Démasquer La Fille aux yeux d'or

In La Fille aux yeux d'or (1835), Balzac gives free rein; to his consuming fascination with the topic of man's mastery over woman. In fact, his hero Henri de Marsay exercises in this domain the same sort of absolute power that Balzac himself does as creator of La Comédie humaine. However, the interest of this novel, with its unusual phantasmagorical quality, lies more particularly in the insights it provides into the workings of Balzac's subconscious. It may be read in the first instance as the record of the initiatic ritual by which a young man is integrated into patriarchal society. The hero must in such circumstances sacrifice the "feminine" part of himself, this aspect being signified in the novel by Marsay's enigmatic mistress Paquita. At a more personal level, this enigmatic woman who abandons Marsay for the sake of another woman represents the temptation of homosexuality, another phenomenon that greatly interested Balzac and which he transposed liberally into his work. Not only does just such a transposition occur in the novel, but indeed its structures are borrowed from Otway's tragedy Venice Preserved, a text elevated by Vautrin to scriptural stature because of its glorification of passionate friendship between men. (In French) (V-LT)

Tremblay, Victor-Laurent
Volume 1990 Fall; 19(1): 72-82.