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Konson, G. R. Is Honore de Balzac’s Raphael de Valentin a Victim of or a Bearer of Catastrophism?

Published in journal "Philosophy and Culture", 2014-7 in rubric "Mysteries of the human being", pages 1038-1046.

Resume: The subject under research is the moral essence of a young man Raphael de Valentin in Honore de Balzac’s novel ‘La Peau de Chagrin’ (‘The Magic Skin’). The main attention is paid to studying amoral qualities of the main character who was after sensual pleasures and as a result, came to the idea of overindulgence. The author of the present article focuses on the following paradox: what was the actual cause of the marquis’ death? Was it poverty, richness or any other phenomena and forces that usually make a man to suicide? To answer this question, the author of the present article views the image of Raphael de Valentin from the point of view of catastrophism hanging over Raphael. The research method used by the author is based on the combination of the five types of analysis including legal, philosophical, psychological, literary and musicological analysis. The scientific novelty of the research is expressed in several aspects. From the point of view of legal studies, Raphael de Valentin is classified as an ‘accidental’ criminal with reference to others and an ‘unstable’ criminal towards himself. From the point of view of philosophy, the image of Raphael developed from the victim of catastrophism to the bearer of catastrophism and therefore a threat for the society and particular people, but then he appeared to be the victim of catastrophism again or, in fact, the victim of his own desires. From the psychological point of view, the marquis had a thinking stereotype which made him react similarly to different events and therefore brought him to the continuous neurosis leading to the suicide. From the musicological point of view, Raphael’s conflict had the three phases which allows to understand Raphael’s conflict as a psychological conflict between desire and ability, i.e. desire and inability to achieve his desire. As a conclusion, the author establishes that the never-ending power and control over the society granted by the Devil is just an unreal illusion. In Balzac’s novel the Devil’s almightiness was limited by the three circumstances: quite an ‘average’ personality of the marquise, his blindness for true love and the fact that Satan’s abilities were still less powerful than those of the higher forces.

Keywords: Honore de Balzac, Raphael de Valentin, Foedora, man and devil, desire, talisman, catastrophism, soul and mind, death, image.

DOI: 10.7256/1999-2793.2014.7.12174

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