The main events take place in the boarding house of “mother” Voke. At the end of November 1819, seven permanent “spongers” are found here: on the second floor – the young young lady Quiz Tyfer with a distant relative of Madame Couture; on the third – a retired officer Poiret and a mysterious middle-aged man named Vautrin; on the fourth – the old maiden Mademoiselle Mishono, the former grain merchant Gorio and the student Eugene de Rastignac, who came to Paris from Angouleme. All tenants in unison despise Father Gorio, who was once called the “master”: after settling with Mrs. Voke in 1813, he took the best room on the second floor – then he obviously had money, and the hostess had the hope of ending her widowhood. She even went
Meanwhile, the measured life of Voke’s house begins to change. Young Rastignac, intoxicated by the brilliance of Paris, decides to enter the Upper Light. Of all the rich relatives, Eugene can count only on Vicontessa de Bosean. After sending her a letter of recommendation from her old aunt, he receives an invitation to the ball. The young man yearns to get close to some noble lady, and his attention is attracted by the brilliant Countess Anastasi de Resto. The next day he tells her about his companions at breakfast, and learns amazing things: it turns out that old Gorio is familiar with the countess and, according to Vautrin, recently paid her overdue bills to usurer Gobsek. From this day on Vautrin begins to closely monitor all the actions of the young man.
The first attempt to tie a secular acquaintance turns into a disappointment for Rastignac: he came to the countess on foot, summoning the servants’ contemptuous smiles, failed to immediately find the drawing room, and the mistress of the house made it clear to him that she wanted to be alone with Count Maxim de Tray. Enraged Rastignac gets a wild hatred for the arrogant handsome man and vows to triumph over him. To top it all off, Eugene makes a mistake, mentioning the name of Papio Gorio, who happened to see him in the courtyard of the count’s house. A dejected youth goes on a visit to the Viscountess de Bosean, but chooses the most inopportune moment for this: his cousin will face a heavy blow – the Marquise d’Ajuda Pinto, whom she passionately loves, intends to part with her for a profitable marriage. The Duchess de Langey is pleased to share this news with her “best friend”. Viscountess hastily changes the subject of the conversation, and Rastignac’s tormenting mystery is immediately resolved: Anastasi de Resto, nee, wore Gorio’s surname. This miserable person has a second daughter, Dolphin is the wife of the banker de Nucingen. Both beauties actually renounced the old father, who gave them everything. The viscountess advises Rastignac to take advantage of the rivalry between the two sisters: unlike Countess Anastasi, Baroness Dolphin is not accepted in high society – for the invitation to the Viscountess de Beaucean’s house, this woman will rinse all the dirt in the adjacent streets.
Returning to the boarding house, Rastignac announces that from now on he takes Gori’s father under his protection. He writes a letter to his family, begging him to send him a thousand two hundred francs – this is almost an unbearable burden for the family, but the young ambitious must acquire a fashionable wardrobe. Vautrin, who has solved Rastignac’s plans, offers the young man to pay attention to Quiz Tyfer. The girl is vegetating in a boarding house, because her father, the richest banker, does not want to know her. She has a brother: enough to remove him from the scene, so that the situation changed – the quiz becomes the only heiress. Elimination of the young Tayfer Vautrin takes over, and Rastignac will have to pay him two hundred thousand – a mere trifle compared to a million dowry. The young man is forced to admit that this terrible man in rude form said the same thing that the Vicotessa de Bosean said. Instinctively feeling the danger of a deal with Vautrin, he decides to win the favor of the Dolphins de Nucingen. In this he is helped in every way by father Gorio, who hates both sons-in-law and blames them for the misfortunes of his daughters. Eugene gets to know Dolphin and falls in love with her. She reciprocated him, for he rendered it a valuable service, having won seven thousand francs: the wife of a banker can not pay off his debt – the husband, having pocketed a dowry of seven hundred thousand, left it practically without a penny.
Rastignac begins to lead the life of the secular dandy, although he still has no money, and the tempter-Vautrin constantly reminds him of the future millions of Victoria. However, clouds are gathering over Vautrin himself: the police suspect that under this name the escaped convict Jacques Collin, nicknamed Deception-Death, needs the help of one of the “spongers” of the Vake boarding house to expose him. For a solid bribe, the role of the detectives is agreed to be fulfilled by Poiret and Michono: they must find out if Vautrin has a brand on his shoulder.
The day before the fateful denouement, Vautrin informs Rastignac that his friend Colonel Frankessini summoned Taifer-son to a duel. At the same time, the young man learns that Papio Gorio did not waste his time: he rented a charming apartment for Eugene and Delphine, and instructed the detective Dervil to put an end to Nucingen’s excesses-henceforth the daughter will have thirty-six thousand francs of annual income. This news puts an end to Rastignac’s hesitations – he wants to warn the father and son of the Tayfers, but the prudent Vautrin solves him with wine with an admixture of sleeping pills. In the morning the same trick is done with him: Mishono mixes him with a drug that causes a rush of blood to his head – an unfeeling Vautrin undress, and the mark stands on his shoulder after cotton with the palm of his hand.
Further events occur rapidly, and mother Voke suddenly loses all of her guests. First come for Victoria Tyfer: the father calls the girl to her, for her brother is mortally wounded in a duel. Then gendarmes burst into the boarding house: they were ordered to kill Vautrin at the slightest attempt to resist, but he demonstrates the greatest composure and calmly surrenders to the police. Filled with an involuntary admiration for this “genius of penal servitude,” students in the boarding school expel volunteers-Michono and Poiret. And Papio Gorio shows Rastignac a new apartment, begging for one thing – letting him live on a floor above, next to his beloved Dolphin. But all the dreams of the old man are falling. Pressed against the wall by Derville, Baron de Nucingen confesses that his wife’s dowry is invested in financial fraud. Gorio in horror: his daughter was in full power of a dishonorable banker. However, Anastase’s situation is even worse: saving Maxim de Tray from the debt prison, she lays the family diamonds to Hobsec, and the count de Resto learns about it. She needs twelve thousand more, and my father spent the last money on an apartment for Rastignac. The sisters begin to shower each other with insults, and in the midst of their quarrel the old man falls down as if he were knocked down – he was hit by a blow.
Papa Gorio dies the day that the Viscountess de Bosean gives his last ball – unable to survive separation from the Marquise d’Ajud, it forever leaves the world. After saying goodbye to this amazing woman, Rastignac hurries to the old man, who vainly calls for his daughters. The unfortunate father is buried for the last pennies by poor students – Rastignac and Bianchon. Two empty carriages with coats of arms see off the coffin with the body to the Pere Lachaise cemetery. From the top of the hill, Rastignac looks at Paris and swears to succeed at all costs – and first goes to dinner with the Dolphin de Nucingen.