After the revolution there were many novels written and in which portray Paris and its culture. Novels such as Colonel Chabert and The Red and the Black both portray views of Paris and its culture but from opposite ends of society. Colonel Chabert shows more of the poorer class and The Red and The Black show more of the higher class.
The novel Colonel Chabert by Honore de Balzac portrays Paris in several ways. Much of the overall representation of the city of Paris is that of a low, retched, and dirty place. In the novel, Balzac uses the characters to represent the different levels of society in Paris. The Colonel represents the society before the war and the reconstruction and how society rejected the past and wanted to bring in the new and turn their backs against their past. The other levels of society were represented though the other characters in the story such as the lawyers whom were used to represent the middle class and the count and countess, which portray characters whom are representative of the upper class of society in Paris. Balzac uses his diction to give a representation of what his view of Paris is. In one part of the novel the narrator uses the word hideous in order to a Persian lawyer s office. (6) The narrator says this after a description of how dirty and disorderly the office was. This statement says something about how the working was society seen, also showing businesses of the middle class and how the middle class lived and worked. The narrator says, in Paris the horror of poverty is magnified which by de Balzac use of diction such as the word horror shows how bad the situation of poverty was in the Paris at the time.
In the novel The Red and the Black by Stendhal the view of Paris is portrayed more subtle than in Colonel Chabert. The characters in the novel don t necessarily represent the different levels of society. Most of the Paris that is represented in The Red and The Black is the upper class. The image that is given overall is more of greed and corruption that of poverty and slums as seen in Balzac s novel. In one way, the representation of Paris is shown through a statement by Julian, the main character of the novel, when he says that the passions are so absurd in Paris. (239) Julian s statement here is an example of the higher society. Those who had the money, used their money for their absurd extravagances.
From what I ve read the city of Paris is known for it s beauty and it s romantic language; in the time period the novels Colonel Chabert and The Red and the Black the give a of corrupt society full of extreme poverty and extreme greed in the upper classes. Although the novels portray the different ends of the money scale they both present Paris as an almost evil place where the population is engulfed in a darkness that is greed and suffering.
Balzac, Honore de. Colonel Chabert. New Directions Publishing Corporation. New York: New York, 1997.
Stendhal. The Red and The Black. New American Library. New York: New York, 1981.