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The Lesser Bourgeoisie   By: (1799-1850)

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The Lesser Bourgeoisie by Honoré de Balzac is a paradigmatic example of the author's unique and unparalleled ability to depict the intricate layers of human society. Set in mid-19th century Paris, Balzac delves into the lives of the petite bourgeoisie, exploring their desires, aspirations, and subsequent downfall.

Through a cast of well-defined characters, Balzac exposes the harsh realities faced by those striving to rise above their social status. The tale revolves around the protagonist, Monsieur Bixiou, an ambitious clerk with dreams of social climbing. Bixiou's relentless pursuit of success, however, is contrasted by his flawed character, leading to a series of unfortunate events that ultimately lead to his ruin.

What sets Balzac's writing apart is his astute observation of human nature. He masterfully captures the intricacies of the human psyche, presenting a realistic portrayal of people's motivations, weaknesses, and their inevitable collision with societal norms. In his exploration of Bixiou's character, he vividly portrays the flaws and greed that accompany the desire for social status.

Furthermore, Balzac skillfully paints a vivid picture of mid-19th century Paris. The city serves as a backdrop, depicting the stark disparities between the different strata of society. Through detailed descriptions of the physical surroundings and the way characters interact with their environment, Balzac transports readers to a world that is both enchanting and brutal.

The Lesser Bourgeoisie is not, however, without its flaws. The lengthy and complex descriptions of characters, settings, and even social customs at times prove overwhelming. Balzac's penchant for intricate detail can occasionally impede the flow of the narrative, and some readers might find themselves yearning for a tighter focus on the central plot.

Nevertheless, Balzac's exploration of the human condition remains captivating. His ability to create vivid and multi-faceted characters is unparalleled, and he expertly weaves their stories together, exposing the interconnectedness of society. The downfall of Monsieur Bixiou serves as a cautionary tale, a reminder of the perils that come with the pursuit of social advancement.

The Lesser Bourgeoisie is a remarkable addition to Balzac's extensive repertoire, showcasing his unparalleled talent for portraying society's complexities. While the intricate descriptions may prove overwhelming for some, the book serves as a compelling examination of the human condition and the price one may pay for societal ascent. Balzac's masterful storytelling and profound understanding of human nature make The Lesser Bourgeoisie a timeless classic that deserves a place on every literature lover's shelf.

First Page:

THE LESSER BOURGEOISIE (The Middle Classes)

By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley

DEDICATION

To Constance Victoire.

Here, madame, is one of those books which come into the mind, whence no one knows, giving pleasure to the author before he can foresee what reception the public, our great present judge, will accord to it. Feeling almost certain of your sympathy in my pleasure, I dedicate the book to you. Ought it not to belong to you as the tithe formerly belonged to the Church in memory of God, who makes all things bud and fruit in the fields and in the intellect?

A few lumps of clay, left by Moliere at the feet of his colossal statue of Tartuffe, have here been kneaded by a hand more daring than able; but, at whatever distance I may be from the greatest of comic writers, I shall still be glad to have used these crumbs in showing the modern Hypocrite in action. The chief encouragement that I have had in this difficult undertaking was in finding it apart from all religious questions, questions which ought to be kept out of it for the sake of one so pious as yourself; and also because of what a great writer has lately called our present "indifference in matters of religion... Continue reading book >>




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