Pere Goriot Honore De Balzac And Gathering Of Old Men Research Papers Examples
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People are usually brought up in certain societies that a play a big role in defining whom they are. There are usually roots they can always associate themselves with and refer to them, especially when they are no longer inclined to their roots. The stories in Pere Goriot Honore De Balzac and Gathering of Old Men take us through the lives of people, and mostly old men, in their quest to redefine their identity. The most common feature of the two readings is the focus that has been given to the old men and their quest for change. When change is mentioned anywhere, the focus is usually on the younger generation as they are perceived the ones who need it more. In old age, it is assumed that people are so tired and most probably accustomed to their environment that change does not make sense to them. However, as the authors reveal to us, change and the search for identity is significant to the young, just as it is to the old men. The story looks at the lives of old men who will always fight through their age to acquire the identity they desire.
Comparing the two stories, we realize that justice is not just a law inscribed in the books but has to be fought for. A person who desires justice will receive it according to how much they are willing to fight for it. However, it is never a guarantee that it will be obtained. The ability to acquire justice depends on the measures that are taken in fighting for it and the actions that accompany it. For instance, in the ‘gathering of old men’ the old men, mostly from the black community have been fighting for justice almost all the days of their youths into old age. They have never acquired the freedom they had desired from discrimination and slavery. They have had to watch their peers die, not because of old age, but because they were unfairly killed by the white settlers. Despite their hark work, they have nothing to show for their labor (De Balzac 53). They have done a lot, yet achieved little because of the oppression they have been subjected to. Similarly, in ‘Pere Goriot Honore De Balzac’, the old man Goriot spent most of his youthful tears working hard for the sake of her daughters. He was rich, but chose to live a lowly life just to ensure her daughters have a good life. His hard work did not pay off as he died in misery and pain.
It is rather unfortunate that most people are usually brought up in environments where they are required to work hard yet their returns are not in proportion to their labor. A paradox is usually revealed when the people who work les hard enjoy fulfilling lives compared to those who work hard. The stories reveal the imbalance that is common with our environments and societies. For instance, it has always appeared like those who work the hardest, work for those who do not work hard. When it comes to enjoying the benefits, it is like those who have worked hard work for others who enjoy the benefits as they live miserable lives. For instance, the old men worked so hard for the whites, who mainly acted as supervisors, and made them rich, while they languished in poverty (Gaines 45). The old man, Goriot, spent his youthful years working so hard for her daughters, who turned out to be ungrateful. While Goriot’s daughters had abundance and were enjoying life with their husbands, Goriot was living in poverty, with hardly anything to eat.
If justice was natural and based on how hard a person worked, then the old men could be enjoying fulfilling lives in their old age. However, they are still forced to fight for their identity in old age instead of simply sitting there and let the sweat they worked for feed them. This also implies that the fight of justice and identity has no expiry date. There is need for consistency even up to the golden years. Goriot was confident of the fact that he would have a wonderful life as he invested in his daughters. The story describes how Goriot literally spoilt his daughters with good lives, ensuring that they lacked nothing of value. He realized the importance of them having a good life and therefore giving them his all. It may have been considered a responsibility he had towards them considering the fact that they were his daughters, yet if it was a matter of responsibility then the daughters would have also felt obliged to extend a similar treatment to him.
The two stories reveal a paradox that exists between responsibility and obligation. Depending on the status and position people hold in society, they are obliged to certain responsibilities without question. For instance, the society in which the old men lived in dictated them to be slaves, and hence working for their white matters. In as much they desired to be free from such responsibilities, it was quite difficult for them. It was normal for the society at the time to treat them as slaves, working so hard, yet achieving so little. It was in fact in the law o the land that a slave was entitled to his master. There was little they could do but rather fight on, and hope that one day, the law will change and work to their advantage. In the same way, the old man lived in a society that required him to take good care of his daughters and ensure that they had a good life.
As their father, Goriet knew that their prosperity in life depended solely on him. He may have done it with expecting that the same will be replicated to him, but as circumstances turned out, it did not happen. It was most probably of such a realization that the old man never cursed them when he was lonely in his death bed. Goriet loved his daughters unconditionally and knew that he was obligated to ensure they had a good life, whether they did the same to him or not. On the contrary, he was also living in a society that demanded that children take care of their parents in old age (Benjamin 169). It was hence strange for the rest of the community to ridicule him considering the kind of loneliness and poverty he was living in, when his own daughters were living better lives with their husbands. The old man missed the attention of his daughters, simply because the society expected them to take care of him. Goriot was hence held up between yielding to the pressure of the society and accepting his unconditional responsibility of ensuring his daughters were happy.
The theme of social class and status has been the main focus of the two stories even as the characters struggle to come out of their current state to another level. There is a deep desire within them to work hard at ensuring that they evade their poverty situations, which has become a point of their identification. This is being done through the spirit of loyalty and discipline. The characters recognize the importance of working as a team and staying committed to the course, to bring about the changes they desire. The ‘gathering of old men’ we are introduced to a scene where the old men are so united that they are willing to take responsibility for a crime they did not commit. Each one of them seems to have a clue of who the culprit is, but they stand in solidarity to defend him by confessing to have done the crime. The unity that is displayed by the old men confuses the white man, who does not know the next plan of action. However, his social class, allows him to mercilessly stab the old men, who still stood in solidarity with one another.
A similar unity is also displayed in ‘Pere Goriot Honore De Balzac’ as the characters in the boarding house show a rare form of unity that will ensure they change their social class. One of them has just discovered a way through which the rest can be enjoined in the higher class of richness and shares it wit the others. This implies that people who are going through similar challenges have the ability to empathize with one another, and hence looking for means through which to grow and develop. The realized the need of doing things together in order to achieve the desired results. As displayed in the ‘gathering of old men’ their unity led to them being strengthened and hence retaliating on the white settlers. Despite their weakness that was brought about by their social status, they were able to unite for a common cause and therefore being able to defeat their enemy. In ‘Pere Goriot Honore De Balzac’ Rastignac, a member of the boarding house stood by Goriot in his time of weakness.
Despite the fact that Goriot had daughters, their social status did not permit them to stand in solidarity with their poor ailing father. As a matter of fact, they did not want to be associated with his father because of his social status. The daughters were now married to rich men and therefore adopting a new status of life. They were completely disconnected from their backgrounds, and despite the challenges they were facing in their relationships, they could not go back to their father. This describes a trend in the society where people never want too look back, once they have acquired a particular status in life. This also describes how difficult it is to revise life, once it had happened. Goriot was once living a good life with his daughters before fate caught up with him. In as much as he desired to go back to such a life and acquire the status, it was not possible as he died a desperate poor man. Likewise, his daughters had acquired a new status which made it difficult to reverse to the ways of their father. They had grown not knowing how poverty looked like due to the sacrifices made by their father (Rees & Brinley 73). They hence preferred to live in misery with their wealthy husbands rather than live associate wit the poverty of their loving and caring father.
The two stories may have been written at different times and in different dispensation, yet they reflect a circle in which people live. Despite the fight for equality, this remains to be a fairy tale as the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged continue to widen. Irrespective of the efforts that a person puts in, fate has a way of finding its way into society, working for the good and the bad of all peoples. It is unfortunate to learn that the people who put in more effort in the society do not necessarily benefit. The systems have been made to function in a way that few individuals will control others, who will work harder to ensure they gain even more. The more the privileged have, the more they will demand for even more. As they demand for more, it implies more hard work for the less privileged. The only way that he less privileged will gain from their resources is when they work hard, and since they are working in systems that favor the privileged, they will continuously increase them as they work. Justice can only be achieved through unity. When people realize their needs and their common challenges, they can work together and defeat their biggest enemy. This is however a sacrifice that is usually hindered by many factors that makes it difficult to fight for a common course.
Benjamin, Walter. "Paris: capital of the nineteenth century." Perspecta (1969): 165-172.
De Balzac, Honore. Le père Goriot. Vol. 4. Calmann Lévy, 1875.
Gaines, Ernest J. A gathering of old men. Vintage, 2012.
Rees, Alwyn D., and Brinley, Rees. Celtic heritage: ancient tradition in Ireland and Wales. London, Thames, 1961.
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