In the new apartment, Rastignac has qualms about accepting so much from Delphine and her father. Balzac writes, ‘‘the arrest of Vautrin, which showed him the depths of the abyss into which he had so nearly fallen, had strengthened his delicacy and better feelings. . . powerfully.’’ Goriot reveals that he is prepared to lend Rastignac all he needs; however, Goriot must absurdly deprive himself to make it possible. He tells the couple, ‘‘I can live like a king on two francs a day, and I shall have something left over.’’ All is not necessarily well, though, as Goriot acts almost as though he, not Rastignac, is his daughter’s lover:
“They behaved like children all through the evening, and Pere Goriot was not the most sensible ` of the three. He sat at his daughter’s feet and kissed them; he gazed long into her eyes, rubbed his head against her dress and, in short, was as foolish as the youngest and most tender lover could be.”
Part Five: Confrontation
Much has been settled, but one great event remains: Mme de Nucingen’s introduction into the upper echelons of Parisian high society at a grand ball thrown by Rastignac’s cousin, Mme de Beause´ant. Delphine is overjoyed to see the invitation, which clearly notes that her husband, the Baron de Nucingen, is not to attend. The following day, though, as he is gathering the very last of his effects from the Maison Vauquer, Rastignac overhears a troubling conversation between Goriot and Delphine. The Baron de Nucingen, it seems, has all of her money tied up in shady investments, and she has little truly available to her. Meanwhile, Anastasie de Restaud enters and begs help from her father. She has sold the Restaud family jewels to a moneylender in order to support her cheating lover Maxime de Trailles and been found out by her husband, who is dispossessing her of all that she has—even of her children—and threatening to dramatically curtail her movements. All this is too much for Goriot: ‘‘It is the end of the world,’’ he cries, ‘‘I am sure the world is going to pieces. Go and save yourselves before it happens!’’ The two women begin to argue, and Goriot becomes increasingly hysterical.
Rastignac rushes in with a bill of exchange— much like a present-day bank check—that Vautrin had given him when he tried to persuade him to swindle Victorine out of her family money. Anastasie accepts the money without gratitude, and heaps insults upon her sister until Goriot cries out repeatedly, ‘‘They are killing me.’’ And indeed the old man does seem to be dying, which does not stop Mme de Restaud from leaving as soon as she has secured his signature on the bill of exchange. Bianchon arrives and confirms that Goriot is dying. Rastignac recalls ‘‘how the old man’s two daughters had worked upon their father’s heart without mercy’’ although he chooses to believe that Delphine at least loves her father. That evening, at the opera, he takes ‘‘precautions to avoid alarming Mme de Nucingen,’’ but these prove unnecessary. She is not inclined to believe her father is truly dying, though she does hold him in part responsible for her unhappiness over the past years. She is much more interested in being courted by Rastignac and in gossiping about the Marquis d’Ajuda-Pinto’s impending marriage, which will take place on the day his former mistress, Mme de Beause´ant, holds her grand ball.
Part Six: The End Approaches
Caught up in the pleasure of being alone together, neither Delphine nor Rastignac think of Goriot until late the next day. When Rastignac arrives at the Maison Vauquer, he finds that Goriot had gone out to sell the very last thing of value that he had—the first set of silver cutlery he ever owned, and which he has kept to this moment as a reminder of happier times— and subsequently collapsed. Bianchon tends to the old man, who has sold the silver to pay a final debt for Anastasie and who now talks irrationally of returning to business, of buying grain abroad and selling it for a profit in France. With Bianchon, Rastignac keeps watch over Goriot, whose condition improves somewhat as the day of the ball approaches. Neither daughter visits, with Mme de Restaud, far too focused on the ball, sending only a messenger to pick up the money her father has procured for her and Mme de Nucingen.
At the ball itself, Mme de Beause´ant is glad to see Rastignac, the only person there whom she feels she can truly trust, and gives him a letter for the Marquis d’Ajuda-Pinto. Rastignac is deeply affected by Beause´ant’s grief. Back at the Maison Vauquer, the dying Goriot is himself tormented by a feverish grief and a tragic awareness of his own previous blindness regarding his daughters’ supposed devotion to him.
Torn at the thought of the old man dying alone, Rastignac goes to find Mme de Restaud, but her husband will not let her leave. She, for her part, is a changed person: ‘‘Before turning to Rastignac, her timid glance at her husband told of the prostration of a will, crushed by moral and physical tyranny.’’ Rastignac is also unsuccessful with Delphine. Delphine does not at first believe her father is deathly ill, and once she has been convinced, she is willing to come but is also held back by her husband. Upon Rastignac’s return to the boardinghouse, Mme Vauquer presses him for money for Goriot’s rent and a shroud in which to wrap him. When paid, she sends Sylvie to collect a set of moldy sheets to use as a shroud. Goriot’s final words are ‘‘My darlings!’’ Mme de Restaud, at least, is there for his death; Delphine never arrives, and neither woman’s family is willing to pay funeral expenses or even to receive Rastignac when he calls on them. At the Pere-Lachaise cemetery, ` Rastignac and the servant Christophe are the only mourners, and Rastignac must borrow a franc from Christophe in order to pay the gravediggers their fee. Still, in the end he is able to look out over the evening lights of Paris from the cemetery on its hill, and to see in the city his future. The novel closes with a foreshadow of this future: ‘‘Then, as a first challenge offered to Society, Rastignac [goes] to dine with Mme de Nucingen.’’
Sara Constantakis, Novels for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Honore de Balzac, Volume 33, Gale-Cengage Learning, 2010