The Last Manifestation of Vautrin
This article considers Balzac’s Le Père Goriot (1835) in comparison with As minas de prata (Silver Mines, 1865–66) by José de Alencar, Brazil’s most important Romantic novelist. The study focuses on the role of melodrama in the two works, especially through the analysis of the novels’ main characters—Vautrin and Father Molina. Rather than reading melodrama as a genre that rewards virtue and punishes crimes, or as a reaction against the French Revolution and the end of massive superstructures (forms of government, social hierarchies and religious beliefs), the present study relies on the notion of melodrama, as Peter Brooks defines it in The Melodramatic Imagination, which includes an “ethical imperative” and a “desire to express all.” Since the real subject for the novelist working in the melodramatic mode is that which is “hidden and masked” from the reader, the best example, for Brooks, is Vautrin. A similar pattern is also at play in Alencar’s masterpiece.