Emotion and compassion in Honoré de Balzac’s novel Eugénie Grandet

This article is an analysis of Balzac’s novel Eugénie Grandet in light of the concept of emotion, in particular that of compassion. The interpretation offered here places a special emphasis on the relationship between the protagonist Eugénie and her family, first and foremost represented by her father and her cousin. The main argument concerns how the novel embodies and generates a discussion of the struggle between individual emotions and a social reality based on greed and financial transactions. The protagonist personifies the good human being whose compassion and love is met by indifference and cruelty. Balzac’s literary method discloses how emotions like love, pity and compassion have lost their ethical relevance and meaning in a post-revolutionary world where success equates with self sufficiency, and money is the new god.

Keywords: Balzac, emotions, compassion, love, ethics, money, power