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French literature humor wisdom

Trivia Quiz for “Père Goriot” (1835) by Honoré de Balzac

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 6/26/22

With answers below

A. The Complicated Unfolding: Characters and Relationships.

1. Secrets revealed. People’s secrets come to light in many ways—gradual and abrupt—in the pages of Père Goriot. Which of the following is not a secret revealed?

a. Anastasie, Comtesse de Restaud, is actually Goriot’s eldest daughter.

b. Delphine, Baronne de Nucingen, is actually Goriot’s second daughter.

c. Monsieur Vautrin is actually a famous criminal nicknamed Trompe-la-mort or Death Dodger.

d. Mme Vauquer’s generosity actually does help the people of Borrioboola-Gha.

2. Mysteries remain. Despite the many dénouements in the second half, significant doubts nag at the reader. Which of the following enigmas is resolved?

a. Will Eugène de Rastignac remain loyal to his lady-love, Delphine de Nucingen?

b. Will Mme Vauquer find new boarders for her rooming house?

c. Will Vautrin escape from prison with the help of his confederates?

d. Will the Vicomtesse de Beauséant ever be seen in Paris again?

e. All of the above remain tinged by mystery, in one way or another.

B. Irony, heavy at times.  The Balzacian narrator, and the novel’s characters, do not hesitate to pass judgment on people, often with funny/cringe-inducing results. Match the comment to the person being described. The characters:  a. Père Goriot; b. Eugène de Rastignac ; c. Mme Vauquer ; d. Mlle Victorine Taillefer  

3. “As happens with great souls, he wanted nothing he had not deserved.”

4.  “Like all narrow-minded people, X habitually looked no farther than the sequence taken by events, without analyzing their causes. She liked to blame others for her own mistakes.”

5. “X blended in with the general atmosphere of wretchedness… She resembled a shrub whose leaves have yellowed from being freshly planted in the wrong sort of soil.”

6. “There was no more room for doubt. X was an old rake … the disgusting color of his hair was the result of his excesses and the drugs he took in order to continue them.”

C. 7. Education. Père Goriot, like David Copperfield, is considered a Bildungsroman or novel of education. Which one of the following precepts does the hero Eugène not learn in the course of his time in Paris?

a. “Believe me, young man, practice shooting. … It’s no good being honest.”

b. “Strike without pity and people will fear you.”

c. “Take care how you cut yourself. It is more dangerous than you think in this country.”

d. “If you want to succeed, start by not showing your feelings so plainly.”

e. “There are only two options open: dumb obedience or revolt.”

8. Which one of the following attributes is not mentioned to explain Eugène’s popularity among ladies?

a. his expressions of undying loyalty

b. his studiousness and work ethic

c. his southern impetuosity

d. his good looks

9. Marriage in Paris: a special kind of hell. Circle the quote that is not by Balzac.

a. “Poor old thing, I suppose she likes him, but, I must say, if he was one’s dog one would have him put down.”

b. “Young men from the provinces know nothing of the pleasures of a triangular relationship.”

c. “Our marriages have become a mere farce.”

d. “Chains of gold are the heaviest to bear.”

10. Money worries. There is one place in Père Goriot where several people go in secret, to solve worries about money. What place is called “that depressing and discreet friend of the young”?

a. a gambling den

b. a pawn shop

c. a brothel

11. Although Père Goriot seems to act in mysterious ways to his fellow boarders, Vautrin is the ultimate mystery in their midst. Which of the following does not designate his character?

a. “Let me tell you a secret: he doesn’t like women.”

b. “The very fact of his conviction brought him the most enormous honor among his own sort.”

c. “He has been fortunate enough to escape with his life from all the extremely risky exploits he has carried out.”

d. “that great lump of an Alsatian? / He is quite capable of absconding with all the capital and leaving us behind, the scoundrel!”

ANSWERS

  1. d.
  2. e.
  3. b.
  4. c.
  5. d.
  6. a.
  7. c. (That quote is from Bram Stoker, Dracula.)
  8. b.
  9. a. (That quote is from The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford.)
  10. b.
  11. d. (That quote describes the Baron de Nucingen, Delphine’s husband.)

Fantastic movie poster; love the symbols of greed and sorrow, rage and lust. That about sums up this cynical masterpiece… which can evoke tears or great merriment, depending on your mood when you read it.

P.S. For our next meeting, July 31, we’re going to read Jane Eyre!