comprehensive
studies are listed in the bibliography.
In the area of technical analysis, Maurice Bard&che has dealt
rather extensively with these early Scenes in his Balzac romancier;15
and more recently in Une Lecture de Balzacl6 has given a summary ver-
sion of his conclusions. Pierre-Georges Castex in a series of lectures17
has treated the six stories of the original grouping as well as three
additional titles. Castex has provided excellent information on the
sources and historical background of the Scenes. This discussion does
not often extend to points of composition and technique although it
does treat various thematic questions. Furthermore Castex does not
focus on the original edition, using rather the definitive form of the
texts with occasional reference to the 1830 version. Shortly after the
"Cours de Sorbonne" series, Castex published an edition of three of the
Scenes incorporating material from his earlier study.18
The most extensive analysis of the original six Scenes de la vie
privee was published as a monograph in 1912 by J. Haas.19 It is entitled
H. Balzacs Scenes de la vie privee von 1830. Haas has attempted to
demonstrate that while these nouvelles are an important starting point
in Balzac's artistic development, they are seriously flawed and show
that the young author was still hazy in his grasp of his future aesthe-
Die 6 Novellen des Jahres 1830, die teilweise als
Feuilletons erschienen waren, stellen den ersten Schritt
dar auf der Bahn, auf der Balzac seine Lorbeeren ernten
sollte. Er ist damals Weit entfernt, einem festen Esthe-
tischen Programm zu folgen. Er hat aber auch nicht die
Absicht, einfach zu unterhalten. Er will belehrend
wirken. Es schwebt ihm scheinbar die Rolle des sozialen
Philosophen vor. Die Idee der Kunst als Selbstzweck ist
ihm fremd. Aber Klarheit in seinen Ideen vermisst man.
Auch in technischer Hinsicht ist er sich der seinem
Talent entsprechenden Dichtungsform nicht bewusst.20
Haas has devoted much of his monograph to a study of the characters and
of the improbabilities in the plots. He bases his critical judgements
on a comparison between the 1830 Scenes and later Balzac novels such as
Le Pare Goriot and La Cousine Bette which he considers to epitomize the
Haas's study was short and, it seems to me, inadequate in its treat-
ment of the stories as a unit. I propose to study the original text of
the 1830 collection, examining each story individually and as part of
a larger whole to make clear their basic similarity in themes and struc-
In particular I shall study direct discourse as a major element
linking the form and content of the stories. Balzac uses direct dis-
course in a remarkably consistent manner throughout the Scenes as an
internal structural device. Furthermore he relies on monolog and dialog
to illustrate and emphasize the thematic material. The interaction of
form and content thus finds its most effective expression in the patterns
of direct discourse. Before proceeding to the analysis of direct speech,
however, I will discuss in a general way the theme and structure of the
stories. This discussion will serve as the basis for the detailed study
of Balzac's use of direct discourse in the 1830 Sc&nes.
1. Honor de Balzac, Correspondance, 5 vols., ed. Roger
Pierrot (Paris: Editions Garnier Freres, 1960-69), I, 415-16.
2. For the publication history of the stories, see
Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, Histoire des Oeuvres de H. de Balzac,
3rd ed. (1888; rpt. Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1968), pp. 6,
11-12, 25; and Wayne Conner, "Precisions bibliographiques sur
quelques ouvrages de Balzac," Les Etudes Balzaciennes, No. 10
(mars 1960), p. 464.
3. Max Androoli, "Une Nouvelle de Balzac: La Maison du
Chat-qui-pelote," L'Annee balzacienne, 1972, pp. 43-80.
4. B. Lalande, "Les Etats successifs d'une nouvelle de
Balzac: Gobseck," Revue d'Histoire litteraire de la France,
46 (1939), 180-200 and 47 (1947) 69-89.
5. Adrian Cherry, "A Character Study of a Usurer," University
of South Florida Quarterly, Fall-Winter 1966, pp. 5-14.
6. Jean-Luc Seylaz, "Reflexions sur Gobseck," Etudes de
lettres, 1 (1968), 295-310.
7. Diana Festa McCormick, "Les Nouvelles de Balzac," Diss. The
City University of New York 1972.
8. Albert J. George, Short Fiction in France 1800-1850 (Syracuse:
Syracuse University Press, 1964), pp. 81-83.
9. Peter W. Lock, "Point of View in Balzac's Short Stories," in
Balzac and the Nineteenth Century: Studies in French Literature
Presented to Herbert J. Hunt, eds. D. G. Charlton, J. Gaudon, and
Anthony R. Pugh (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1972), pp. 57-69.
10. Wayne Conner, "Frame and Story in Balzac," L'Esprit Createur,
7, No. 1 (Spring 1967), 52.
11. Herbert J. Hunt, Balzac's Com6die humaine (London: The Athlone
12. Per Nykrog, La Pens6e de Balzac dans La Comedie humaine
(Copenhague: Munksgaard, 1965).
13. Brucia Dedinsky, "Development of the Scheme of the Comedie
humaine: Distribution of the Stories," in The Evolution of Balzac's
Com6die humaine, eds. E. Preston Dargan and Bernard Weinberg (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1942), pp. 29-34.
14. Paul Barriere, Honorg de Balzac et la tradition litteraire
classique (Paris: Librairie Hachette, 1928).
15. Maurice Bard&che, Balzac romancier: La Formation de l'art
du roman chez Balzac jusqu'a la publication du Pare Goriot (1820-1835)
(1940; rpt. Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1967), pp. 271-320.
16. Maurice Bardeche, Une Lecture de Balzac (Paris: Les Sept
Couleurs, 1964), pp. 299-313.
17. Pierre-Georges Castex, Nouvelles et Contes de Balzac (Scenes
de la vie privee), "Les Cours de Sorbonne," (Paris: Centre de Documen-
tation Universitaire, 1961), pp. 1-48.
18. La Maison du Chat-qui-pelote, Le Bal de Sceaux, La Vendetta.
Sommaire biographique, introductions, notes et appendice critique par
Pierre-Georges Castex (Paris: Garnier, 1963).
19. J. Haas, H. Balzacs Sc&nes de la vie priv6e von 1830,
Beitrage zur Geschichte der Romanischen Sprachen und Literaturen,
No. 2, ed. Max Friedrich Mann (Halle: Niemeyer, 1912).
20. Haas, pp. 1-2.
E. Preston Dargan has stated and defended one of the guiding
principles of Balzac's composition:
The present writer has believed for some time that
the apparent naturalistic welter of Balzac really flows
along lines of a set pattern. To his uncanny
force and knowledge, Honor6 de Balzac certainly adds
conscious method. The two mainsprings of this method
seem to be 'accumulation' and 'harmony'.
In description, characterization, and plot the
novelist accumulates his points along a given line;
and everywhere he harmonizes his data to accord
with a definite keynote, a central unifying trait.1
Indeed this tendency toward harmony in Balzac's writing is evident
from his earliest grouping of individual works under a collective
title. It is perhaps remarkable that the thematic unity of the
six 1830 Sc&nes de la vie privee is so evident since they represent
the first attempt by the author to organize his material in this
Balzac himself commented in the 1830 preface that the tales
were intended to "peindre avec fid6lit6 les evenemens don't un marriage
est suivi ou precede" (I, Preface, vi).2 Critics have variously re-
stated the subject of the stories and have agreed that they treat one
central idea. Maurice Bardeche observes that ". .. les Scenes de la
vie privee sont des nouvelles lies entire elles par une meme pensee.
Ce qui fait leur unite, c'est qu'elles posent toutes le meme probleme,
celui du marriage. Elles montrent de mauvais marriages avec leurs con-
The general unity of the 1830 grouping of the Scenes has never been
in question. However, there has been little attempt to develop further
this notion of thematic unity. The weakness of previous.statements is
that they have not given a theme which is sufficiently broad to cover all
the stories and yet is any more specific than the simple remark that all
are concerned with marriage problems. In trying to be more specific,
critics have not developed one unifying concept which fits all six Scenes.
For instance Hunt's thematic grouping leads to two very loosely joined
Three of the tales are variations on the theme
of the spoilt child, and show how snobbery (Le Bal
de Sceaux), romantic sentimentality (Gloire et mal-
heur, now La Maison du Chat-qui-pelote), and wilful-
ness (La Vendetta) may either prevent a happy marriage
or lead to a disastrous one. In the other three he
turns his attention to the pitfalls of married life.
La Paix du menage depicts a young wife recapturing
an errant husband's affections under the expert guid-
ance of an older woman. La Femme vertueuse (now Une
Double Famille) appears to have been written in a
mood of fierce anticlericalism, and shows how a wife's
puritanical coldness may drive a husband into another
woman's arms. The title of Les Dangers de l'incon-
duite (now Gobseck) speaks for itself; it is a tale of
adultery culminating in the break-up of a family.4
In exploring the moral lesson of the Scenes Haas also discovers no more
than a superficial similarity among them. As an apparent contradiction
he points to the fact that the various marriages fail for a wide variety
of reasons. In La Vendetta Ginevra is unhappy because she goes against
her father's wishes. On the other hand Grandville in La Femme vertueuse
fails in spite of the support of his father and of the bride's mother.
Haas concludes that only one guiding idea emerges, that true happiness
can be found in marriage only within the limits drawn by custom and law:
Aus diesem Wirrwarr von Verhiltnissen ist es schwer,
irgend eine logische Rechtfertigung einer Balzacschen
Grundidee zu finden. Je weiter man in diese Verhaltnisse
sich vertieft, desto grosser erscheint die Konfusion. Und
schliesslich bleibt nur eine Leitidee, die sich unter
Bericksichtigung der Rolle, die die Ehe spielt, aus der
LUsung der Novellen ergibt, namlich dass wahres Gluck und
wahre Zufriedenheit sich in der Ehe nur innerhalb der
durch Sitte und Gesetz gezogenen Schranken finden lasst.
Diese Wahrheit ist nicht sehr tief.5
I believe, however, that the central concern with marriage can be
formulated in a way that will eliminate the apparent contradictions
cited by Haas. My analysis will bring out better the unity of the
stories and at the same time serve as a guide for structural analysis.
As a beginning I would call attention to the comment made by the
author himself in the preface to the 1830 edition. "Il existe sans
doute des mires auxquelles une education exempte de pr6jug6s n'a ravi
aucune des graces de la femme, en leur donnant une instruction solide
sans nulle pedanterie" (Pr6face, I, v). This statement shows Balzac's
explicit concern with the importance of the parental influence in form-
ing a sound marriage.
Bardeche has pointed out that at the time of writing the first
Scenes, Balzac was also concerned about the social aspects of marriage:
Or, en 1829, au moment oi paratt la Physiologie du
marriage, l'importance social du marriage est le sujet
central des reflexions de Balzac. II a ftudi6 l'effet,
il est natural qu'il songe aux causes. En 1829,
les Scenes de la vie privie sont "au bout de sa plume"
comme un commentaire vivant de la Physiologie, comme
l'application dans le domaine illimit6 du romanesque,
de la pensee de l'essayiste.6
It is apparent then, from the remarks in the preface to the 1830 edition
and from the subject of La Physiologie du marriage, that Balzac was con-
scious of two factors involved in the marriage situation. First is the
parental role in the formation of a successful match and second is the
social nature of the marital institution. These thoughts are ever-
present in the 1830 Scenes.
In actuality the stories can all be read as illustrations of three
"laws of marriage." To facilitate the discussion I will state these
three basic themes before demonstrating their presence in each story.
1) The authority of society: Marriage is a social institution
supported by the financial, political and psychological instruments of
power which society has at its disposal. This power is usually symbol-
ized by the presence of a transcendent authority figure who personifies
and represents the social "laws."
2) The parent or parent figure: Each story has a character or
characters who serve as mediators between social authority and the young
people in their charge. The parent is in the pivotal position since not
only must he or she be in accord with society but also must interpret
this transcendent influence to the young person.
3) The young person: If there is not a perfect agreement among
social authority, parent and child, the will of the young person to suc-
ceed is an insufficient force. Any individual effort made in the face
of such disunity is doomed to failure within the closed fictional world
of these Scenes.
Throughout the Scenes these three themes interact to form a value
system common to the six stories. Perhaps the most obvious example is
found in Gloire et malheur.7 The recent analysis by Max Andreoli has
emphasized the basic problem posed by the marriage of the bourgeoise
Augustine Guillaume to the aristocratic artist, Henri (later Theodore)
Les deux spheres antagonistes une fois sommairement
decrites, il nous faut maintenant examiner le problem
de leurs rapports: car la nouvelle est avant tout, nous
l'avons dit, le r6cit de la tentative de contact entire
les spheres du haut et du bas. Deux personnages rendent
possibles ce contact: dans la sphere superieure, Theodore
de Sommervieux; dans la sphere inffrieure, Augustine
Augustine violates the social custom that, in the closed value system
of these Scenes, the bourgeoisie does not marry into the aristocratic
class. The parents stand for and uphold this dictum but in a moment
of weakness renounce their belief and grant permission for the mis-
match. As Andreoli points out, a special intermediary between the two
social worlds is necessary before the marriage can even occur:
Notons tout de suite que le marriage Theodore-
Augustine qui materialise le rapprochement des
spheres se fait par l'entremise d'un 'mixte' social,
madame Vernier (plus tard madame Roguin), qui ouvre
la nouvelle sur l'univers de La Comedie humaine que
sa situation met en relation--du moins le pr6tend-
elle--avec les deux spheres sociales.9
Several critics have been aware that it is the clash of two worlds
which causes the problem in Gloire et malheur. However by going one
step further and viewing this isolated clash as the result of the vio-
lation of the social supporting structure of marriage, Gloire et malheur
sets the pattern for the remaining Scenes.
In a series of stories all of which contain confrontations and sug-
gestions of violence, La Vendetta is the most openly violent. The source
of the conflict lies in the blood feud between two Corsican families,
the Piombos and the Portas. French society does not recognize the ven-
detta. Napoleon, the major authority figure of the tale, explains this
to Bartholom6o di Pombo when he grants him asylum. In spite of the
dictum of Napol&on, Ginevra's father makes clear that he is still the
upholder of this native tradition. This parental stance is out of har-
mony with the adopted society's laws. Although the young people live
in French society and under French law, whose requirements they have ful-
filled by virtue of the "sommations respectueuse," they seem to be
ruled by the native influence invoked by Bartholomeo's disregard of
Napoleon's interdict. The parental judgement is all-important, repre-
senting as it does a violation of the three prerequisites outlined
Les Dangers de l'inconduite is seen as belonging to Balzac's origi-
nal grouping because it is the study of an unhappy marriage.
The original title indicates that the interest is
centered on morals; it suggests the private life of
the leading feminine character, the Comtesse de Restaud.
The tale is, therefore, in keeping with the author's
intentions as expressed in the Preface to this col-
Bardeche states a similar judgement but with the additional observation
that this story is in some way different from the others. "Gobseck
rappelle le d6sastre d'un menage qui a mal tourn6, mais 15, nous
touchons d6ja a une matiere difffrente, A une serie plus dramatique
et plus profonde don't cette oeuvre est le premier echelon."11
In structure this is the most complicated of the nouvelles. There
are actually three stories running parallel to one another. First
there is the primary intrigue of the Comtesse de Restaud, the Comte de
Restaud and the countess's lover, the Vicomte (later named Maxime de
Trailles). Second is the frame story which concerns the suitability
of a match between Camille de Grandlieu and the young count, Ernest de
Restaud. Third is the account of the happy marriage between the lawyer
(later named Derville)12 and Fanny Malvaut.
In the central intrigue, that of the Comtesse de Restaud, the
basic social flaw of the countess in the 1830 version is her disregard
for her husband. She dissipates his fortune, she destroys his happiness
and jeopardizes her children's future for the Vicomte. The avenging
power of society is personified by Gobseck who, as moneylender, con-
trols the fate of the Restauds.13 Through the miser the countess is
punished for her violation of her husband's financial and marital rights.
In the frame story the didactic purpose of Derville is in fact to
decide the crucial issue of whether a marriage between Camille and Ernest
would be in harmony with or in opposition to the social and moral code.
It is Mme de Grandlieu who raises this all-important question and it is
she who stresses the unsuitability of Ernest's background. Derville at-
tempts to convince the mother that the young count is worthy of Camille
by telling the story of his recent inheritance. What the lawyer actually
proves is open to argument. By establishing a lien through Gobseck, the
dying Comte de Restaud has symbolically renounced his paternity in favor
of the usurer. Thus Papa Gobseck controls the parental heritage of
Ernest de Restaud. The original parental influence is disrupted and the
young count's suitability remains problematical.
The marriage of Derville and Fanny Malvaut offers a contrast situa-
tion where all prerequisites of happiness have been fulfilled. Gobseck,
who acts as a parent figure for the lawyer, gives his complete approval
of the match. The couple is socially compatible and the young people are
in harmony with the moneylender, both having discharged their debts to
him in an honorable manner. In his double role as parent figure and au-
thority figure Gobseck's blessing is tantamount to an assurance of success
within the closed value system of these Scenes.
Le Bal de Sceaux derives its irony from the marriage manqu6 of a
potentially compatible couple. The parental role is worthy of comment
in this story also. The father temporarily renounces his responsibili-
ties and leaves his daughter entirely on her own throughout the crucial
process of choosing an appropriate husband. Emilie's misjudgement dem-
onstrates that a young person is incapable of interpreting society's
structure without the help of the mediating parent.
In La Femme vertueuse there are two couples involved, Ang6lique
Bontems-Eugene de Grandville and Caroline Crochard-Eugene de Grandville.
Considering Grandville's marriage first, one might conclude (as Haas
does) that it should have been happy according to the values set forth
in these stories. It was approved, arranged and supported by the father.
In the thematic context, this might seem ample grounds for this conclusion.
However, in this case, the father himself is in violation of his role as
social interpreter and mediator. He fails to foresee the result of Ange-
lique's strict religious background. Furthermore he disregards the fact
that the marriage is unnecessary for his son's success in Paris. It is
not religion per se which ruins Grandville's happiness, it is the mis-
interpretation by a narrow, provincial outlook. Just as Augustine cannot
adapt to Henri's world, neither can Mme de Grandville adjust to her hus-
band's. Unlike Augustine, Ang6lique remains blind to her shortcomings.
It should have been the father's perception and wisdom which prevented
such a mismatch but he failed in this role.
Grandville's attempt to remedy the problem of his wife's rigidity
is to go to the opposite extreme. The second family is symbolically
equal to the first in the value questions it raises. Grandville vio-
lates the laws of marriage by establishing a family with Caroline.
The young girl's mother condones the arrangement through financial
necessity but has grave doubts as to her own rightness in so doing.
In fact she has violated her parental responsibilities by encouraging
the menage. Significantly it is with Grandville in the role of father
that the story ends. In a statement strongly in keeping with the them-
atic construct of the stories he realizes the social implications of
marriage and states the concept in terms of parental duty.
Although written first, La Paix du menage is the last work in the
original publication and it is also the only work of the series with
a happy ending. Many critics who have studied the 1830 Scenes have
chosen to omit or to treat this final tale summarily. Haas dismisses
La Paix du menage with the comment, "Der Gegenstand und die Tendenz
dieser Novelle bringen es mit sich, dass in der folgenden Untersuchung
wesentlich nur von den 5 ersten die Rede sein wird."14
Certainly there are anomalies in this story which should be taken
into consideration. First it is the shortest Scene and is limited to
one episode taking place in a single evening. The action of the other
five stories extends over a period of several years. This accounts for
the comparative superficiality of La Paix du menage. Second this Scene
is the only one of the six for which a complete literary source has
Cette histoire un peu mecanique du circuit parcouru
par un diamant vient de l'Aventure du diamant dans les
Amusements serieux et comiques d'un Siamois 4 Paris
de Dufresny (1707). Non seulement on y voit un cavalier
border une dame, la courtiser, lui faire present d'un
diamant qui se r6vele etre celui qu'avait derob6 le mari
de la dame pour le donner A une coquette, mais certaines
phrases sont littfralement empruntees au texte de Dufresny.15
However La Paix du menage is not entirely out of place in the 1830
edition. In spite of the considerations mentioned above, the similari-
ties between this Scene and the others are at least as striking as the
differences. Therefore I will analyze La Paix du menage concentrating
on the points in which it is analogous to the other Scenes. In fact it
is in this last Scene that Balzac has given an example of what happens
when a marriage has both social and parental support. The problem of
the Soulanges union is transitory and is solved through the interven-
tion of the parental figure, Mme de Marigny (later named Mme de Lansac).
She is the one who induces her niece to come to the ball and it is she
who assures Martial's failure. The dowager acts in the pivotal role of
the value system as she correctly interprets the social basis of marriage.
Her advice also guarantees the success of the colonel (later named Mont-
cornet) with Mme de Vaudremont. Thus thematically La Paix du menage
does harmonize with the other Scenes.
It would not be out of place here to mention an interesting histor-
ical point concerning the 1830 edition of the Scenes de la vie privee.
At the time of the 1830 publication Balzac was apparently in the process
of writing an additional Scene. Raymond Sullivant has established that
Le Rendez-vous, first published in two installments in the Revue des
deux mondes (1831)16 and finally included as the first part of La Femme
de trente ans, was at least partially ready for publication at the time
of the 1830 collection:
In conclusion it may be stated that although Le Rendez-
vous did not appear in its entirety until September-October,
1831, the first two sections (at least) were composed before
February 11, 1830. The Silhouette and Caricature fragments
("La Dernimre Revue" and "Vue de Touraine") utilize the manu-
script of Le Rendez-vous--or rather, use proof sheets of Le
Rendez-vous prepared by the same printers who prepared for
publication the first edition of the Scenes de la vie privee
which appeared in April 1830. It is probable that Balzac
thought originally of using Le Rendez-vous for the first
edition of the Scenes but the story did not appear in that
collection--either because it was not needed or was in-
Although primarily basing this conclusion on the publication history and
on textual evidence, Sullivant has also noted the thematic similarity
between Le Rendez-vous and the 1830 Scenes:
The recurrent theme of Balzac's works in 1830 is the
care with which a mate should be chosen. Le Rendez-vous
falls into this category for the story is primarily con-
cerned with the disillusionment of the jeune fille who
has acted against parental advice; not properly educated
for marriage, she becomes dissatisfied with a mate who is
equally ill-prepared. Thematically, then, the story be-
longs to the "vintage of 1830."18
My analysis fully supports Sullivant's study. Indeed there are two points
in which Le Rendez-vous is analogous to the 1830 Scenes. First, as Sulli-
vant has pointed out, the heroine marries against her father's explicit
wishes. Second, political and social events including the fall of the
Empire and the beginning of the Restoration have a direct influence on
the failure of the marriage. The young wife would have benefitted from
the wise counsels of her husband's aunt had the political upheaval not
resulted in the death of this second mother. From the standpoint of
theme Le Rendez-vous would in fact have made a suitable addition (or even
a very satisfactory substitution for La Paix du manage) in the 1830 Scenes.
Although critics have correctly pointed out that the 1830 Scenes
de la vie privee all concern marriage problems, they have not succeeded in
demonstrating in depth the thematic unity of this first grouping of
stories by Balzac. My interpretation has stressed the importance of
marriage as a social institution supported by unwritten social "laws"
to be interpreted and mediated by the parent or parent figure. Within
this framework the individual is almost powerless to create his own
happiness if his marriage is in violation of the necessary alignment.
Using this combination of three themes I have been able to view the
six Scenes as illustrations of a single value system.
1. E. Preston Dargan, "Balzac's General Method: an Analysis
of his Realism," in Studies in Balzac's Realism, E. Preston Dargan,
W. L. Crain, et al. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1932),
2. Honor de Balzac, Sc&nes de la vie privee (Paris: Mame et
Delaunay-Vallge, 1830), I, Preface, p. vi. Volume and page number
references for subsequent quotations from this 1830 edition will be
included in the main text rather than in the Notes. Unless other-
wise indicated, all quotations from the Sc&nes will be from the 1830
3. Bardeche, Balzac romancier, p. 276.
4. Hunt, pp. 26-27.
5. Haas, p. 44.
6. Bard&che, Balzac romancier, p. 277.
7. Throughout my discussion I will consistently begin with
Gloire et malheur. This particular Scne is uncomplicated and offers
the most obvious illustration of the points I wish to develop. The
other five Sc&nes will generally be taken up in their order of publi-
cation in comparison and in contrast to Gloire et malheur.
8. Andreoli, p. 64.
9. Ibid., pp. 68-69.
10. Dedinsky, pp. 29-34.
11. Bardeche, Balzac romancier, p. 276.
12. Although the lawyer was not called "Derville" in the 1830
version, I will use his subsequent name to facilitate discussion.
13. Castex, Nouvelles, pp. 43-46.
14. Haas, pp. 5-6.
15. Pierre Citron, Notes to La Paix du menage in La Comedie
humaine (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1965), II, 436.
16. Honor de Balzac, Une Nouvelle Scene de la vie privde:
Le Rendez-vous, Revue des deux mondes, 15 sept. 1831, pp. 517-555
and 1 oct. 1831, pp. 74-109.
17. Raymond Sullivant, "Dating Balzac's Le Rendez-vous,"
Manuscripta, 8 (1964), 44.
18. Sullivant, p. 30.
With regard to structure, as with theme, critics have noted simi-
larities in the composition of the 1830 Scenes. Barriere has emphasized
that several resemble four-act dramas:
Etudions la composition de quelques romans de Balzac
et le parti-pris apparaTtra nettement.
La Maison du Chat-qui-pelote.
1. Exposition a) La maison, Theodore.
b) Le portrait.
2. Le double marriage. a) Joseph Lebas.
b) L'dglise, L'explication.
c) Le marriage.
3. Le drame. a) Pr6parations.
b) Tentatives d'Augustine: les parents,
la duchesse de Carigliano.
c) Le portrait.
4. Le Denouement.
Le Bal de Sceaux
1. Exposition. a) La fortune de Monsieur de Fontaine.
b) Le marriage d'Emilie.
2. La rencontre. a) Le Bal de Sceaux.
b) La dispute.
c) Maximilien Longueville.
3. L'amour de deux jeunes gens. a) L'amour d'Emilie.
4. La catastrophe. a) Le comptoir.
b) Coup de theatre. Denouement.
Ces deux romans sont construits exactement sur le meme
type: quatre actes identiques dans chacun. Nous trouvons
encore quatre actes dans La Vendetta, mais le drame est plus
bref, violemment resserr6; les ames et les passions y sont
tout exceptionnelles, et le roman ne differe en rien d'une
tragedie de Racine. Les actes sont: I. L'atelier de peinture
--II. Luigi Porta --III. Le marriage de Ginevra (La malediction
paternelle, jours de bonheur) --IV. La revanche de la vie, la
catastrophe. Peu d'oeuvres presentent d'une faqon
aussi remarquable la vision dramatique de Balzac.
Avec Le Pare Goriot, l'oeuvre est plus riche, plus
complex, mais la construction reste la meme.1
Albert George somewhat deprecatingly presents the outline struc-
ture as an unfortunately rigid pattern:
Because Balzac's understanding of people was
sociological, the short story forced him to squeeze
his fictional universe into an uncomfortably small
space. Like other writers of the early nineteenth
century, he had to develop his own type of brief
narrative, since the simple anecdote structure
then available did not meet his requirements. Con-
sequently, between 1830 and 1835 Balzac arrived
at a structure for brief fiction that unfortunately
hardened into a handy prescription. He began
abruptly with a short opening scene calculated
to hold attention, then proceeded via a flashback
to sketch the antecedent facts. The rest of the
plot was conceived in two or three segments, the
first generally a major portrait of the leading
character, the second the action resulting from
the conditions previously established by the portrait.
A short epilogue, moral in tone, clarified the author's
intent and the allegory.2
Although Barriere in the previous citation concentrated on a four-part
division, the consensus of most critics is that a two-part structure is
more common throughout Balzac's short stories.3
Maurice Bardeche, who has provided the most detailed analysis of
the 1830 Scenes, brings out well the two-part division:
Les premieres Scenes de la vie privee sont remarquables
d'abord par la formule de leur composition. Sur six des
nouvelles qui forment le recueil de mai 1830, les trois
plus importantes (Maison du Chat-qui-pelote, Gobseck, Double
Famille) ont un plan analogue, qu'on retrouve en outre dans
les deux principles oeuvres qui suivent immediatement cette
publication: Adieu (mai 1830) et Sarrasine (novembre 1830)
qui appartiennent aux Contes philosophiques. Ce plan est done
particulier aux oeuvres de 1830, qui constituent ainsi un en-
semble homogene, assez different des oeuvres appartenant a
la second serie des Scenes de la vie priv6e, celle de 1832.
Ce plan consiste a concevoir chaque nouvelle comme un
diptyque, form de deux reci s ou de deux tableaux, qui
s'opposent ou se completent.
Bard&che proceeds to distinguish two types of organization in the early
Scenes. For my purposes I will show these stories all to have the same
basic structure. The purpose of this chapter then is to demonstrate
this structure-de-base for all six stories, not for just two or three
As Bertault and Bardeche have already pointed out, the plot of
each Scene consists of two parts with a "before" and "after" section.
Extending the analysis to the component parts of each of these two main
sections discloses that the major divisions are themselves composed of
three parts which in simple outline form may be expressed as:
I. Before the Initial Crisis
A. Introductory Section to the 1830 Scenes
C. Parental Confrontation (Initial Crisis)
II. After the Initial Crisis
A. Progressive Failure
B. Final Crisis
C. Concluding Section to the 1830 Scenes
A word should be said at this point concerning Balzac's own division
of the Scenes into chapters. The 1830 edition includes such subdivisions
in La Vendetta, Les Dangers de l'inconduite and La Femme vertueuse. For
the most part the divisions in the above outline will correspond to the
chapters in these three stories. Occasionally it has been necessary to
divide a chapter into two or three components. However the divisions in
my outline never extend across Balzac's own dividing points. Although a
division may include more than one chapter, it will never begin in one
chapter and end in another. The detailed outline of each Scne provided
in the Appendix (pp. 129-158) includes chapter titles, if any, from the
The choice of subdivision titles is reflective of both their struc-
tural as well as thematic role. The second section has been called "Prep-
aration" rather than "Exposition" because the latter term is broader.
The exposition would include the Introductory Section, the Preparation,
and in certain cases part of the Parental Confrontation. In each story
the initial crisis occurs during the Parental Confrontation section so
that either term would be descriptive of this third subdivision.
I will proceed with a summary of each story, beginning with Gloire
et malheur as the least complicated example, showing the main actions
of each section in the above outline. The Introductory Section of
Gloire et malheur (IA) includes the famous description of the masono"
presented as a tableau followed by the background information of the
household. The Preparation (IB) discloses how it has come about that
the aristocrat and artist, Henri de Sommervieux, has fallen in love with
the draper's daughter, Augustine Guillaume, and how they have managed to
carry on this relationship. The Parental Confrontation (IC) includes
not only a climactic point of the Augustine-Henri plot but also of the
Joseph Lebas-Virginie subplot. After the wedding of both couples, the
author gives almost exclusive attention to Augustine's marriage. Joseph
Lebas and Virginie are portrayed only to contrast their calm life to that
of the artist and his wife. Although Augustine and Henri are ecstatically
happy for one year, a period of progressive degeneration (IIA) in the
marriage ends when the young wife contronts her husband (IIB) in a des-
perate but unsuccessful ploy to regain his affections. She returns home
and dies not long afterwards (IIC).
'The other five stories follow the same general pattern. The Intro-
ductory Section of La Vendetta is limited to one episode in which Barth-
olomeo di Piombo is granted asylum after fleeing Corsica as the result
of a blood feud (IA). The background presented is incomplete, giving
only the briefest sketch of the past history and personalities of the
family. The Preparation shows Ginevra di Piombo and Luigi, a young sur-
vivor of Napoleon's army, falling in love and deciding to marry (IB).
In the Parental Confrontation (IC) Ginevra gains permission to bring
Luigi home to meet her mother and father. It is disclosed in the con-
versation that the young man is the only surviving member of the Porta
family and is thus a mortal enemy in vendetta with the Piombos. The
father will never give permission for the marriage and Ginevra seeks
legal means to gain her freedom. After the marriage there is a period
of happiness but economic ruin follows with increasing tempo (IIA) until
Ginevra and her son die of starvation (IIB). Luigi goes to tell the
parents of Ginevra's death (IIC). The young man dies immediately in the
presence of the father and mother leaving them alone to face their sor-
Les Dangers de l'inconduite presents more of a problem since it not
only involves three plot threads as mentioned in the preceding chapter,
but also because it is told in the form of a frame and story. In spite
of these difficulties, if the story of each couple is followed separately,
it can be shown that all conform to the basic outline. Admittedly the
only plot-line which is fully developed is the triangular intrigue of
the Comte, Comtesse and the Vicomte. The Introductory Section (IA) in-
cludes a scene between Camille de Grandlieu and her mother as well as
the portrait of Derville disclosing his connection with the Grandlieu
family. The section ends with a conversation between Derville and Camille
on the subject of Ernest de Restaud. The description of Gobseck given
by the lawyer, and the background of the Comtesse de Restaud and of Fanny
Malvaut are presented in the scenes of the Preparation (IB). Gobseck
imagines the whole history and future of the countess based on the im-
pression made by her lover. This relationship results in a Parental Con-
frontation first between the Vicomte and Gobseck in the role of parent
and authority figure, then between the Comtesse and the miser and finally
between Gobseck and the Comte de Restaud (IC). After the fid6i-commis
is arranged, the Progressive Failure (IIA) which ensues is caused by the
struggle between the countess and her dying husband. The count cannot
communicate with Derville because of his wife, nor can she do anything
to regain control over her husband's fortune. The count dies in the
final scene of this section. Gobseck renters and invokes his rights in
all financial considerations (IIB). The Concluding Section (IIC) relates
the new life of the countess and Gobseck's use of the count's fortune.
Eventually the miser grants Ernest his paternal legacy.
The Derville-Fanny Malvaut story uses only two-thirds of the struc-
tural outline for the simple reason that there is no failure involved.
The Introductory Section is contained in the first chapter when Derville
is presented (IA). The lawyer will be the first person narrator of his
own story. Gobseck describes Fanny Malvaut and recommends her as a suit-
able wife (IB). The Parental Confrontation (IC) between Derville and
Gobseck is fully portrayed, including the lawyer's preliminary anxiety
before asking the usurer for a loan. Derville upholds his promise, pays
the loan, and marries Fanny Malvaut in a completely happy union which has
the blessing of parental and social authority. Sections IIA and IIB are
missing because there is no failure involved in the Derville-Fanny Malvaut
relationship. The only conclusion offered is simply the statement (IIC)
by the narrator that "depuis ce jour, ma vie n'a Et6 que bonheur et pros-
pdrit6. Ne parlons done plus de moi; car il n'y a rien d'aussi insuppor-
tablequ'un homme heureux" (I, 208-209).
The third story of Camille Grandlieu-Ernest de Restaud is presented
in the frame. In the Introductory Section (IA) Mme de Grandlieu converses
with the lawyer, Camille and her uncle. The young count, Ernest de
Restaud, has just left this gathering. His background is presented in
an unfavorable manner by Mme de Grandlieu who forbids her daughter to
continue their relationship. In a flashback (IB) one scene from this
relationship apprises the reader of Derville's attitude and of Camille's
commitment to the young count. The Parental Confrontation occurs about
midway through Derville's tale as the young girl is sent away by her
mother (IC). This is as far as the outline goes. No conclusion (IIC)
is reached although Mme de Grandlieu's final statement is less categorical
than her opening comments.
The outline analysis of Les Dangers de l'inconduite has shown that the
component parts of the three story-lines coincide with the model, even
in the sub plots. The divisional distinctions are apparent although they
may be abbreviated or omitted.
Le Bal de Sceaux also shows one modification as compared to the
prototype. Before the Parental Confrontation in which M. de Fontaine
renounces his attempts to help Emilie find a suitable husband (IC), there
is a well-developed Introductory Section wherein the previous success of
the father arranging the marriage of his various daughters and sons is
described (IA). There is also a long background discussion of Emilie and
her haughty rejection of all suitors (IB). The modification involves this
section which does not show the young woman with one lover but rather
depicts her attitude toward all potential partners. After the Parental
Confrontation, the relationship between Emilie and Maximilien Longueville
is portrayed. This section presents an ambiguous progression which has
the appearance of being happy but in fact which is used to demonstrate
Emilie's failure (IIA). The Final Crisis involves the discovery of
Longueville's profession and the subsequent confirmation that the rela-
tionship has ended (IIB). The Concluding Section recounts in summary
the marriage of Mile de Fontaine to her aged uncle and the final meeting
two years later between Emilie and Maximilien (IIC).
La Femme verteuse contains two stories whose structures are analo-
gous. The first intrigue is that of Caroline Crochard and Eugene de
Grandville; the second concerns Angelique Bontems and Grandville. In
the Caroline Crochard story, the familiar two-part structure is apparent.
The before and after portions are marked by the establishment of the
menage. In the Introductory Section (IA) the reader meets the mother
and daughter as they lead their quiet, impoverished lives. The Prepara-
tion (IB) consists of periodic visits by a mysterious "monsieur noir"
who never speaks to the women but who contents himself with gazing at
Caroline from the street as he passes by. The Parental Confrontation
(IC), although clearly present, does not have the tension of the same
episode in the other Scenes since Mme Crochard is in favor of the ar-
rangement and does everything she can to facilitate it. After the es-
tablishment of the menage, Grandville's unspoken obligations to his
family undermine Caroline's happiness (IIA).
Included as a part of this section is the short chapter containing
the death of the mother and her confession to the priest. The Final
Crisis, while precipitated by this event, does not occur until after
the Ang6lique Bontems part of the story has been interposed and depicts
the anger of Mme de Grandville upon discovery of her husband's betrayal
(IIB). The conversation of the last chapter between the doctor and
Grandville presents the Concluding Section (IIC) to both sub-plots.
The Introductory Section (IA) to the story of the count's marriage
includes an opening conversation with the Grand-Juge followed by the
letter from the young lawyer's father. The Preparation is shortened
and consists only of Grandville's reverie on his former love for a
childhood sweetheart, Ang6lique Bontems (IB). The Parental Confronta-
tion between father and son results in the signing of the marriage con-
tract (IC). After the marriage there is a brief period of happiness
which, as usual, is overshadowed by predictions of discord. The in-
evitable failure (IIA) is not long in developing and culminates in the
disclosure by the priest to Mme de Grandville that her husband has been
unfaithful to her for years. The same Final Crisis (IIB) and Con-
cluding Section (IIC) serve both the Caroline Crochard and the Ang6lique
The last Scene of the series, La Paix du menage, also has several
plot lines intertwined. This is the story of three triangular love
intrigues. The three-sided relationships involve Martial de la Roche-
Hugon, Mme de Vaudremont and the Colonel; Mme de Vaudremont, M. de
Soulanges and Mme de Soulanges; and Mme de Vaudremont, Martial and Mme
de Soulanges. In spite of the multiplicity of plot lines, the outline
I have set up is accurate. The two main divisions can be designated as
before and after the identification of the mysterious lady-in-blue.
The Introductory Section (IA) portrays Martial de la Roche-Hugon,
the unknown beauty, the colonel and Mme de Vaudremont. The Preparation
(IB) of the three triangles takes place simultaneously. A flashback
tells of Mme de Vaudremont and M. de Soulanges. Martial, distracted,
talks with Mme de Vaudremont while planning to make contact with the
mysterious lady. The colonel approaches this stranger (Mme de Soulanges)
only to be rebuffed. He is more successful in his conversation with Mme
de Vaudremont. The Parental Confrontation (IC) depicts Mme de Marigny
in the role of parent figure. She is sympathetic toward Mme de Vaudre-
mont, the colonel and Mme de Soulanges while showing a distinct antipa-
thy toward Martial de la Roche-Hugon. From this alignment of parental
sympathy alone, the patterns of success and failure in the second section
are predictable. Indeed what seems to Martial to be a period of happiness
in his projected conquest of Mme de Soulanges is in reality a progression
to failure (IIA). Martial is defeated, Mme de Vaudremont attaches herself
to the colonel and Mme de Soulanges regains her diamond. In the Final
Crisis the wife wins back her husband (IIB) who is grateful for her indul-
gence and forgiveness (IIC). As in the previous stories, the component
parts of the basic outline are clearly distinguishable.5
The preceding brief discussion of the structure of the Scenes is
intended only as a basis for the more detailed analysis in the following
chapters. I will use an extended outline of each story, treating the
six subdivisions in turn. The outlines are included in the Appendix
(pp. 129-158 ) and may be referred to at the reader's convenience. I
have already mentioned the importance of direct discourse as a major ele-
ment of form and content. In my study of each subdivision I will concen-
trate on the patterns of direct speech. My analysis will reveal in depth
the method by which Balzac has interwoven the theme and structure of the
1830 Scenes de la vie privee.
1. Paul Barriere, p. 17.
2. George, p. 78.
3. Bertault, p. 184
4. Bardeche, Balzac romancier, pp. 293-294.
5. It would be appropriate at this point to add a comment on the
organization of Le Rendez-vous. In structure as well as theme this
additional story follows the pattern of the 1830 Scenes.
The Introductory Section corresponds to the chapter entitled
"La Jeune Fille," the Preparation to the first part of "La Femme,"
and the Parental Confrontation to the second part of the same chapter.
The Progressive Failure is comprised of two chapters, "La MWre" and
"La Declaration." The Final Crisis and Concluding Section are in-
cluded in "Le Rendez-vous."
Thus the composition of Le Rendez-vous contributes further
support to Sullivant's conclusion.
THE INTRODUCTORY SECTION TO THE 1830 SCENES
In each of the Scenes a dominant authority figure or social
value is established during the Introductory Section. There is always
a symbolic link between this transcendent authority and the outcome of
each individual's attempt to succeed. In La Vendetta this role is
played by Napoleon, in Le Bal de Sceaux by Louis XVIII, in Gloire
et malheur by M. Guillaume, in La Femme vertueuse by the Grand-Juge
in the Ang6lique Bontems portion. In La Paix du menage, Les Dangers
de l'inconduite, and the Caroline Crochard intrigue of La Femme vertueuse
the social value itself is presented rather than a personification of
this value; in La Femme vertueuse it is the question of poverty versus
moral virtue, in Les Dangers de l'inconduite the financial background
of Ernest de Restaud is discussed, while in La Paix du manage the pre-
dominant value is the sanctity of the marriage institution itself. In
both Les Dangers de l'inconduite and La Paix du menage an authority
figure will later be introduced.
From my analysis of the direct discourse of these Introductory
Sections it will become apparent that the primary aim of the dramatic
passages is the reinforcement of this theme. The most striking tech-
nical aspect of the direct discourse in this section is its consistent
use as a type of end "punctuation" to the structural segments of the
narrative. This pattern is apparent in Gloire et malheur, La Vendetta,
Les Dangers de l'inconduite, Le Bal de Sceaux and La Femme vertueuse.
A related technique is the use of direct speech to create a drama-
tic progression within the Introductory Section. This occurs in Gloire
et malheur, La Vendetta, Le Bal de Sceaux, and La Femme vertueuse.
In La Paix du menage there is also a progression although it differs
from those where the placement and amount of direct discourse is the
functional aspect. The effect in the opening scene of La Paix du menage
is created by a series of questions posed at regular intervals during
The occurrence of monolog and dialog near the end of the narrative
sections and the use of the dramatic progression give added significance
to the content of the passages in direct discourse. The conversations
and isolated remarks reveal the situation of the characters (in particu-
lar the parents) with reference to the predominant value system.
The use of direct quotation in Gloire et malheur is typical of the
points I have just mentioned. There are five instances of direct dis-
course in the Introductory Section. The first summary quotation occurs
just before M. Guillaume appears "on stage" and heightens the scenic
effect of his entrance without distracting from the flow of the descrip-
tion. Thus, although this remark is in an important position, it is
less predominant structurally than the two-speech interchange given upon
the departure of the stranger. The remaining two summary quotations are
also in sections near the end of the introduction but the pivotal role
is reserved for the monolog by M. Guillaume which concludes the Introduc-
In Gloire et malheur the dialog is used not to define the value
patterns but to reinforce, illustrate and highlight them. Bardeche
devotes a portion of his study of this Scene to the discussion of the
patriarchal world of the shop. He likewise notes the absolute power en-
joyed by M. Guillaume within his narrow realm:
Et La Maison du Chat-qui-pelote nous montre,
en effet, a quel point c'est une pensee qui command
toutes ces irisations qui sont le colors meme d'une
vie, qui lui donnent ses reflects, son individuality.
Tout s'explique d'un mot, tout depend d'un mot, c'est
une vie patriarchale1
The fact that this is a closed society has certain implications
for my thematic analysis. M. Guillaume's power is more important than
his relationship to a higher political authority. Balzac describes
the shop and its inhabitants with such comments as: "le patriarche de
la draperie" (II, 15), "il est necessaire de penetrer plus avant dans
les resorts du gouvernement absolu qui regissait la maison du vieux
marchand drapier" (II, 23), "cette vieille maison patrimoniale qui, pour
leur mere, 6tait tout l'univers" (II, 26), "puis la loi de la vieille en-
seigne du Chat-qui-pelote leur ordonnait d'etre rentrdes A onze heures"
(II, 28). The reader is introduced into a society where the head of the
firm occupies the position of the highest social power as well as his
normal role as a parent. Later it will be the clash between this world
and the larger social context which will cause Augustine's downfall.
What role do the direct remarks play within the closed value system?
How do they contribute to the shaping and effect of this power structure?
The first statement, "Dieu vous garde du notaire de M. Guillaume" (II, 15),
gives an indication of the extent of the draper's influence. Not only
does he control his family and clerks, but he is known for his business
dealings to the extent that they have become proverbial.
His short exchange with the clerks is also enlightening. It repre-
sents a symbolic reestablishment of the previous order after the invasion
of the outer world represented by the stranger. M. Guillaume snaps at
his helpers, they reply and the spell cast by the invading presence is
broken. Given later developments this dialog takes on added significance
and psychological import. It illustrates the patriarchal authority and
defense which is symbolic of the later reaction in face of the full-scale
invasion by the artist into the shopkeeper's world.
The two comments made by Mme Guillaume near the end of the Introduc-
tory Section are instructive. Her power is secondary to that of her hus-
band. Nevertheless she represents a disciplinary arm enforcing "la loi
de la vieille enseigne du Chat-qui-pelote" (II, 28). This is the signif-
icance of the rigidity reflected in her comment "Nous n'avons rien fait
aujourd'hui, mes enfans!..." (II, 27). She tyrannizes her children to
assure conformity to their world.
However, Augustine through her innate qualities and sensitivity
escapes this overbearing influence. She alone has thoughts which are
"out-of-line." Mme Guillaume is subconsciously aware of this problem as
reflected by her next direct remark, "Augustine, A quoi pensez-vous
done, mon bijoux?..." (II, 29). From the very beginning Augustine's
originality and nonconformity are important enough to be the subject
of one of the five direct quotations of the Introductory Section.
The final direct discourse is the monolog by M. Guillaume which
ends the Introductory Section and brings the marriage question to the
Au train don't cet homme-la y va, nos filles ne
tarderont pas a se mettre a genoux devant un pr6tendu!
se dit M. Guillaume en lisant, un matin, le premier
decret par lequel Napoleon anticipa sur les classes de
conscrits. (II, 31)
Here indeed is a crucial point. The father feels the invading influence
of the external authority figure. In order to prevent this intrusion
into his private absolute despotism he determines to marry Virginie to
Joseph Lebas without further delay. Thus he will retain his position
and his world will not be penetrated. His defense of course is futile
as the attack comes from an unexpected source. However, this quotation
is certainly of great symbolic significance as it shows the father mov-
ing to circumvent an influence greater than his limited power.
The preceding analysis has established the importance of the five
occurrences of the direct manner in the Introductory Section of Gloire
et malheur. The first has to do with M. Guillaume's range of power
which, although extensive, does not extend beyond his own business realm.
The second shows the master's reaction to an invader into his territory
as he turns to reestablish power over his clerks. The third portrays
Mme Guillaume's role within the power structure and reflects in this role
its secondary position in the narrative. The fourth introduces the idea
of Augustine's displacement from the power structure. The fifth shows
M. Guillaume reacting to the invading influence of Napol6on.
La Vendetta, like Gloire et malheur, offers an excellent example
of a series of direct remarks where the technical progression parallels
the thematic progression. At the beginning of this story two full pages
are devoted to the tableau of an unidentified man and his family. "Tout-
a-coup" this tall stranger grabs his dagger and says to his wife, "Je vais
voir si les Bonaparte se souviendront de nous!..." (I, 14). This one-line
remark constitutes the entire "conversation" which takes place. The stran-
ger then approaches the guard and another comment is directly presented.
This time however the author has used narrative summary to report the re-
maining argument rather than giving the whole in direct quotation. This
is a technique used to maintain the dramatic balance. The same device
of dialog summary is used when Lucien Bonaparte appears. Thus far there
have been three isolated direct remarks which, set as they are within a
narrative framework of suspense concerning the stranger's identity, form
a progression. This build-up continues through the scene between the
aide (Rapp) and Napoleon. This time there is a two-speech exchange.
Finally the twenty-two speech conversation between the First Consul and
Bartholomeo di Piombo occurs. This forms the climax and is followed by
a one-line fade-out scene between Piombo and Lucien.
The dramatic pattern may be represented as a constant crescendo to
the climactic scene between Bartholomeo and Napoleon followed by a rapid
fade-out. The special handling of the dialog, the amount used and its
positioning create, or at least enhance, this feeling of a progression
in dramatic intensity.
The content of the direct remarks concerns the relationship between
Bartholom6o di Piombo and Napoleon Bonaparte. Bartholomeo's first abrupt
speech indicates a connection between the stranger and the First Consul
but it does not reveal the strength of the relationship. The second re-
mark of Bartholomio to the guard contains further information. "Faites
savoir a Bonaparte que Bartholomeo di Piombo voudrait lui parler!..."
(I, 14). The reader is informed directly by the character that Napoleon
must certainly know the man by name. As previously observed, the remain-
der of the conversation (which contributes nothing to the growing empha-
sis on the relationship between Piombo and the Bonaparte family) is sup-
pressed. This is a highly significant point in support of my thesis that
Balzac uses the scene and particularly the dialog content of the scene to
dramatize and underscore thematic material, for he has chosen to treat
summarily that which is not apropos in this respect.
The third one-line speech of Bartholomeo to Napol6on's brother gives
added support to this hypothesis. The stranger addresses Lucien Bona-
parte "Ah, Lucien, il est bien heureux pour Bartholomeo de te rencon-
trer!..." (I, 15). The reader is now aware that the relationship is on
the "tu" level of familiarity and the link with the powerful family is
further revealed--not by the author in his own voice but by the characters
in a direct manner free of authorial intervention or explanation. Again
the rest of the conversation is summarized. Obviously the amount and con-
tent of the dialog is being carefully controlled.
The two-line exchange between the recalcitrant aide and Napol6on
has more than anecdotal value. The First Consul immediately speaks of
the stranger as "mon compatriote" (I, 16). This information is supple-
mented by Rapp's spontaneous exclamation "Un Corsel..." (I, 16). The
aide's blunder provides the reader with another piece of the puzzle. The
stranger and Napoleon are connected by their common Corsican heritage.
Furthermore the basic antagonism between the French and the Corsican mind
is dramatized. This will be of prime importance as the story progresses
and Bartholomeo theoretically breaks with the tenets set forth by Napol-
gon and French law in favor of the Corsican vendetta. The peculiar
position of Napol6on as intermediary between the Corsican tradition of
the vendetta and the more formal law of France is foreshadowed in this
two-speech exchange with Rapp. In the climactic multiple-speech scene
Napol6on states his responsibilities explicitly:
Demeure ici, reprit le consul en s'adressant A
Bartholomeo, nous n'en saurons rien. Je ferai acheter
tes propri6t6s; et, dans quelque temps, plus tard, nous
penserons a toi. --Mais plus de Vendetta! --Songe qu'a
Paris il n'y a pas de Paquis, et que si tu y joues du
poignard, il n'y aurait pas de grace A esperer. Ici
la loi protege tous les citoyens, et l'on ne se fait
pas justice soi-meme. (I, 20)
As the climactic multiple-speech conversation progresses the total
dependency of Bartholom6o on the patronage of Napoleon becomes evident.
The final fade-out scene of the introduction between Lucien and Piombo
underscores this in its single direct remark "Nous sommes venus de
Fontainebleau, ici, a pied, et vous n'avons pas une obole" (I, 21).
The concept of the dependency of a character on a higher political
authority recurs in almost all the Sc&nes.
In Les Dangers de l'inconduite each of the internal divisions ends
with a scene or dramatic high point. The first section begins with a
conversation which will be suspended throughout the story. This frame
conversation interrupts Derville's narrative at the end of each major
section. This consistent use of the interrupting frame conversation
provides strong evidence in support of the subdivisions as I have indi-
There are two dramatic high points in the first chapter before
Derville begins his narrative. The first occurs as Mme de Grandlieu
suddenly confronts Camille with an ultimatum concerning Ernest de Restaud.
The second is the slightly more relaxed flashback scene presenting the
lawyer's conversation with the young girl.
The pattern shows an abrupt dramatic beginning, a low-point of auth-
orial summary and a return to the dramatic mode.
The first remark by Mme de Grandlieu contains the basic problem
posed and examined by the Scene:
Camille, dit la vicomtesse en regardant sa fille
avec attention, je vous previens que si vous continue
a tenir avec le jeune comte de Restaud la conduite que
vous avez eue ce soir, je ne le recevrai plus chez moi...
--Assez, Camille...Ecoutez-moi, vous etes fille unique,
vous etes riche; or, vous ne devez pas songer A 6pouser
un jeune homme qui n'a aucune espece de fortune. Vous avez
confiance en moi, ma chore enfant, laissez-moi done un peu
vous conduire dans la vie. Ce n'est pas 5 dix-sept ans que
l'on peut juger de certaines convenances... Je ne vous ferai
qu'une seule observation. --Ernest a une mare qui mangerait
des millions. .tant que sa mare existera, les families
trembleront de confier l'avenir et la fortune d'une jeune
fille a M. le comte de Restaud. (I, 170-171)
The young count is unsuitable for marriage because his mother
threatens to ruin his financial prospects. This negative relationship
between the parent and the transcending social value, in this case money,
is sufficient to undermine any proposed marriage. Mme de Grandlieu is
correct in her own interpretation of the situation. However the avoue
intervenes and promises to relate a story which will cause the Vicomtesse
to change her mind:
Il est temps, dit l'avou6, que je vous conte une
histoire, qui aura deux merites: d'abord elle pr6sentera
de fortes lemons a mademoiselle Camille; puis, elle vous
fera modifier le jugement que vous portez sur la fortune
d'Ernest... (I, 172)
He hopes that the story he will tell will be sufficient grounds to cause
Mme de Grandlieu to alter her judgement. This statement of purpose by
Derville serves to tie in the frame with the story he is about to relate:
"II est dommage que ce gargon-lA [Ernest] n'ait pas deux ou trois mil-
lions, n'est-ce pas?..." (I, 175). Derville comprehends Camille's feel-
ings for Ernest and teases her sympathetically. It is in this little
conversation that Derville's position vis-a-vis the young couple is sol-
idified. He is always a friend but not a parent figure. His role will
be that of mediator to the parent in his attempt to demonstrate Ernest's
financial and social suitability for marriage.
In Le Bal de Sceaux there is the same kind of progression as in
Gloire et malheur and La Vendetta. The first two direct remarks are
monologs by M. de Fontaine which emphasize his inability to establish
a rapport with Louis XVIII. The nadir in his position occurs just
before the second exile. From this point his rise in favor is paral-
leled by a rise in dramatic level until the king finally addresses him
as "mon ami Fontaine" (I, 281) in a one-line remark. This little scene
represents the highest point in Fontaine's career at court. It is fol-
lowed by another summary of the events surrounding the marriage of his
children under the patronage of the king. Again the summary technique
abruptly gives way to scenic depiction as Emilie, the last daughter, is
introduced. The final conversation, beginning with the Latin jest by
the king and followed by his epigram, shows Fontaine for the first time
speaking directly to the monarch (all previous exchanges have been summar-
ized). The king's answer marks the end of his help in establishing suit-
able marriages for Fontaine's children. Thus the progression in direct
discourse, which began with the father's isolated monologs concerning the
king, proceeds through the one-line comment by Louis XVIII to the three
direct remarks which signal the courtier's disappointment. Each of the
stages represented and punctuated by these bits of direct discourse cor-
responds to a stage in the marriage of Fontaine's several children.
During the monolog period when he cannot reach the king the children are
still too young for considerations of marriage. While the father is in
favor, all but one are happily paired with a suitable wife or husband.
This leaves only Emilie to be the victim of the final scene of the Intro-
In the Caroline Crochard portion of La Femme vertueuse there are two
occurrences of direct discourse which, true to the pattern established
in the other Introductory Sections, are placed at pivotal points in the
narrative. The first of these serves to indicate the social and finan-
cial position of Caroline and her mother: "Que deviendront ces deux
femmes si la broderie vient A n'etre plus de mode?" (II, 135-136). In
the end,of course, one feels that Caroline's downfall is the result of
the poverty alluded to in this remark. Her mother has encouraged her
relaxed morals in her hope of bettering their situation. This quotation
introduces in direct manner the theme of poverty as the social condition
for which Mme Crochard attempts a solution.
In the second occurrence of direct discourse Mme Crochard calls
attention to the new passer-by. The mother is the first to see the
stranger and to refer to him in a way calculated to arouse Caroline's
curiosity and anticipation, "Caroline, nous avons un habitue de plus
et aucun de nos anciens ne le vaut!" (II, 140). Mme Crochard's sub-
sequent remarks reveal her attentiveness to this stranger. There is
no doubt that her impression is favorable. Although limited in quantity,
the direct discourse contributes to the theme as it illustrates and em-
phasizes the parental disposition.
The Angglique Bontems portion of the plot has, of course, a sepa-
rate Introductory Section. The dramatic pattern followed in this case
shows a variation from that observed thus far. The first division peaks
with the scene between the Grand-Juge and Grandville, but instead of ab-
ruptly reverting to summary after this high point (as he has done pre-
viously) Balzac has chosen instead to follow immediately with another
dramatic scene, this time in the form of a letter from Grandville's
father. Since the letter is quoted directly it gives the effect of
the father addressing his son in person.
An examination of the content of the two major scenes which are
juxtaposed to each other provides the explanation of this dramatic
structure. The problem presented is one of Eugene de Grandville's
position in society. In the preliminary remark by the Grand-Juge the
young man's social standing is summarized for the reader:
La nuit tous [sic] chats sont gris. Un Grand-Juge
ne se compromettra pas en mettant un avocat dans son
chemin... Surtout, ajouta-t-il, s'il est le neveu d'un
ancien collogue, l'une des lumieres de ce grand conseil-
d'6tat qui a donn6 le Code Napoleon A la France!...
The Grand-Juge promises his favor and protection to the young
lawyer. This is tantamount to approval by society since the Grand-Juge
represents the highest authority figure which appears in the Scene.
After this conversation Grandville would be assured of the proper align-
ment in the social context, were it not for his father's intervention.
The effect of the old count's encouragement of his son's marriage to
Ang6lique Bontems, a bourgeoise, is to break the protective spell just
established. After all, it was through Grandville's heritage that the
Grand-Juge feels him worthy of his protection:
Le neveu d'un homme don't Cambaceres et moi sommes
les amis, ne doit pas rester avocat faute de protection
et de bienveillance, car votre oncle nous a aides A
traverser des temps bien orageux, jeune homme!...et
cela ne s'oublie pas!... (II, 205-206)
When the father disturbs this heritage by encouraging his son to
marry a bourgeoise, he disrupts the social approval which the lawyer
might otherwise expect. Furthermore the count is aware of this problem
Nos amis s'6tonneront peut-&tre de voir d'anciens
nobles comme nous s'allier A la famille Bontems don't le
pere a 6t6 un bonnet rouge fonc6 et qui a achet6 a vil
prix force biens nationaux. Mais d'abord sa veuve n'a
que des pros de moines; et ensuite, puisque tu as deja
derog6 en te faisant avocat, je ne vois pas pourquoi nous
reculerions devant une autre impertinence. La petite aura
trois cent mille francs. .. (II, 207-208)
The effect of the dramatic structure, then, is to juxtapose the
social protection offered by the Grand-Juge to the disruption of the
alignment by the father who fails to mediate "comme il faut" between
society and his son.
In each of the Introductory Sections all direct speeches analyzed
belong essentially to the parent. A very few are made by either an
authority figure or mediator. Any comments made by the young people
in the Introductory Sections are insignificant.
A modification of this statement is necessary with regard to La
Paix du menage. In this last story of the collection the parent figure
(Mme de Marigny) is not introduced until later and the opening conver-
sation is between two of the young protagonists. However the basic
pattern is followed in that the mysterious woman who serves as the focal
point of the discussion does not herself participate. Furthermore, the
point being developed in the question series of the conversation is the
relative position of the unknown beauty in a group where the final and
crucial question posed is, "ce serait une femme marine?..." (II, 304).
The value established is that of the sanctity of marriage. Neither
Martial nor the colonel has the right to violate this social institution.
Furthermore, the introductory conversation of La Paix du menage does
establish a central character. By making the "inconnue" the focal point
of the various love intrigues the author needs only to drop a word later
in order to disclose the entire network of the value structure by situa-
ting her with reference to Mme de Marigny. While the Introductory Sec-
tion of La Paix du menage varies in some respects from the pattern of
Gloire et malheur it conforms in others.
Throughout the Introductory Sections Balzac has achieved maximum
rhetorical stress on the material presented in the direct remarks. To
do so he has utilized certain technical resources of direct discourse.
In particular the direct discourse is remarkable for its placement,
quantity, speakers and progression.
1. Bardeche, Une Lecture de Balzac, p. 304.
During the Preparation of the Scenes the focus is on the young
people of the stories. There may also be a broadening of the social
value system and the introduction of secondary parent figures. Pri-
marily this division is devoted to the young persons' attitudes toward
the romantic relationship. Although this emphasis is on preparing the
love intrigue, there are few conversations between the young people.
The direct speeches are often limited to single, isolated remarks. The
few instances of actual conversation are remarkable for their lack of
romantic interest. Often it is the parent or parent figure who speaks
of the young person's relative position within the value structure.
The love intrigue appears to be subordinated to moral and social concerns.
Balzac uses various methods of presentation in this preparatory
section which serves as a structural bridge between the Introductory
Section and the intensely dramatic Parental Confrontation. In Le Bal de
Sceaux, Gloire et malheur, La Femme vertueuse (Ang6lique Bontems), La
Paix du menage flashbacks are used. In Les Dangers de l'inconduite the
background is given by Gobseck within Derville's narrative. (Derville's
narrative itself is presented within the frame story.) Only in La
Vendetta and the Caroline Crochard part of La Femme vertueuse is the
action of the Preparation section straightforward. Whereas in La Femme
vertueuse a summary technique is used, in La Vendetta the chapter en-
titled "L'Atelier" serves as the Preparation. La Vendetta is the only
story in which an entire chapter is devoted to this single section. In
the other Scenes with indicated chapter divisions, the Preparation com-
prises only a portion of the chapter in which it occurs (Les Dangers de
l'inconduite and both parts of La Femme vertueuse). This section has
the greatest variation in length among the Scenes of any part in the
basic outline. It is also the one where dialog placement and extent
varies the most.
The Preparation of Gloire et malheur shows a carefully developed
use of direct discourse to reflect the lack of communication between the
young lovers. The first three speeches are delivered by Girodet as he
breaks into Henri's creative retreat and discovers the pictures. The
most significant aspect of this scene is the fact that Henri does not
reply to any of Girodet's remarks. In particular the reply to Girodet's
exclamation, "Tu es amoureux?" (I, 35), is nonverbal and silent. This
is symbolic of the lover's isolation. The concluding prediction of
Henri's friend, "...je ne te conseille pas de mettre cela au Salon, ...,
vois-tu ces deux tableaux-la ne seraient pas sentis" (I, 36), will be
fulfilled by the Guillaumes, not by the public at large. The remark is
reflective of the theme of the social incompatibility which the portrait
will come to represent.
Augustine sees Henri for the first time in the Salon scene. The
reader might fairly expect this very important moment to include some
verbal exchange between the young people. However this is not the case.
In fact there is no conversation between Augustine and Henri. The artist's
declaration remains unanswered. Augustine flees and displaces all her
emotion into the exclamation of false concern for her aunt, "Vous series
6touff6e!... Partons, ma tantel..." (II, 38). The third remark of the
meeting is an echo of Henri's original speech, "Vous voyez ce que l'amour
m'a fait faire" (II, 38 & 41). The monolog emphasizes the isolation of
the lovers one from the other. The silence and non-communication as it
is dramatized in the initial meeting scene will continue and is repre-
sentative of the impossibility of communication between the shopkeeper's
and the artist's world.
The family conversation which follows Augustine's and Henri's
first meeting provides a vivid illustration in dialog form of the com-
plete inability of the Guillaume household to understand the artistic
outlook. The control of the dialog is obvious since the two remarks
chosen from a longer conversation, the remainder of which is summarized,
provide the most vivid and concise thematic illustration:
Voila ce qu'on gagne a tous ces spectacles!... s'6cria
M. Guillaume. Des maux de tete!... C'est done bien amusant
de voir en peinture ce qu'on rencontre tous les jours dans
les rues. Ne me parlez pas de ces artistes?...c'est comme
vos auteurs, tous Meure-de-faim!... Que diable ont-ils besoin
de prendre ma maison pour la vilipender dans leurs tableaux!...
--Cela pourra nous faire vendre quelques aunes de drap?
dit Joseph Lebas. (II, 41-42)
The only other direct remark which is answered in the Preparation
occurs when the inventory is taken. These are the only instances where
direct communication is possible in this section. Both this exchange
and the inventory scene illustrate the possibility of dialog within the
closed world of the shop while at the same time stressing the impossibil-
ity of transcending this closed sphere to communicate with Henri. After
all, as the author points out, no uninitiated person could understand
the shopkeeper's remarks which are "locutions barbares du commerce qui
ne s'exprime que par enigmes" (II, 47).
Throughout the Preparation of Gloire et malheur the direct remarks
are carefully manipulated and are given treatment corresponding to their
importance as a reinforcing, illustrative device emphasizing the lack of
communication between two conflicting worlds. Augustine belongs to the
shopkeeper's world, Henri to the artistic realm. The potential for com-
munication across the barrier is blocked as each attempt in direct speech
remains unanswered. In the instance where speech is answered the communi-
cation is restricted to the narrow world of "la maison du Chat-qui-pelote."
The Preparation section of La Vendetta is composed of three scenes
leading up to the first meeting between Ginevra and Luigi. These prelim-
inary scenes establish the isolated position of Ginevra.
The first dialog takes place between Mile Planta and one of the
other young ladies as they comment on Ginevra's exile from the group.
This dialog is not only of special significance due to its position but
also because of its content and form. At the center of the spoken ex-
change is placed the longest of the speeches with two remarks on either
side in exact symmetrical distribution. The pivotal speech in the
center position concerns the political and social implications of the
perfidious action of Mile de Monsaurin.
La proscription don't ces demoiselles la frappent est
d'autant plus injuste, dit une autre jeune fille, qu'avant-
hier, mademoiselle Ginevra 6tait fort triste; car son pare
venait, dit-on, de donner sa d6mission. Ce serait done
ajouter A son malheur, tandis qu'elle a Et6 fort bonne
pour ces demoiselles pendant tout ce temps-ci. Leur a-t-elle
jamais dit une parole qui put les blesser? Elle evitait au
contraire de parler politique. Mais elles paraissent agir
plut8t par jalousie que par esprit de parti. (I, 33)
The comment by Mlle Planta stresses two factors. First is an
analysis of the altered political status of the Piombo family. Balzac
gives more space to the statement of this situation than he does to
the psychological motive of jealousy which is the second explanation
of Ginevra's social exclusion by her peers. The underlying political
base influences the lives of individual characters. In fact this is such
a crucial factor that Balzac has chosen to parallel the direct speech
with a narrative restatement and elaboration. The technique of a sus-
pended conversation is used to maintain the dramatic intensity during
this explanation. Just as Ginevra appears and the girls anxiously pass
the message, "La voici! la voici!" (I, 34), the scene is interrupted. At
this point the reader is given a complete description of the political
as well as of the psychological situation underlying the action. The
narrative runs precisely parallel to the direct statement quoted above.
Thus the dialog and narrative manner function together here to place
emphasis on one of the themes. In this case the interplay of dialog man-
ner, narrative manner and positioning create the total effect. Ginevra's
exclusion, although based on deep feelings of jealousy, has been trig-
gered by the fall of Napoleon to whom Ginevra remains loyal. The young
woman about to enter the most important relationship of her life has lost
her political and social base. This is the meaning of the ostracism scene
and of the political content of its dialog.
The alienation theme continues in the direct discourse as Ginevra
enters and takes her place. The scene is punctuated by single direct
speeches but there is no actual communication between Ginevra and the
group. The scene closes with the first of three monologs indicated in
the outline. Monologs are consistently used to close the opening scenes
of this section. Ginevra's thoughts are reported directly to accomplish
the juxtaposition of her concern for the hidden soldier and the girls'
desire to witness her humiliation. The direct monolog dramatizes the dis-
tance separating the actors and heightens the impression of Ginevra's
alienation. Whereas Ginevra's thoughts are being portrayed directly, the
others' reactions are summarized by the author in a technique which main-
tains the balance and unity of reader concern by focusing on Ginevra
rather than on her enemies.
The entr'actee dans le drame" produced by Mme Servin's entrance
postpones M. Servin's arrival and increases Ginevra's isolation. It is
the painter's wife who in the last scene of this chapter will hover in
the background as the symbol that the parental role assumed by M. Servin
has been negated by the circumstances. Still later, Mme Servin will be
the one who expels Ginevra and Luigi completely from the protection of
this temporary parent figure. Therefore her presence is a factor in the
relationship of the young couple to M. Servin. With these future events
in mind, it is easy to interpret the presence of Mme Servin and the re-
marks that are made. During the dialog ending the scene, Ginevra is
unable to establish a basic communication with the artist's wife on the
subject of the hidden soldier. Mme Servin is depicted as a character in-
different, if not actually antipathetic, to the young people. Again the
scene ends with a monolog, "M. Servin n'a pas mis sa femme dans la con-
fidence de ce mystere, pensa Ginevra..." (I, 48). This thought shows
Ginevra's personal preoccupation and concern while at the same time re-
vealing the mildly antagonistic position of the artist's wife.
The last of the opening scenes contains no direct dialog but again
ends with the direct monolog characteristic of this position. It contains
an expression of Ginevra's major concern: "Proscrire un homme si jeune!...
Qui done peut-il etre?..." (I, 50). This line is used to represent the
content of two days of rumination: "Les deux phrases sont l'expression
la plus simple de toutes les idGes que Ginevra comment pendant deux jours"
(I, 50). This synopsis technique which combines the advantages of sum-
mary with that of direct, scenic presentation allows Balzac to preserve
the balance of his presentation at this point.
The first meeting between Ginevra and Luigi is presented as a fully
developed conversational scene. The direct speeches leading up to this
dramatic point form a progression. They reveal M. Servin to be sympa-
thetic to his favorite pupil. In the fourteen-line conversation between
M. Servin and Ginevra immediately preceding the meeting, political
questions are of the utmost importance. M. Servin's spontaneous re-
action to Ginevra's discovery of the presence of the hidden soldier
--Ne valait-il pas mieux que ce mystere fut
d&couvert par moi que par une autre?... dit 1'Itali-
enne en parlant A voix basse.
--Oui, rdpondit le peintre, car vous 6tes patriote...
M. Servin stresses Ginevra's political beliefs. Furthermore, in
reply to her query, "Qui est-ce?..." (I, 56) M. Servin gives Luigi's
political identity, "C'est un ami de Lab6doyare (I, 55). In the course
of the dialog, it becomes apparent that Luigi has no friends except M.
Servin. The painter's role as a father substitute is strengthened as
this section progresses. Thus this extended conversation serves to
establish M. Servin's role as a parent figure for the young couple. The
climactic dialog of the first meeting is centered initially around Gin-
evra's worthiness to make the soldier's acquaintance. M. Servin's in-
troductory remark: "Ne craignez rien, dit le peintre A l'officier,
Mademoiselle est la fille du plus fiddle ami de l'empereur, le baron
de Piombo" (I, 59), is instructive. The artist makes reference to Gin-
evra's father and to his former alliance with Napoleon. As long as this
alliance remains inviolable, the young people will have nothing to fear.
When it is broken by the baron's disobedience of the official dictum,
"Plus de Vendetta," the couple's relationship is fatally jeopardized.
The second subject of conversation is Luigi's alignment to Napoleon
through his loyalty to the condemned Lab6doyere. The political situation
penetrates into the lovers' world in the form of a cry overheard from
the street: "Voici le jugement qui condamne a mort... C'est Lab6-
doyere... dit-il" (I, 59). The upheaval in the government occasioned by
Napoleon's fall and exile will henceforth overshadow the life of the
The theme of the correlation between political authority, the paren-
tal role and the young couple is vividly expressed at this point by the
Je n'ai pas un seul parent dans le monde. L'empereur
6tait mon pere, et Labedoyere mon ami. --Ma famille,
c'6tait eux. Je suis seul. ...Je n'ai jamais eu que
ma paie pour fortune. (I, 60)
The important question of material wealth is also introduced in
Luigi's account of his situation. In this story money becomes the power
through which society wreaks its punishment on the characters who dare
violate its established rules. Ginevra hopes to alleviate Luigi's
despair in this regard by mentioning her father's fortune of which she
will be sole heiress.
The author then summarizes the natural attraction of Ginevra for
Luigi, thereby making this purely romantic interest dependent on and sub-
ordinate to the political influences. If the romantic interest were the
primary concern of the author, a large proportion of the story's dialog
would occur between Luigi and Ginevra. That this is not the case cer-
tainly gives support to the idea that the relationship between the young
couple is of only secondary significance.
After a false exit Ginevra returns when she hears the soldier speak
in her native language (quoted in Italian) and recognizes the Corsican
accent. This represents the second aspect of their political similarity
and even of their link to the deposed emperor. The remainder of the con-
versation is summarized by the author as are the intermediate events of
Ginevra and Luigi's developing relationship. This leads to a typical
Balzacian "fateful day" during which matters come to a critical point
in a series of three dialog scenes. In the final conversation M. Servin
is portrayed in his role as parent figure and mediator. He proposes the
marriage: "Vous vous marierez, mes enfans?..." (I, 77). He gives his
benediction after Luigi expresses appreciation:
"C'est done a vous que je devrai ma Ginevra et toute
--Soyez heureux! dit le peintre avec une onction
comique et en imposant les mains sur la tete des deux
amans, je vous unisl... (I, 78)
In spite of M. Servin's blessing however which is given in jest and
therefore with diminished responsibility, his influence is too recent
and too weak to carry any weight in a critical test. Indeed he himself
reminds the lovers that his position as benefactor is already being seri-
ously undermined by his wife's hostility:
"Ah ga, mes chers enfans, reprit M. Servin, vous
croyez que tout va maintenant A merveille? Eh bien,
vous vous trompez.
Les deux amans 1'examinerent avec 6tonnement.
--Rassurez-vous, je suis le seul que votre espieg-
lerie embarasse! Madame Servin est un peu collet-mont6
et je ne sais en verit6 pas comment nous nous arrangerons
avec elle... (I, 79)
The wife will in effect disown Luigi and Ginevra when they most need
the Servins' support. The author is justified in his claim that this
is the scene which seals Ginevra's fate. Occupying as it does the close
of the Preparation section its power is seconded by its dramatic position
and its content.
To conclude the analysis of the Preparation of La Vendetta it should
be emphasized that the dialogs and monologs serve, by their positioning
and their substance, to illustrate or reinforce the value system. There
is more dialog between the young people in La Vendetta than in any of
the other Scenes. However the content of their conversations is remark-
ably lacking in romantic interest. The focus is rather on the situation
of the young couple within the social-political framework.
The preparatory section of Les Dangers de l'inconduite corresponds
to the chapter entitled "L'Usurier." Its major concerns are the elabora-
tion of Gobseck's role as parent and authority figure as well as the situ-
ation of the young people. The section begins with Derville's presenta-
tion of the miser. The background is suddenly interrupted by the old
uncle just as Derville gives Gobseck's name for the first time. The
frame is interjected into the narrative at a strategic spot in the out-
line. The content of these last remarks by Derville is thus to be con-
sidered of primary importance. The conversation is as follows:
--Je declare que votre voisin m'interesse prodigieuse-
ment!... s'6cria le vieil oncle.
--Je le considgrais comme un athde, si l'humanit6,
la sociability sont une religion, reprit l'avou6. Aussi,
m'6tais-je propose de 1'examiner. C'est ce que j'appelais
6tudier l'anatomie de l'homo duplex, de l'homme moral.
--Mais ne m'interrogez plus, Monsieur le marquis, autre-
ment vous 6teindrez ma verve. Je reprends le fil de mon im-
provisation. (I, 181-182)
The structural purpose of the uncle's interruption is clear. It
serves to throw the lawyer's comment concerning Gobseck's position into
dramatic relief. The miser does not fit easily into a normal social con-
text. Derville declares himself to have been in a state of suspended
judgement in regard to Gobseck's social state. This is important since
the miser comes, in the course of the story, to transcend society through
his financial control. Derville lays the groundwork for this role which
Gobseck is to play in this Scene.
In his preliminary conversation with Derville, Gobseck defines his
parental role with its symbolic extension as the avenger of society:
Quelle joie orgueilleuse m'a emu en pensant que si ces
deux femmes n'6taient en measure, elles allaient me recevoir
avec autant de respect que si j'6tais leur propre pare!
Que de choses la comtesse n'allait-elle pas faire pour mille
francs ... Prendre un air affectueuse; me parler de cette
voix douce qu'elle reserve peut-etre a l'endosseur du billet;
me prodiguer des paroles caressantes, me supplier peut-etre,
La, le vieillard me jeta un regard glacial.
--et moi, inibranlable!...reprit-il, je suis la comme un
vengeur; j'apparais comme un records; mais laissons les
hypotheses. J'arrive. (II, 184-185)
Gobseck is conscious and eloquent concerning his double role as
parent figure and authority figure.
The parallel scene sequence of his visit to the two women serves to
illustrate his power through money. He is able to exercise control over
the countess but not over Fanny Malvaut who is ready to pay her debt.
In fact Gobseck states explicitly the extent of his fantastic power:
"Si le roi me devait, madame, et qu'il ne me payat pas, je 1'assignerais"
(I, 189). This remarkable statement just precedes the count's intrusion
into the conversation. In the scene where the husband appears the miser
does not address him directly. The Count remains with his back turned
during the diamond exchange. Gobseck appears neither antipathetic nor
sympathetic toward the Comte de Restaud.
In the remaining scenes of the sequence Gobseck is antipathetic
to the Comtesse de Restaud and to her young lover (later named Maxime
de Trailles). He pronounces his judgement in a final remark in which
the miser reads the young man's character and the future of the countess:
Mais precis6ment, en ce moment, la grande porte
s'ouvrit, et livra passage A l'le6gant tilbury du
jeune homme qui m'avait present le billet.
--Monsieur, lui dis-je quand il fut descendu, voici
deux cents francs que je vous prie de rendre a madame la
comtesse, et vous lui ferez observer que je tiendrai A
sa disposition, pendant huit jours, le gage qu'elle m'a
remis ce matin. Il prit les deux cents francs, et laissa
6chapper un sourire moqueur, comme s'il eut dit: --Ah!
ah! elle a pay6! Ma foi, tant mieux!
J'ai lu sur cetta physionomie 1'avenir de la comtesse.
Gobseck is hostile to Mme de Restaud and her lover.
The Fanny Malvaut contrast sequence is shorter. The miser indi-
cates his basic support of this young woman and ends by recommending
her to the lawyer as a suitable wife.
Quand vous etes entr6, je pensais que Fanny Malvaut
serait une bonne petite femme.
Pendant quinze jours, je songerai a cette vie pure
et solitaire, l'opposant a celle de cette comtesse qui a
d6ja un pied dans le vice! (I, 194)
This concludes the alignment scenes involving the relationship of
the countess, the count, the young lover and Fanny Malvaut to Gobseck.
The plot line, divided through the parallel scene sequence, is
reunited in Gobseck's tirade. He gives the absolute statement of his
social and political role:
Mon regard est comme celui de Dieu! il voit les coeurs.
Rien ne nous est cache. Que me manque-t-il? je posside tout.
L'on ne refuse rien a celui qui lie et d6lie les cordons
d'un sac. L'on achete les ministres et les consciences;
c'est le pouvoir; l'on achete les femmes et leurs plus tendres
caresses, c'est le plaisir et la beauty; 1'on achete tout.
Nous sommes les rois silencieux et inconnus de la vie; car
l'argent, c'est la vie. (I, 195)
He concludes: "--Ici enfin, ajouta-t-il en portant la main a son front,
est une balance dans laquelle se present les successions et meme Paris
tout entier!..." (I, 196). This statement has its effect on Derville who
reflects for the reader Gobseck's role as a social-political authority
of fantastic proportions:
Je retournai chez moi stup6fait. Ce petit vieillard
sec avait grand. Il s'6tait change A mes yeux en une
image fantastique; j'avais vu le pouvoir de l'or personni-
fi6. La vie, les homes me faisaient horreur.
--Tout doit-il done se rdsoudre par l'argent? me
demandais-je. (I, 197)
The summary of the lawyer's thoughts concerning the countess and
Fanny Malvaut and of his ultimate choice of a wife contains no direct
discourse. It is typical that the love relationship should be thus drama-
tically subordinated to the problems of the value structure.
Although the direct discourse of the Preparation section of Le
Bal de Sceaux is very limited and is not consistently placed within the
narrative, the direct remarks contribute to the thematic development.
The first direct remark occurs as M. de Fontaine contemplates his
chances of a peerage: "En effet, disait-il, comment concevoir une nob-
lesse sans privileges, c'est un manche sans outil" (I, 292). In and
of itself this habitual monologue of M. de Fontaine doesn't mean much.
It becomes understandable, however, considered within the context of the
narrative explanation. The quotation points to the father's willing-
ness to adapt to the ambiguous political situation. M. de Fontaine is
indeed playing at being a liberal, but he is doing so only with the in-
tention of taking advantage of the situation and gaining more privileges.
The king has steered a middle course as has Emilie's father under royal
guidance. But Emilie, because of her rigidity, fails to adapt her be-
havior to the new order.
The second subdivision of the section is dominated by the person-
ality of the young girl as the reader views her relationship to her
parents, her would-be suitors, and society in general. Emilie is por-
trayed as an ungrateful child. She is short-tempered and capricious
with her parents as illustrated in a typical comment: "Elle ressemblait
a ces jeune enfants qui paraissent dire a leur mere: -- d6peche-toi de
m'embrasser pour que j'aille jouer?'(I, 302).
This disrespect foreshadows unhappiness within the value structure
of the Scenes where a satisfactory relationship between parent and child
is a prerequisite of a happy marriage.
The most important direct speech of the section reveals Emilie's
youthful pride and narrow perspective.
--Avant tout, s'6tait-elle dit, il sera jeune, et
de noblesse ancienne. Encore faut-il qu'il soit pair
de France ou fils atn6 d'un pair, parce qu'il me serait
insupportable de ne pas voir mes armes peintes sur les
panneaux de ma voiture au milieu des plis flottans d'un
manteau d'azur. C'est d'ailleurs un passport pour par-
courir comme les princes la grande allee du milieu aux
promenades de Longchamp. Et puis, mon pare pretend que
ce sera un jour la plus belle dignity de France. Je le
veux militaire, en me r6servant de lui faire donner sa
admission; mais surtout qu'il ait une decoration, parce
qu'on nous portera les armes. (I, 305)
Emilie's complete failure to see the larger political questions in-
volved in her requirements for a husband will lead to her downfall.
Thus the three occurrences of direct speech in the Preparation
of Le Bal de Sceaux illustrate Emilie's position relative to her
parents and to the larger social structure. They do not portray the
young girl in direct conversation with any of her numerous suitors.
The Preparation section of the Caroline Crochard portion of La Femme
vertueuse is divided into two major parts. Balzac uses the symbol of
the window to mark these divisions. In the first part the window is
open but no communication between the lovers occurs. Then the stranger
suddenly exchanges a look with Caroline and the relationship by "regards"
progresses until winter causes the closing of the window. This marks
the stalemate which has been reached between Caroline and "son monsieur
noir." The author speculates on the reasons behind this hesitation but
is unable himself to penetrate the "regard" of the lovers to ascertain
their motives: "II serait impossible d'expliquer le sentiment qui les
rendait aussi ennemis qu'amis, aussi indiffdrens l'un A l'autre qu'ils
6taient attaches, aussi unis d'instinct, que separ6s par le fait. Peut-
etre chacun d'eux voulait-il conserver ses illusions" (II, 150). Finally
the stranger overhears the mother and daughter discussing their desperate
financial situation, throws money into their room (thus crossing the bar-
rier) and is thanked by Caroline the next day as she has opened the win-
dow once more.
Needless to say, there is not a great deal of direct discourse in
this section where the lovers do not exchange a single word. The social
disparity between Caroline and "son monsieur noir" is reflected in their
hesitancy to establish any relationship beyond the "jeu de regards." The
isolated monolog remarks at the end of the first sub-division: "II a eu
du chagrin hier!..." (II, 148) and "Oh il a beaucoup travailled" (II, 148)
reinforce this theme of silence. This is analogous to the use of monolog
in La Vendetta where it symbolized Ginevra's social isolation.
The conversation between Caroline and her mother, overheard by the
stranger, confirms his suspicions of their poverty:
--Pourquoi tant te desoler, ma mere?... M. Rigolet ne
vendra pas nos meubles et ne nous chassera pas avant que
j'aie termin& cette robe!... Encore deux nuits et j'irai
la porter chez madame Chignard.
--Et si elle te fait attendre come toujours...mais en
tout cas, le prix de ta robe payera-t-il aussi le boulanger?
As in Gloire et malheur, this single conversation of the Prepara-
tion occurs not between the lovers but rather within the context of
the parental world. The same barrier between the stranger and Caroline
that is symbolized by the window is also illustrated by the use of the
Caroline's final monolog from the open window is an attempt to
break through the isolation which separates the lovers. Her look con-
veys an explicit message and is accompanied by a direct statement of
intent: "Je ne puis vous payer qu'avec le coeur!..." (II, 154). The
unreliable "regard" has been invested with the reliability of verbal
communication in this last gesture.
All factors concerning direct discourse have contributed to en-
hancing the thematic content in this Preparation section. The placement,
use of monolog, interplay with other symbols, rarity or absence of conver-
sational exchange are all aspects of the use of direct discourse which
makes it a primary technical device underlying and reinforcing thematic
The Preparation of the Angelique Bontems story in La Femme vertueuse
is very abbreviated. It consists of Grandville's reverie following his
interview with the Grand-Juge and the letter from his father. He contem-
plates his future ambitions and his past fondness for Mlle Bontems.
In spite of its brevity, this section is characterized by the points
previously noted. The main concern is to bring the lovers' past or pro-
gressive relationship up to the "present moment" of the story. A flash-
back to the childhood romance between Grandville and Ang6lique is followed
by the summary of the last ten years. As observed before, verbal com-
munication is noticeably absent from the lovers' relationship. Only the
expression of Grandville as he presumably referred to Ang6lique in their
childhood as "sa petite femme" (II, 210) even suggests direct discourse.
As in previous stories, the lack of conversation between the lovers
combined with Grandville's attitude in his reverie emphasizes the fantasy
base of this relationship. The individuals about to be linked in a strug-
gle against external forces do not have a sufficiently strong psychologi-
cal tie between them to insure the success of their marriage. This ex-
plains the absence of dialog and of the fantasy tone of Grandville's
There is a parallel between the Preparation of La Paix du menage
and that of the other stories. The use of time as a structuring device
(combined with that of dialog) reinforces the underlying dramatic frame-
work. Compare for example the following quotations, one from La Paix
du menage and the second from Gloire et malheur.
Mais pour comprendre le secret d'intfret renferm6
dans la conversation par laquelle commence ce recit, il
est necessaire de se reporter par la pensee a un ev6ne-
ment, l6ger en apparence, mais qui, par d'invisibles liens,
avait comme r6uni les personnages de ce petit drame, bien
qu'ils fussent 6pars dans les salons o0 retentissait 1'eclat
et le murmure de la fete. (La Paix du menage, II, 313)
Mais pour rendre un compete exact des evenemens
exterieurs comme des sentimens, il est necessaire de
remonter A quelques mois avant la scene par laquelle
commence cette histoire. (Gloire et malheur, II, 32)
Both comments signal a flashback which throws the action into a past
which occurred before the opening scene. In both stories the events are
filled in until the moment of the opening scenes. This point is also
II rejoignit le colonel des cuirassiers, et ce fut
alors que la petite dame bleue devint le lien commun qui
agitait a la fois et si diversement l'esprit du beau
colonel de cuirassiers, l'ame attrist6e du comte de Soul-
anges, le coeur volage du baron Martial et la comtesse de
Vaudremont. (La Paix du menage, II, 320)
Le matin, oa rentrant d'un bal, Henri de Sommervieux
(c'6tait le nom que la renomr avait apport6 A Augustine)
fut asperg6 par les commis du Chat-qui-pelote, pendant
qu'il attendait l'apparition de sa naive amie, laquelle
ne le savait certes pas 1a, les deux amans se voyaient
pour la quatrieme fois seulement, depuis la scene du
Salon. (Gloire et malheur, II, 44)
In both cases the chronology is structured with reference to the
initial scene. The end of the flashback section however does not mark
the "fictional present moment" since the fictional clock has been running
since the flashback began. When the flashback ends there begins a second
filling in of events which "happened" while the flashback was itself being
Quand les deux amis se separerent apres s'&tre porter
le d6fi qui terminal leur longue conversation, le jeune
maitre des requetes s'glanga vers la belle madame de
Vaudremont et sut la placer au milieu du plus brilliant
quadrille. (La Paix du menage, II, 320)
The two stories differ in the position of the "fictional present
moment." Whereas in Gloire et malheur this crucial point is not reached
until the beginning of the Parental Confrontation section, in La Paix du
manage the present is reached in the middle of the Preparation.
En ce moment, la contredanse 6tant pros de finir, le
colonel d6sappoint6 n'eut que le temps de se retire en
se disant par maniere de consolation: --elle est marihe!...
Sur ce propos, les deux amis se separerent de nouveau.
(La Paix du menage, II, 326-327)
This anticipation of the fictional present in La Paix du menage
could perhaps be construed as a weakness in the structure. It dilutes
the dramatic effect of the Parental Confrontation.
The conversations of the Preparation which occur within the framework
of this double flashback system are complete and immediate. The primary
purpose of the direct discourse is to place the young people with refer-
ence to the larger value system of the story. I will discuss this theme
before examining the love relationships.
As a first example, consider the conversation between Martial and
the colonel which ends the second flashback when the fictional present
is reached. Certainly this is a point of extreme structural importance.
The content of the conversation centers around the leitmotif thrice-
repeated already. "--Elle est marihe...mon cher. --Qu'est-ce que cela
fait! --Ah! diable, j'ai des moeurs!...repondit le colonel" (II, 326).
The institution of marriage is in a sense under the protection of the
social order, of the all-powerful "moeurs." This conversation, high-
lighted dramatically and structurally, treats the primary values and
social questions rather than the secondary concern of the love intrigue.
This tendency to divide the interest of the section continues in
the two dialogs following the "fictional present moment." In the first
portion of the colonel's conversation with the Comte de Soulanges, he
situates the husband with reference to Napoleon:
Mon cher, dit le colonel a Soulanges, qu'il avait attire
dans un coin; ce matin l'empereur a parl de vous avec 6loge,
et votre promotion dans la garde n'est pas douteuse. Le
patron a pr6tendu que ceux qui 6taient rests a Paris
pendant la champagne ne devaient pas etre consid6rds comme
en disgrace... Eh bien?... (II, 329-330)
While the emperor will not personally intervene in the private
lives involved, his favor acts as a talisman assuring success to Soul-
anges. Thus when Soulanges seemingly recognizes the mysterious beauty
and forbids Martial to approach her, his word has the effect of an inter-
dict. The Count will have the support of a social system in which marri-
age has been established as a primary value. Martial will be acting in
violation of this system.
The romantic interest as it is developed in this section centers a-
round Martial's attraction to the lady-in-blue. As is typical, there
is no dialog between the two young people involved in the central love
intrigue. There are, however, conversations between Martial, the colonel
and Mme de Vaudremont and between the colonel and the young woman. Two
of these present failures of communication while the success of the third
is suspended until later.
Martial's two exchanges with Mme de Vaudremont are in actuality
"conversations manquees" since Martial is preoccupied. He does not
listen to Mme de Vaudremont's remarks concerning the diamond. The lack
of communication between the lovers signals the failure of their engage-
In a similar manner the failure of the colonel vis-a-vis the lady
in blue is summarized in her refusal to dance. His success with Mme de
Vaudremont is portrayed in her acceptance of him as a dancing partner.
However she postpones his triumph until the role of Mme de Marigny has
Two aspects of the thematic structure are apparent in the direct
conversations of the Preparation of La Paix du menage. The most dramatic
placement is accorded to the discussions which situate the characters
within the social framework. The direct dialog concerning the love in-
trigue portrays failure or suspension of success. In the case of the
focal relationship between Martial and the mysterious beauty there is
The preceding analysis of the Preparation of the Scenes makes
clear that the primary purpose of each is to place the young people
with relation to the value system of the story. In several cases a
broader view of the social and political system has resulted from the
Through flashbacks, summary and narrative the romantic interest in
the young people is introduced and developed. However this romantic
interest is relegated to a position of secondary importance. The speech
patterns throughout this section lend support to this conclusion. The
conversations between the lovers are kept to a minimum. Where such
dialog is portrayed the content is political, not romantic.
The secondary importance of the love intrigue, as symbolized by the
patterns of direct speech, is in keeping with the thematic statement made
earlier. The young people as individuals will be relatively powerless
when confronted by the stronger political and social forces. The lack
of verbal communication at this early stage foreshadows this weakness.
The Parental Confrontation section in the 1830 Scenes is remarkably
uniform in its position, structure, and content. This section presents
the initial climax in the dramatic pattern. Throughout his work Balzac
reveals, by manner of organization as well as by frequent use of theatri-
cal terms, his desire to incorporate into his novels certain dramatic
techniques. His success in this attempt is perhaps most striking in
this climactic section. The groundwork has been carefully prepared in
the Introductory and Preparatory sub-divisions. The flashbacks and sum-
maries have brought the action up to the immediate, present moment. The
author can now "step back" and allow the actors to take the stage and
play out their parts. The dialog is no longer limited to the isolated
comments or abbreviated conversations typical of the earlier portions
of each Scene. The outline of the stories reveals the consistent use
of two to four conversational scenes to form the Parental Confrontation.
The dramatic climax is created by techniques of placement, completeness,
and quantity of dialog within this section.
Just as the Parental Confrontation represents the technical climax
of the first part, it also contains the thematic climax. The previous
analysis has shown the primary concern of the Introductory section to be
the establishment of the social value system. The Preparation typically
contains the description of the young people in their relationship to one
another and to their parents. Thus each of the preliminary sections pre-
sents only a portion of the total thematic construct (as detailed in the
chapter on thematic unity). In that chapter it was noted that a three-
fold harmony between parent, social or political authority and the young
person was necessary to insure marital happiness. Any disruption in this
harmony would cause the failure of the individual characters. It is dur-
ing the Parental Confrontation that the definitive alignment of these
three factors is established. The conversations of this section portray
the parents and young people as they act through this crucial stage in
It will not be necessary to give a detailed explication de texte
of each Parental Confrontation section as was the case for the two pre-
ceding subdivisions. Since the similarities are striking among the
Scenes, it will be more satisfactory to concentrate on a thematic analy-
sis, examining each theme in turn. Gloire et malheur will again serve
as the major example in this analysis; the other Scenes will be dis-
cussed in comparison and contrast to this typical story.
The relationship between the parent and social authority in Gloire
et malheur reflects the stress caused when Henri de Sommervieux pene-
trates the quiet world of "la maison du Chat-qui-pelote." As previously
discussed, M. Guillaume functions as the highest authority within the
patriarchal world of the shop. The scene series of the Parental Con-
frontation dramatizes the challenge to the shopkeeper's rule. He re-
nounces his absolute power in the succession of conversations charac-
teristic of this section.
During the first dialog with Joseph Lebas the authority of the shop-
keeper is evident. Joseph Lebas is offered first a partnership in the
business and only secondarily a wife. M. Guillaume's concept of a happy
married life is inseparable from happiness in one's work.
--Et vous me l'accorderiez?...
--Oui, et avec cinquante mille ecus!... Je t'en
laisserai autant, et nous marcherons sur de nouveaux
frais avec une nouvelle raison socialel Nous brasserons
encore des affaires, gargon!... s'6cria le vieux marchand
en s'exaltant, se levant et agitant ses bras; car vois-tu,
mon gendre, il n'y a que le commerce!... Ce sont les
imbeciles qui se demandent quels plaisirs on y trouve.
M. Guillaume sees the perpetuation of his power through the succession
of his head clerk. If both men were speaking of the same proposed wife,
this would certainly be a viable formula for Joseph's happiness. In the
patriarchal world of the shop, the couple would have the blessings and
continue the tradition of the regulated, narrow happiness of the Guil-
laumes. M. Guillaume's projection of the ideal future is upset when
Joseph Lebas reveals that he does not love Virginie but Augustine.
When the quiproquo is resolved M. Guillaume shows his weakness by
granting the clerk permission to accompany Augustine to church. His
single exclamation, "Que va penser madame Guillaume!" (II, 58), ends
the first episode in the Parental Confrontation. This strategically
placed remark dramatizes the master's first instance of self-doubt after
his authority has been successfully questioned.
The challenge from external forces in the person of Henri de Sommer-
vieux is a much more serious threat to the equilibrium of the status quo.
The shock to the quiet household is vividly portrayed in Madame Guil-
laume's reaction when she notices Augustine's attention to Henri:
Il est difficile d'imaginer l'6tat violent dans lequel
se trouva une femme telle que madame Guillaume, qui se
flattait d'avoir parfaitement glevg ses filles, en recon-
naissant, dans le coeur d'Augustine, un amour clandestine
don't sa pruderie et son ignorance lui exagfrerent le
danger. Elle crut sa fille gangrenee jusqu'au coeur.
--Tenez d'abord votre livre a l'endroit, mademoiselle!
dit-elle A voix basse, mais en tremblant de colere.
Elle arracha vivement le paroissien accusateur et le
remit de maniere A ce que les lettres fussent dans leur
sens natural; puis elle ajouta:
--N'ayez pas le malheur de lever les yeux autre part
que sur vos prieres; autrement, vous auriez affaire a moi.
Apres la messe votre p&re et moi nous aurons a vous parler.
This discovery ends the second episode of the Parental Confrontation.
Henri de Sommervieux's threat would probably have been neutralized
were it not for the influence of an intermediary in the person of Mme
Vernier. The family conference, interrupted by her intervention, re-
sumes to end the third episode in the Parental Confrontation. This
conversation marks the turning point in the Guillaumes' attitude.
That M. Guillaume's authority has been seriously undermined, if not
entirely destroyed, is now symbolized, it seems, by the avoidance of
direct speech. The axioms of M. Guillaume which heretofore have formed
the basis of his rule are presented thus:
Ses axiomes favors etaient que pour trouver le
bonheur, une femme devait 6pouser un homme de sa classes;
que l'on 6tait toujours tot ou tard puni d'avoir voulu
monter trop haut; que l'amour rdsistait si peu aux tracas
du menage, qu'il fallait trouver l'un chez l'autre des
qualit6s bien solides pour 6tre heureux; qu'il ne fallait
pas qu'un 6poux en sat plus que l'autre, parce qu'on devait
avant tout se comprendre; qu'un mari qui parlait grec et la
femme latin, risquaient de mourir de faim. C'etait la une
espece de proverbe qu'il avait invent lui-meme. Ii com-
parait les marriages, ainsi faits, A ces anciennes 6toffes
de soie et de laine oi la sole finissait toujours par
couper la laine. (II, 69)
These crucial rules of conduct are not accorded the dramatic force of
direct speech or strategic placement. They are quoted indirectly to
offer evidence of M. Guillaume's betrayal of his own beliefs.
This disruption in the parent's relationship to the authority system
is also evident during the Parental Confrontation sections of La Vendetta
and both parts of La Femme vertueuse.
The theme of parental alignment to social authority is developed in
two violent conflicts between Ginevra and her father. In the first of
these the name of the Porta family with its aura of blood and vendetta
is reiterated several times to emphasize the father's obsession.
The beginning and the end of this crucial argument state the basic
--Ginevra, dit enfin Piombo sans oser la regarder, vous
aimez l'ennemi de votre famille.
--Cela est vrai! repondit-elle.
--II faut choisir entire lui et nous. Notre vendetta
fait parties de nous-memes: qui n'epouse pas ma vengeance
n'est pas de ma famille.
--Mon choix est fait! repondit-elle encore d'une voix
calme. (I, 110-111)
Bartholomeo ends the discussion in a tone of despair:
--Ah! nous sommes a Paris... dit-il en murmurant.
Puis il se tut. (I, 113).
This last exclamation of frustration recalls almost word for word the
similar statement of the Introductory Section, when Napoleon invokes
French law in forbidding Piombo to pursue his vendetta. The father
cannot violate the law without dooming Ginevra's marriage to failure.
He takes this fatal step in the second confrontation between
father and daughter. Ginevra takes legal action to gain her freedom.
Again Bartholom6o verbalizes his comprehension of the situation, "Il
y a done en France des lois qui detruisent le pouvoir paternel?..."
(I, 121). Clearly the purpose of these dialogs presented in such
complete detail is to underscore and dramatize this conflict between
father, daughter and French law.
The Caroline Crochard portion of La Femme vertueuse also includes
a climactic conversation series focusing on the problems of the parent
vis-a-vis the social system. In order to understand these climactic
scenes it is only necessary to examine in some detail the contents of
the three most extensive dialogs. In the first Caroline talks to Eugene
about her mother and their poverty. In the second the subject is Caro-
line's father. M. Crochard was a loyal soldier of Napoleon but the
change in government was responsible for his widow's poverty:
--Mon pare, qui commandait les evolutions sur le
theatre, ayant mis en ligne les vainqueurs de la Bastille,
obtint le grade de captain et se conduisit a l'arm~e de
Sambre-et-Meuse de maniere A monter rapidement en grade.
En dernier lieu, il a 6t6 nomm6 major; mais il fut si
grievement bless a Lutzen qu'il est revenue mourir a
Paris, apres deux ans de maladie... Ah! que de chagrins
nous avons eusl... Et puis, les Bourbons sont arrives et...
ma mere n'ayant pu obtenir de pension, nous sommes retombees,
elle et moi, dans une situation telle, qu'il a fallu travail-
ler pour vivre... (II, 164-165)
Here once again is the theme of the effect of social and political
events on individual characters. Had it not been for the Restoration
Caroline's mother certainly would not be in the necessity of encouraging
a protector for her daughter.
The remarks of Mme Crochard on the subject of Napoleon reinforce
--Quand on pense, M. Eugene, que le petit caporal
s'est assis 1A ou vous 6tes!... reprit-elle apr&s un
moment de silence. --Pauvre hommel... ajouta-t-elle.
Mon mari l'aimait-ill... Ah! Crochard a aussi bien fait
de mourir car il n'aurait pas endure de le savoir la
ou ils l'ont mis!...
M. Eugene posa un doigt sur ses levres, et la bonne
vieille, hochant la tete, dit d'un air serieux:
--Suffit!... on aura la bouche close et la langue
--Mais, ajouta-t-elle en ouvrant les deux bords de son
corsage et montrant une croix et son ruban rouge suspendus
A son col par une faveur noire, ils ne m'emplcheront pas
de porter ce que l'autre a donned A mon pauvre Crochard et
je me ferai enterrer avec... (II, 165-166)
Mme Crochard has remained loyal to Napoleon but governmental upheavals
prevent this loyalty from having any beneficial effect on her life.
It is this same instability in the government which complicates
the parent-authority relationship in the Ang6lique Bontems division
of La Femme vertueuse. Two strategically placed discussions between
father and son contribute to an understanding of the forces under-
lying the eventual failure of Eugene's marriage.
In the first of these dialogs we see the count analyzing the
situation for his son:
--Mais les cinquante mille livres de rente provenus
des biens eccl6siastiques, ne retourneront-ils pas?...
--Nous y voilal s'6cria le comte d'un air fin. En con-
sideration du marriage, car la vanity de madame Bontems
n'a pas 6t6 peu chatouill6e par l'idee d'enter les Bontems
sur l'arbe gengalogique des Grandville, la susdite mere
donne sa fortune en toute proprift6 a la petite, ne s'en
reservant que l'usufruit.. Aussi le sacerdoce s'oppose-t-il
I ton marriage. Mais j'ai fait publier les bancs, tout est
pr&t, et en huit jours tu seras hors des griffes de la mere,
ou de ses abbes, et tu poss6deras la plus jolie fille de
Bayeux, une petite commlre qui ne te donnera pas de chagrin,
parce que qa aura des principles. Elle a 6t6 mortifiee,
come ils disent dans leur jargon, par les jeines, les
prieres, et, ajouta-t-il d'un ton plus bas, par sa mere
qui est une devote du grand style... (II, 215)
The count apparently is aware of the effect religion has had on Ange-
lique's personality. However for him the financial considerations are
all-important. He fails to take into consideration that the narrow-
minded, provincial outlook of the young wife will not grow even when
exposed to Parisian society.
This basic error is compounded when the father fails to under-
stand the new social and political situation:
--On voit bien, r6pondit le pere en souriant, que tu
n'as pas v6cu dans l'ancien regime! Tu saurais qu'on ne
s'embarrasse jamais d'une femme!
--Mais, mon pere, aujourd'hui le marriage est devenu...
--Ah! ga, dit le comte, en interrompant son fils, tout
ce que mes vieux camarades d'6migration me chantent, est
done bien vrai?... La revolution nous a done lgu6 des
moeurs sans gaitt? Elle a done empest6 les jeunes gens
de principles equivoques!... Tu parles done, come mon beau-
frere le jacobin, de nation, de morale publique, de desin-
tfressement?... Oh! mon Dieu! sans l'empereur et ses soeurs,
que deviendrions-nous!... (II, 218)
Thus the parent who should be able to interpret events allows
prejudice to blind him to his son's wise suggestions. The older Grand-
ville is out of step with the current socio-political situation and
misleads his son.
In Les Dangers de l'inconduite, Le Bal de Sceaux, and La Paix
du manage fluctuations in the social and political value systems are
also apparent. However in each of these three stories the parent is
able to adjust to or at least properly interpret the problems presented.
The Parental Confrontation section of Les Dangers de l'inconduite
is similar to that of Gloire et malheur in that the parent figure, Gobseck,
also plays the role of authority figure. The difference lies in Gobseck's
ability to fulfill both roles without conflict. Where M. Guillaume
showed confusion in the face of conflicting demands, Gobseck displays
The first words spoken in the Parental Confrontation section are
noteworthy. Gobseck greets Derville who has come to ask for a loan to
buy his superior's law practice:
--He bien, me dit-il de sa petite voix flGtee, il
paratt que votre patron vend son 6tude...
--Comment savez-vous cela? Il n'en a encore parl1
qu'A moi. (I, 202)
Following this reminder of Gobseck's almost mystical power, each of the
four young people confront him in turn.
After his interviews with the Vicomte and with the countess, two
short scenes between Derville and the miser show him to be in complete
--Oh mon fils!... s'&cria le pere Gobseck en se levant
et me tendant les bras, quand l'emprunteur eut disparu, tu
me sauves la vie!... j'en serais mort. Werbrust et Gigonnet
ont cru me faire une farce... Grace a toi je vais bien rire
ce soir A leurs d6pens!...
La joie du vieillard avait quelque chose d'effrayant.
Puis, quand la porte fut ferm6e et que les deux voitures
partirent, il se leva et se mit a sauter de joie en rep6tant
comme un alien6:
J'ai les diamans!.. j'ai les diamans.. de beaux diamans!..
quels diamans... et pas cher... Ah! ah! Werbrust et Gigonnet,
vous avez cru attraper le vieux Gobseck!... Ah! c'est votre
mattre!... Comme ils seront sots, ce soir, quand je leur con-
terai cela, entire deux parties de dominos. (I, 227)
Gobseck feels no conflict in this situation. He has triumphed over his
rivals and reconfirms his supremacy. These two short exchanges between
Derville and Gobseck which immediately follow two important conversations
are carefully placed to reveal the meaning of the miser's actions.
In Le Bal de Sceaux the parent, M. de Fontaine, has always inter-
preted a difficult political situation admirably and continues to do so:
--Mais, mon pere, c'est done bien difficile
d'6pouser un pair de France?... Vous pr6tendiez qu'un
en faisait par douzaines... Ah! vous ne me refuserez
pas des conseils au moins!
--Non, pauvre enfant, non, et je te crierai plus d'une
fois: Prends garde! Songe done que la pairie est un
resort trop nouveau dans notre gouvernementabilit6,
comme disait le feu roi, pour que les pairs puissent
posseder de grandes fortunes. (I, 318)
M. de Fontaine correctly analyzes the social, political realities.
The earlier loss of the king's support for Emilie's proposed marriage
was a crucial factor in the developing situation. However, after that
initial problem between parent and authority, subsequent relationships
in this area have been more positive than negative. If the father had
been able to transmit the benefit of his understanding to his daughter,
her happiness would have been assured. It is not the parent-authority
but rather the parent-young person relationship which influences Emi-
La Paix du menage presents an interesting variation on the problem
of the parent-authority alignment. The position of Mme de Marigny her-
self is problematical. Since she has just been introduced, her role
has not yet been clearly defined. The remark by the Comtesse de Gondre-
ville does little to clarify the situation: "C'est une dame que l'an-
cienne duchesse de Marigny m'a pr6sent6e" (II, 339). The stress placed
on "ancienne" indicates that the dowager may have once been very power-
ful but is not so much to be feared in the political context of the
This seeming lack of political power is again apparent in Martial's
offer to the duchess:
Voulez-vous que nous fassions un traits de paix?
Si vous daignez m'instruire de tout ce que j'ai
interet a savoir, je vous jure ma parole d'honneur
que votre demand en restitution des bois de Marigny,
par le domaine extraordinaire, sera chaudement
appuyde aupres de l'empereur. (II, 340)
It would appear that Martial is in a superior position to Mme de
Marigny and yet this is not the case.
It is in her conversation with the young countess that Mme de
Marigny reveals the basis of her authority. As previously noted, the
leitmotif of the story thus far has been the question of the marital
status of the lady in blue. The dominant social value of the story is
marriage itself and it is this value that the duchesse represents. It
is only necessary to reread her instructions to Mme de Vaudremont to be
certain of this fact:
--Ecoutez-moi? Si vous voulez vous jouer des hommes?..
reprit la vieille dame, ne bouleversez le coeur que de
ceux don't la vie n'est pas arrgtee, de ceux qui n'ont pas
de devoirs a remplir...c'est une maxime due A ma vieille
experience: profitez-en. Ce pauvre Soulanges, par example,
auquel vous avez fait turner la tete, et que, depuis
quinze mois, vous avez enivri, Dieu salt comme!... Eh
bien, savez-vous sur quoi ont port vos coups?... --Sur
sa vie tout entire! Il est mari6. Il est adore d'une
chore petite creature qu'il aimait, et qu'il a tromp~e...
This support of the institution of marriage is the factor which grants
Mme de Marigny her power. She functions as a parent figure interpre-
ting the social prerequisites of success and happiness.
The second theme, that of the relationship between the parent and
young person, is also treated fully in the Parental Confrontation section.
In Gloire et malheur there are two conversations where this relationship
is of major importance. The first occurs during the family conference
when Augustine is called upon to defend herself. The second shows M.
Guillaume in his final conversation with his daughter before her mar-
riage. Both dialogs reveal the conflict implicit in M. Guillaume's double
role as authority and parent figure. As a parent he shows himself to be
indulgent and indecisive. Mme Guillaume verbalizes this impression at
the conclusion of the first encounter: "Cependant, malgr6 son flegme
apparent, quand elle vit son mari prendre aussi doucement son parti sur
une catastrophe qui n'avait rien de commercial, elle s'6cria: --En verit6,
monsieur, vous etes d'une faiblesse avec vos filles...mais..." (II, 65-66).
The contrast between M. Guillaume's strength in commercial matters
and his weakness in parental questions is amply portrayed in the final
conversation of this section. He insists that Henri marry "separ6 de
bien avec sa femme" (II, 73). The father assures Augustine: "Ma chire
enfant, tu 6pouseras ton M. de Sommervieux puisque tu le veux; permis a
toi de risquer ton capital de bonheur. Mais je ne me laisse pas prendre
a ces trente mille francs que l'on gagne a gater de bonne toile" (II, 72).
M. Guillaume is aware that in giving his parental permission for Augus-
tine's marriage he is violating his own authority principles. The parent-
young person relationship is preserved only at the expense of the parent-
In the other 1830 Scenes, similarities and variations on the parent-
young person theme are developed. Les Dangers de 1'inconduite and La Paix
du menage show the same parent figure relating sympathetically to one or
more of the young people while remaining antipathetic to others. In La
Femme vertueuse both plot lines show resolution of the feelings between
the parent and young people similar to that found in Gloire et malheur.
Serious disruptions in this relationship are portrayed in La Vendetta
and Le Bal de Sceaux.
In Les Dangers de l'inconduite Gobseck is a sympathetic parent
figure for Derville. On the other hand, the miser is distinctly anti-
pathetic to the Vicomte and the Comtesse de Restaud. His position with
respect to the count and by extension to Ernest de Restaud progresses
through indifference to self-interest. Not only does this section con-
cern Gobseck and those characters over which he has direct influence,
it also includes the final confrontation of the story between Camille
and Mme de Grandlieu. Thus the various sub-plots of Les Dangers de
1'inconduite run parallel. They all reach the initial crisis of the
Parental Confrontation during the chapter entitled "L'Avou6."
A series of dialogs presents the young people one by one as they
confront Gobseck. These dialogs first portray Derville in confrontation
with the parental, authority figure, Gobseck. In the second series of
scenes Derville serves as mediator between the "Vicomte," the Comtesse
de Restaud, the count and Gobseck. The lawyer also plays out his role
as mediator between Camille and her mother. At the conclusion of the
section it is apparent that the Vicomte and the Comtesse de Restaud
have no support whereas Derville has the complete support of Gobseck.
The miser through the action of the count has gained at least temporary
control of the fortune of Ernest de Restaud. The frame scene which con-
cludes the section shows Mme de Grandlieu in her parental role of prepar-
ing to pass judgement on these events.
In La Paix du manage, Mme de Marigny acts as parent figure by advis-
ing Mme de Vaudremont:
--Ah! madame, on a bien de la peine A etre heureuse,
n'est-ce pas?...s'6cria nalvement la comtesse.
--Ma petite, c'est qu'il faut savoir choisir, a votre
age, entire les plaisirs et le bonheur. --Ecoutez-moi? --
Vous voulez epouser Martial. Eh bien, il n'est ni assez
sot pour devenir un mari, ni assez bon pour vous rendre
heureuse. Il a des dettes, ma chere!... Ii est homme A
devorer votre fortune. C'est un intrigant qui peut possdder
a merveille l'esprit des affaires, babiller agr6ablement;
mais il est trop avantageux pour avoir un vrai merite. II
n'ira pas loin. D'ailleurs, tenez?... regardez-le?... Ne
lit-on pas sur ce front-lA que, dans ce moment-ci, ce n'est
pas une jeune et jolie femme qu'il voit en vous; mais bien
les deux millions que vous possddez... Il ne vous aime pas,
ma chore, il vous calcule come s'il s'agissait d'une multi-
plication. Si vous voulez vous marier, prenez un home
plus age, et qui ait de la consideration. Une veuve ne
doit pas faire de son marriage une affaire d'amourette.
Est-ce qu'une souris s'attrape deux fois au mime piege?
Maintenant c'est une speculation pour vous qu'un nouveau
contract, et il faut, en vous remariant, avoir au moins
1'espoir de vous entendre nommer un jour: madame la
En ce moment les yeux dames se fixerent naturel-
lement sur la belle figure colonel. (II, 346-347)
After her conversation with Mme de Vaudremont the reader may
rightly anticipate failure for Martial and success for the other charac-
ters simply by basing the prediction on the dowager's expressed sympath-
ies and antipathies.
If the slightest doubt might remain, the follow-up conversation
between Martial and Mme de Vaudremont would remove it.
--Mais, elle est mariee...
--Plaisantes objections dans votre bouche.
--Ah! dit la comtesse avec un sourire amer, vous
nous punissez egalement de nos fautes et de nos
repentirsI... Puis vous vous plaignez de notre l6geretl...
C'est le mattre qui reproche l'esclavage A son esclave.
--Ne vous fachez pas! dit vivement Martial! Oh! je
vous en supplies, pardonnez-moi! Tenez, je ne pense plus
A madame de Soulanges.
--Vous meriteriez bien que je vous envoyasse aupres
--J'y vais... dit le baron en riant; mais je reviendrai
plus 6pris de vous que jamais, et vous verrez que la plus
jolie femme du monde ne peut pas s'emparer d'un coeur quand
il vous appartient. (II, 354)
The countess repents of her disruption of the Soulanges marriage.
Martial on the other hand scoffs at the interdiction. In so doing he
alienates Mme de Vaudremont, encourages her rapprochement with the
colonel, and assures for her the enmity of Mme de Marigny.
As previously mentioned there is a resolution of any conflict be-
tween parent and young person in La Femme vertueuse. The Caroline Crochard
portion is remarkable for its scarcity of direct confrontation between the
parent and the young people. Mme Crochard conspicuously leaves the stage
free for the lovers to talk; and her silent collusion is a contributing
factor in her daughter's liaison with Eugene de Grandville. The absence
of direct speech portraying the parental approval of the arrangement is
indicative of Mme Crochard's attitude. She cannot fully condone the
young people's action but neither does she wish to condemn it.
In the second half of La Femme vertueuse Eugene de Grandville is
briefly in disagreement with his father, but finally agrees to marry
Ang6lique Bontems. Although the young Grandville follows his father's
counsel, he is nevertheless condemned within a value system which also
requires a perfect understanding on the part of the guiding parent of
social and political reality.
In the remaining two Scenes the parent-young person relationship
is disrupted. La Vendetta portrays the most violent conflict between
Ginevra and her father.
The opening scene showing the anxiety of the parents awaiting their
daughter's return is noteworthy from the standpoint of technique. The
conversation is interrupted to present the background of Bartholomeo di
Piombo and his possessive relationship to his daughter. The conversation
is then resumed only to be suspended for a description of Ginevra's
mother. Finally it is taken up again and concluded. Each time the
direct remarks intervene it is with a heightened awareness on the part
of the reader of the anxiety of the parents. The fact that Balzac has
used the technique of suspended dialog to frame the narrative background
assures a high dramatic level which the succeeding scenes maintain.
It is upon this carefully prepared stage that Ginevra enters to
announce her desire to marry. The quarrel which ensues is presented in
its entirety as the father progresses through shock, anger, threats, and
coaxing. The crucial thematic point is introduced in the last portion of
the argument as Bartholomeo accuses Ginevra of disobedience:
--Elle a raison, dit la baronne, nous sommes mises au
monde pour nous marier...
--Ainsi vous l'encouragez dans sa d6sob6issance.
--Ce n'est pas desobeir, repondit Ginevra, que de se
refuser a un ordre injuste.
--II ne peut pas etre injuste quand il emane de la
bouche de votre pare, ma fille!... Et pourquoi me jugez-vous?...
La repugnance que j'6prouve n'est-elle pas un conseil d'en
haut? Je vous preserve peut-6tre d'un malheur...
--Le malheur serait qu'il ne m'aimat pas!... (I, 100).
The father correctly points out that the daughter is perhaps doomed
to unhappiness if she disobeys him. His power of course will be exercised
through his ability to impose economic sanction on the young couple.
The mother who attempts to intervene is too weak to change the course
of events either in this particular conversation or later as the prophecy
After Luigi's identity is revealed, no compromise is possible be-
tween the strong-willed daughter and the equally intransigent father.
Vous croyez peut-etre l'emporter sur ma volontV?
Je ne veux pas qu'un Porta soit mon gendre...
Telle est ma sentence.
Qu'il ne soit plus question de ceci entire nous.
Je suis Bartholomdo di Piombo, entendez-vous,
--Attachez-vous quelque sens mysterieux a ces paroles?
--Oui, elles signifient que j'ai un poignard et que je
ne crains pas les hommes!...
La jeune fille se leva.
--Eh bien, dit-elle, je suis Ginevra di Piombo,
et je declare que dans six mois je serai la femme de
--Vous etes un tyran, mon pareI... ajouta-t-elle
apres une pause effrayante. (I, 113)
In the final scene of this series of three violent arguments the
father not only denies his support to the young couple but he also
violates Napoleon's expressed interdiction on vendetta as he disinherits
--Fuis!... dit-il La Luigi Porta ne saurait etre Ginevra
Piombo. Je n'ai plus de fille! -- Je n'ai pas la force de
te maudire, mais je t'abandonne et tu n'as plus de pare!
The Parental Confrontation section of Le Bal de Sceaux presents an-
other example of the break between parent and young person. Although
not as violent as Bartholomeo di Piombo, the Comte de Fontaine never-
theless is to some degree responsible for his daughter's unhappiness.
In the first segment of M. de Fontaine's confrontation with his
daughter the problem is stated in the father's opening remark:
--Ma chore enfant....dit gravement M. de Fontaine,
je t'ai fait venir pour causer tres-sgrieusement avec
toi, sur ton avenir. La necessity oi tu es en ce
moment de choisir un mari de maniere A assurer ton
bonheur... (I, 312)
The remaining two portions of the conversation of course revolve
around this central issue. The crucial thematic point is reached after
Emilie has rejected her father's various proposals and states her one
criterion of acceptability:
--Que veux-tu done?
--Le fils d'un pair de France.
--Ma fille, dit M. Fontaine en se levant, vous
etes folle!... (I, 316)
This startling announcement precipitates M. de Fontaine's libera-
tion of his daughter. This is the pivotal speech of the scene series.
M. de Fontaine summarizes his past efforts, grants Emilie her freedom,
and cautions her as to the future. The critical statement is centrally
placed between the invocation of the past and future:
D'aujourd'hui je te rends l'arbitre de ton sort, me
trouvant heureux et malheureux tout ensemble de me voir
decharg6 de la plus lourde des obligations paternelles.
From this point on Emilie will be without the paternal protection which
is of such importance within the value system of the Scenes.
The third theme developed during the Parental Confrontation is the
role of the young people. Since this section includes the initial
crisis in the relationship between the young people, it would be logi-
cal to expect several dialog exchanges between the lovers. This, how-
ever, is not the case. In Gloire et malheur the prospective wives and
husbands do not exchange one word of direct speech. Never does Joseph
Lebas address Virginie. Even his conversation with Augustine ends on
a note of complete misunderstanding.
--Si fait, monsieur Joseph, mais que dites-vous
de la peinture? C'est la un bel 6tat.
--Oui, il y a des maItres peintres en batiment qui
ont des &cus. (II, 60)
These two people are clearly living in separate worlds. Moreover this
conversation occurs between the two young people not to be married.
Even at the dinner when Henri at last meets the family Augustine does
not speak nor is she spoken to by the artist.
Only in La Vendetta do the young people speak directly with one
another. The first instance of this type of communication occurs just
after Ginevra's parents have deserted the couple upon hearing Luigi's
identity. After discussing the vendetta between their families, the
lovers repledge their dedication to each other:
--Ginevra, dit-il, cette haine hereditaire existera-t-
elle done entire nous?...
La jeune fille sourit tristement et baissa la tete.
Elle la releva bientSt avec une sorte de fiert6,
--Oh Luigi! il faut que nos sentimens soient bien
purs et bien sinceres, pour que j'aie la force de marcher
dans la voie o je vais entrer!... Mais il s'agit d'un
bonheur qui doit durer toute la vie, n'est-ce pas?...
Luigi ne r6pondit que par un sourire, et press la
main de Ginevra. La jeune fille comprit qu'il n'y avait
qu'un veritable amour qui pGt d6daigner en ce moment les
protestations vulgaires. L'expression calme et conscien-
cieuse des sentimens de Luigi en annongait en quelque sorte
la force et la duree. Alors la destinee de ces deux 6poux
fut accomplie. (II, 108)
From this point on, after every conflict with the larger social
structure, Ginevra and Luigi will be portrayed in conversation. These
dialogs show the young people alone, facing the challenge from external
forces. The placement of these scenes after the major confrontations
emphasizes the isolation of the lovers without distracting from the other
La Vendetta differs from the remaining stories in the united front
presented by the young couple. Never do they betray their trust in one
another. Their happiness is destroyed by social and financial factors
from the external world, not from the internal world of their marriage.
In the remaining stories where dialog between the young people is
conspicuously limited, the romantic relationship is undermined by a lack
of communication between the lovers. No dialog occurs between young
people in Les Dangers de l'inconduite or Le Bal de Sceaux. In La Femme
vertueuse the author chooses to summarize all conversation between Caro-
line Crochard and Eugine de Grandville except that dealing with parental,
political or social questions. Their first conversation in the carriage
is so treated:
L'ouvriere devina que son protecteur 6tait un etre sevrg
depuis long-temps de tendresse et d'amour, de plaisir et de
caresses, ou que peut-etre il ne croyait pas au devouement
d'une femme. Enfin, une saillie inattendue du l6ger babil
de Caroline enleva le dernier voile qui Stait a la figure de
l'inconnu-toute sa splendeur. Ce dernier sembla faire un
6ternel divorce avec des idles importunes, et il d6ploya
toute la vivacity d'6me que decelait alors sa figure re-
La causerie devint insensiblement si familiire, qu'au
moment ou la voiture s'arreta aux premieres maisons du long
village de Saint-Leu, Caroline nommait l'inconnu monsieur
Eugene, et, pour la premiere fois seulement, la vieille m&re
se r&veilla. (II, 160-161)
As the day draws to a close only one very abbreviated "love dialog"
In a similar manner the reader does not hear the conversations be-
tween Ang6lique Bontems and Eugene de Grandville. Balzac has used a
very interesting method to avoid presenting their dialog. He gives one
typical direct speech to summarize their repeated attempts to converse:
Si, parfois malicieusement, Grandville se hasardait a
declamer centre certaines pratiques de la religion, Angelique
lui repondait avec un sourire bienveillant:
--II ne faut rien croire, ou croire tout ce que
1'Eglise enseigne. -- Voudriez-vous d'une femme qui
n'eut pas de religion?... Non. Eh bien, comment puis-je
blamer ce que l'Eglise admet? Quel homme oserait 6tre
juge entire les incr6dules et Dieu qu'elle represente?...
Cette petite voix claire semblait alors animee par une
si onctueuse charity, que le jeune avocat 6tait tent
de croire a ce qu'elle croyait en lui voyant turner
sur lui des regards si pen6tr6s. (II, 224)
Even before the marriage the two young people are unable to communi-
cate on the subject of religion.
A related dialog technique is used in Les Dangers de l'inconduite.
In the "d6jeuner de gargon" scene the narrator captures the essence of
the remarks made by "le vicomte" concerning Mme de Restaud without focus-
ing on this conversation. Derville repeats only the key words as they
echo in his mind:
Les mots: honneur, vertu, comtesse, femme
honnete, malheur, s'6taient places, graces A sa
langue doree, comme par magie, dans ses discours. (V, 212)
The effect is to direct the dramatic emphasis away from the relationship
between the countess and the young man.
In La Paix du menage there is only one conversation between the
young people during the Parental Confrontation section. It occurs between
Martial and Mme de Vaudremont immediately following Mme de Marigny's
revelation of the mysterious lady's identity. Their dialog is in reality
an argument which signals the end of the relationship. The new liaison
to be formed between Mme de Vaudremont and the colonel is not portrayed
The preceding analysis of the Parental Confrontation sections of
the 1830 Scenes has concentrated in turn on relationships between parent
and authority, parent and young person, and finally between the young
In Gloire et malheur, La Vendetta and both portions of La Femme
vertueuse the parent-authority alignment is seriously disrupted. In the
remaining stories any disturbance in this relationship is resolved at
this point. Conflicts between the parent and young person are fully
developed in the conversations of the Parental Confrontation. The char-
acters act out the sympathies and antipathies in the dialog series of
Throughout the Parental Confrontation sections the conversations be-
tween the young people are kept to a minimum. Several different dialog
techniques are used to replace direct speech. The avoidance of conversa-
tions between the lovers stresses the weakness in their relationship or
their isolation from the external world.1
My analysis of the Parental Confrontation has stressed both tech-
nical and thematic considerations of the use of direct discourse. The
high ratio of direct discourse to narrative manner has been noted. The
dramatic mode is no longer subordinated but has come into play as the
major technique of presentation. Conversations are reported in their
entirety. They are used throughout the Parental Confrontation with
their relative importance being seconded by strategic placement. The ar-
rival of the fictional present moment in each of the stories adds immedi-
acy to the speeches. Every aspect of dialog technique has been exploited
to add to the drama of this critical subdivision.
This formal emphasis is justified by the crucial thematic material
which is developed in the Parental Confrontation. This is the point in
each story where the definitive rapport is established among the three
forces of parent, authority, and young person. At the conclusion of this
initial crisis the success or failure of each couple is virtually assured.
1. The reader might be interested to know that Balzac employs
a wide variety of methods to avoid direct speech. I have already
discussed his use of summary and indirect quotation. There are a
very few examples of style indirect libre. However since I am
primarily concerned with direct discourse, I mention these alter-
native techniques only in passing and only if they are particularly
noteworthy in the context of my stated purpose.
THE PROGRESSIVE FAILURE
In every Scene the Progressive Failure section is characterized
by the active part played by the young people. Where previously the
conversations between the young people were limited, they are now
given in greater detail. The defeat or success of each character
is portrayed as a slow process where individual will struggles against
external forces. The fate of the young people has been predetermined
since their positions within the value system have been definitely
established by the end of the Parental Confrontation section.
The direct speech is most often used in a pattern which builds
up dramatic tension to a last scene. This concluding scene in each
Progressive Failure section anticipates the violence and immediately
precedes the Final Crisis. This technical progression of the direct
discourse parallels the thematic progression in the isolation and
failure of the young people. The failure is often mirrored by the
breakdown of dialog symbolized technically by the suppression of
speech or by recourse to reported silence.
The role of the parent is also remarkable in that he or she exits
either in the first scene of the Progressive Failure or in the last
scene of the Parental Confrontation. This has the effect of clearing
the stage to allow the forces already set in motion to act on the
young people. The parent (with the exception of Mme de Marigny), reen-
ters as an interlocutor either in the last conversations of the Progres-
sive Failure or in those of the succeeding sections.
Gloire et malheur provides an excellent example of this pattern.
The outline (Appendix, pp. 144-147) shows the use of the dramatic mode
to end each structural subdivision of the Progressive Failure section.
The most important dialog technique is the use of ever longer and more
complete conversations. The first three quotations are isolated remarks,
the Joseph Lebas speech is part of a longer interchange the remainder of
which is summarized. Augustine's talk with her parents is much more
detailed but certain portions of it are still summarized. The last con-
versation of the series, that between Mme de Sommervieux and the countess,
is essentially complete. The progression from isolated remark to total
conversation is perfect. The dramatic build-up corresponds to the stages
of Augustine's isolation and failure which I shall now discuss.
The first part of the Progressive Failure section contains both the
happy period of the marriage as well as the growing realization on the
part of Henri and his wife that they live on two different levels. Aug-
ustine's attempts to join her husband in his way of life or to return
for support to her former world occupy the second part of the Progressive
Characteristically there is no direct discourse during the happy
period. The total lack of direct manner is consistent with Balzac's
custom of using the dramatic mode for thematic reinforcement. As long
as the couple is happy, the working out of the value system of the story
is in temporary abeyance. It is not until the failure sequence begins
that direct discourse becomes a primary technique.
The first two isolated quotations are illustrative of Augustine's
inability to participate in the artist's spiritual and intellectual life.
Her traditional, superficial comment on Henri's work, "C'est bien jolil"
(II, 80), while sincere is only too reminiscent of the Guillaumes' pre-
vious ridiculous statements on painting and art. The difference now
lies in Henri's perception of the gulf separating him from his wife.
His rejection of Augustine is seconded by that of his artistic, worldly
friends, whose attitudes are summed up in the single remark, "Mais,
Madame, votre paradise n'est pas plus beau que la Transfiguration de
Raphael. Eh bien!... je me suis lass6 de la regarder" (II, 82). Augus-
tine's innocence and religious training recalled in this speech can act
only as a point of dissension between the young people. As Augustine
comes to realize the situation she does all in her power to regain her
lost happiness. However the value system is so constructed as to prevent
In the second part, Augustine proceeds via a series of stages toward
complete isolation. Her first thought is to reach Henri by attaining to
his spiritual and artistic level. This resolve is duly emphasized by the
direct monolog, "Si je ne suis pas porte, se disait-elle, au moins je
comprendrai la po6sie" (II, 86). In spite of good intentions the narrow
background of the young woman is not to be overcome. This attempt at
self-betterment degenerates into an illustration of the theme of social
and intellectual incompatibility.
Augustine's two attempts to gain support from her former world like-
wise end in the increased alienation of the young wife. The Guillaumes'
conversation is limited to a portrayal of the prejudices of the shop-
keeper and his wife.
A sample of the interchange will be sufficient for the discussion:
--Tiens, ne me parole pas de cet homme-la Il n'a
jamais mis le pied dans une 6glise que pour te voir
et t'6pouser: or, les gens sans religion sont capable
de tout. Est-ce que M. Guillaume s'est jamais avisg
de me cacher quelque chose... de rester des trois jours
sans me dire ouf, et ensuite de babiller comme une pie
borgne ainsi que le fait ton mari?
--Ma chere mere, vous jugez trop severement les gens
superieurs: s'ils avaient des idles semblables a celles
des autres, ce ne seraient plus des gens de talent.
At each objection by Mme Guillaume, Augustine gives a reply which shows
how far she has moved beyond her family's view of life. Her real call
for help and the subsequent answers of the parents is summarized:
--Mais quand Augustine eut l'imprudence de raconter
les griefs v6ritables qu'elle avait a exposer centre
son mari, les deux vieillards resterent muets d'indignation.
Le mot de divorce fut bientSt prononc6 par madame Guillaume.
A ce mot de divorce, l'inactif negociant fut comme reveill6.
This summary manner is illustrative of the failure of communication be-
tween Augustine and the Guillaumes. The avoidance of direct manner is
a technical reflection of the failure of dialog. Augustine now realizes
that she cannot retrace her steps. She can only go forward and try once
more to reach her husband.
Mme de Sommervieux makes one last desperate attempt to win her
husband's approval. She confronts Henri's mistress seeking her help.
In many ways the Duchesse de Carigliano functions as a substitute parent
figure for Augustine. The sophisticate explains the ways of coquetry to
the naive wife:
Mais je gage que vous n'avez jamais rien su refuser
--Le moyen, madame, de refuser quelque chose a celui
--Oh, chere petite niaise, je vous adoreraisI... Mais
saches done que plus nous aimons et moins nous devons
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