Balzac's Villains: The Origins of Destructiveness in La Comédie humaine

Balzac's destructive and malevolent characters in La Comédie humaine, male and female, have in common an excessive masculinity that is consistently disassociated from femininity. Masculinity is defined in terms of strength, aggression, will, energy and intelligence; femininity in terms of sensibility, passivity and delicacy. The great villains of Balzac's œuvre, characters such as Sylvie Rogron and Lisbeth Fischer among the women, and Nucingen, Maxime de Trailles and Henri de Marsay among the men, are all described exclusively in terms of the masculine principle. Vautrin, the towering villain of Le Père Goriot and Illusions perdues, lends support to the argument by becoming a sympathetic character (at the conclusion of Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes), only when he is feminized by his passion for Lucien de Rubempré. (MNM)

Moss, Martha N
Volume 1977-1978 Fall-Winter; 6(1-2): 36-51.