The time in which the action of the novel “Father Gorio” unfolds – in 1819. The scene is a poor suburb of the French capital, the lower part of the street Nev-Sen-Genevieve, the boarding house of Madame Voke. “There is no more horrible quarter in Paris,” the writer observes and begins his novel with a description of this quarter.
The houses are morose, the walls are painted dirty yellow, the grilles on the windows of the first floors remind the prison, creating a melancholy and gloomy mood of despair. “The most careless person”, being in this quarter, “becomes sad”, This feeling intensifies when the reader enters a four-story house with a mansard, built of limestone and painted in the same terrible yellow color, the dull reflections
The boarding house of Madame Voke is one of the last resorts of disadvantaged people who can not pay for a more tolerable shelter, Balzac escorts us through the tangled labyrinths of “this kingdom” of poverty. We enter the dining room, which “was once painted in some color, but it is now elusive and serves only as a primer, on which the dirt has been layered, painting it with a bizarre pattern.” The walls are decorated with “vile engravings, from which the appetite disappears… the long table is covered with an oilcloth so dirty that a jovial freeloader writes his name on it simply with a finger…”
Balzac is a master of precise details. And in the descriptions, and in portraits of heroes, and in remarks dropped in passing, the hand of an experienced artist is felt. The description of the guesthouse of Madame Voke would not be complete if the reader, almost physically, would not feel a special, sticky, stagnant sloppy hair; the widow goes, poshmygivaya different shoes. On her greasy, battered face comes a nose, straight from the middle, like a beak of a parrot; plump handle razdobrevshee, like a church mouse, body, chest heaving too bulky – all in harmony with this hall, where oozing mountain where lurks greed and where Madame Vauquer breathes without nausea warm stinking air. Cold, like the first autumn frosts, a face surrounded by wrinkles, the eyes express all the transitions from the dancer’s smirked smile to the ominous frown of the moneylender… “
Finally, an author’s remark that has been left aside unites and completes this picture: “the personality of Madame Voke” predetermines the appointment of a boarding house, how the boarding determines the purpose of its personality, “for” penal servitude does not happen without overseers. “
In the guesthouse of Madame Voke, except for those arriving, “only lunch-bound” freeloaders, seven residents permanently reside – a Parisian society in miniature. The hostess, “with the accuracy of an astronomer measuring her worries according to the price of the guesthouse,” keeps them in a black body.
The best rooms in the house of Madame Voke are the widow of the commissar of commissar of the times of the Republic, Mrs. Couture and her ward Quiz Taifer – unrecognized by the father and beggarly daughter of a banker. Here, two insignificant and colorless creatures sheltered – the old maiden Mademoiselle Michono and her friend Mr. Paure – always ready for any meanness for a meager fee. Also temporarily inhabited by a runaway convict Jean Coleen, nicknamed “Cunning of Death,” and the offspring of an impoverished aristocratic family, Eugene Rastignac is a student at the School of Jurisprudence. And, finally, the indigent Papio Gorio, the voluntary convict of this prison, who, unlike all the inhabitants of the boarding house Madame Voke, himself has chosen himself this refuge, lives out his time.
And although the novel does not only take place in the boarding house of Madame Voke, it is constantly transferred to Parisian streets, then to the theater, then to the viscountesses of Bosean and Baroness Dolphins Nucingen, then to gambling houses and police or even to the cemetery. However, the main events are localized it was in the living room of Madame Voke. Its boarding school has some kind of fateful force of attraction, it becomes a universal territory where the paths and fates of all characters in the novel are crossed, regardless of their social affiliation.
In the living room of Madame Voke there is an acquaintance of Rastignac with the father of Gorio, who turns out to be the father of his mistress – Baroness Nucingen. Here the young law student listens to Cynric’s cynical and at the same time tempting offer to marry Victorine Tiffer and almost agrees to the murder of her brother. Here, the meek Quiz from Cinderella turns into a rich heiress, and the clever and amiable Vautrin turns out to be a runaway convict. And, finally, Papia Gorio dies here, killed by the cold selfishness of his daughters.
Thus, in the novel “Father Gorio”, the boarding house of Madame Voke turns into a symbol of lost illusions and broken hearts, where life ruthlessly grinds like a millstone grain, weak and gives a ghostly hope to the strong – to become the master of “four million” francs.