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The Marriage Contract   By: (1799-1850)

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The Marriage Contract by Honoré de Balzac is a compelling and thought-provoking novel that explores the intricate web of relationships and the consequences of societal expectations in 19th-century France.

The story revolves around the lives of two protagonists: Félix Grandet, a wealthy wine merchant, and his daughter Eugénie. Félix is known for his unyielding business acumen and his relentless pursuit of wealth, which shapes his attitudes towards love and marriage. Eugénie, on the other hand, is a young woman caught between her father's ambitions and her own desires for true love.

Balzac masterfully portrays the stark contrast between these two characters and their conflicting desires. Félix's greed and obsession with money become the driving force behind his relentless pursuit of a wealthy suitor for Eugénie, disregarding her own happiness and emotional fulfillment. Through this, Balzac not only criticizes the prevailing societal norms of his time but also brings to light the plight of women who were expected to sacrifice their personal happiness for the sake of societal expectations and familial obligations.

The author’s attention to detail and vivid descriptions create a vivid portrayal of the social dynamics of the era, capturing the essence of a rigid and hierarchical society gripped by materialistic pursuits. Balzac seamlessly weaves intricate subplots and secondary characters into the narrative, providing a multi-faceted perspective on the themes of love, marriage, and the pursuit of wealth.

One of the novel's strengths lies in Balzac's ability to portray the complex emotions and inner conflicts faced by the characters. The transformation of Eugénie from an innocent and obedient daughter to a mature and self-aware woman is beautifully depicted. Her yearning for true love and the struggle to assert her own desires amidst societal pressure is both poignant and relatable.

However, the pacing of the novel may be a challenge for some readers. The story unfolds gradually, with a slow build-up of tension and intricacies of the plot. While this adds depth to the story, it may require patience and dedication to fully appreciate the narrative.

Overall, The Marriage Contract is a timeless classic that delves into the timeless themes of love, marriage, and societal expectations. Balzac's insightful portrayal of human emotions and his critique of societal norms make this novel a must-read for those interested in exploring the complexities of relationships and the impact of societal pressures on personal happiness.

First Page:


By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley


To Rossini.



Monsieur de Manerville, the father, was a worthy Norman gentleman, well known to the Marechael de Richelieu, who married him to one of the richest heiresses of Bordeaux in the days when the old duke reigned in Guienne as governor. The Norman then sold the estate he owned in Bessin, and became a Gascon, allured by the beauty of the chateau de Lanstrac, a delightful residence owned by his wife. During the last days of the reign of Louis XV., he bought the post of major of the Gate Guards, and lived till 1813, having by great good luck escaped the dangers of the Revolution in the following manner.

Toward the close of the year, 1790, he went to Martinque, where his wife had interests, leaving the management of his property in Gascogne to an honest man, a notary's clerk, named Mathias, who was inclined to or at any rate did give into the new ideas. On his return the Comte de Manerville found his possessions intact and well managed. This sound result was the fruit produced by grafting the Gascon on the Norman.

Madame de Manerville died in 1810... Continue reading book >>

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