Jean Callen, nicknamed “Cunning of Death”

Jean Callen, nicknamed “Cunning of Death”

A bearer of the individualistic ideology of a strong personality, a “man of a higher order”, recklessly transgressing any laws, in the novel “Father Gorio” is Vautrin, he is also Jean Coleen, he is also Abbot Carlos Herrera, also a runaway convict “Cunning of Death.” Like many other heroes of Balzac’s “Human Comedy”, Vautrin survived the collapse of his ideals in his youth and realized early on that “there are no laws – there are circumstances”, “there are no principles, but events.” “I still believed in something, in female love, in a bunch of stupid things, in which you also have to get stuck,” he says to Rastignac. “Vlipnut” – for Vötren means to perish, it is the destiny of the weak, to survive is to outwit even death. And the whole life of this man shows that he rightfully “deserved” his nickname.

In the past, Vautrin voluntarily went to penal servitude, assuming someone else’s crime – a forgery committed by his friend, but, confronted with the laws of “decent people,” he realized that “corruption everywhere… venality has become a weapon… and the weapon’s point feel everywhere. ” To him comes the conviction that in the world that surrounds him, there is no place where a decent person could remain honest, “society has always been so, and moralists will never change it.” And

therefore in the “human mass it is necessary to crash a cannonball or penetrate like a plague.” Virtue is the lot of “pathetic idiots” who, like convicts, pull their straps, never getting a reward for their labors. And all laws are thought up against these unfortunates, who are doomed to suffering only so that the rich can feel themselves calmly.

And it is not by chance that it is Vautrin, a runaway convict and thief, who substantiates the main law of the owners’ morality and thereby denounces the essence of the “age of gold”: “If you stole 300 francs or 30 000, then you are put in prison, judged and sent to penal servitude. But if you managed to misappropriate a million, or not, it’s best – three million – then you are not a thief, but a great financier, all doors will be open to you, you will be written about in all the newspapers… “

In the 30-ies. XIX century, when and was created Honore de Balzac novel “Father Gorio”, the example of Napoleon – a strong and determined personality, took possession of the minds and hearts of French youth. “The very idea that one person could acquire such an unlimited power over the destinies of the world, as it were, gave the right of an individual to execute a trial of injustice.” The most consistent artistic embodiment of this idea in the novel is the image of Vautrin: first as “Napoleon katorga”, then, after his reincarnation, “Napoleon police”.

The image of Balzac’s Vautrin is far from unequivocal: on the one hand, all the vices of bourgeois society are openly embodied in him by the writer; on the other – it is he who ruthlessly and soberly denounces this society.

As an extraordinary nature, strong and energetic, Vautrin is alien to any doubts, hesitations and indecision. He does not try to look better in the eyes of those around him than he really is: “Who am I? Voteren. What I do? What do I like?”. He not only adapts to certain conditions of life, for life itself is “no better than a kitchen – it smells as much.” He is an experienced player who perfectly knows all the subtleties of the game. And life for him is the same risky game, and morality is just the rules of this game, which can be easily manipulated, since the game itself is dishonest and involves winning only one, the most dexterous and calculating. “If you want to cook something, smear your hands, only then know how to wash off the dirt properly, that’s the whole morality of our era.” And Vautrin does not conceal this morality shamefully under the guise of goodwill and integrity, and does not tremble before those who dictate the rules of this game. He himself claims to be the legislator of these rules. For him, there are no authorities and reputations in this field, but about the rules themselves, he expresses himself with “last straightforwardness,” without blunders. Revealing the prospect of his future life before Rastignac, he warns an inexperienced young man about what can happen to him if he does not try to play this game with dirty cards: after graduating from the School of Law he will be doomed to the most miserable existence. But if Rastignac takes a risk and plays, then, “having patrons, you will become a provincial prosecutor with a salary of one thousand crowns for thirty years… If you go to small meanness in politics… you will be a prosecutor-general at forty.

The image of Vautra, created by Balzac, is certainly the epitome of evil, but his audacious, almost legendary actions seem at times just and cause admiration in the reader. And this is because, in embodying evil, he strikes a devastating blow to the society that created this evil, elevating it to the rank of law, declaring this law the most moral, and rigorous adherence to this law – the highest virtue of man.


Jean Callen, nicknamed “Cunning of Death”