Study Help Essay Questions


1. Discuss Balzac's classic description of the boardinghouse. What feeling does he try to convey? What devices does he use?

2. What does Balzac tell us about the boarders at first? How does he manage to arouse our curiosity?

3. Point out the use of irony in Balzac's description of Mme. Vauquer, Mlle. Michonneau, old Poiret, and young Rastignac.

4. Why does Balzac find it necessary to give us such a lengthy exposition?

5. Compare Mme. de Beauséant's criticisms of society with those of Vautrin. What effect do they have on Rastignac?

6. Analyze the evolution of Mme. Vauquer's attitude toward Goriot.

7. How does Balzac prepare us to understand and accept Old Goriot's extreme love for his daughters?

8. Cite some incidents which are decisive in starting Rastignac's psychological change.

9. To what extent can it be said that Vautrin's downfall is also his triumph?

10. How do you explain Goriot's agony and death?

11. Justify Rastignac's attitude at the very end of the novel.

12. What effect on the reader has the constant switch from high society to the boardinghouse?

13. Point out the symbolic elements in Vautrin. To what extent do they explain Vautrin's attitude toward Rastignac?

14. Why has Old Goriot been called "A Christ of Paternity"?

15. Analyze and compare Anastasie and Delphine.

16. Why can Rastignac be called the central figure of the novel?

17. What is the role of society in the novel?

18. Show how Goriot's abnormal passion had destroyed his sense of values.

19. Point out and discuss the naturalistic elements in the novel.

20. What traits make Eugene a sympathetic character?

21. Evaluate the role of money in the novel.

22. What do the melodramatic elements add to the novel?

23. Discuss Balzac's realistic treatment in Père Goriot.

24. What are the unifying elements in the novel?

25. Compare Père Goriot and King Lear.