The Unheroic Hero in the Novels of Stendhal, Balzac, and Flaubert

The Unheroic Hero in the Novels of Stendhal, Balzac, and Flaubert

The Unheroic Hero in the Novels of Stendhal, Balzac, and Flaubert

The Unheroic Hero in the Novels of Stendhal, Balzac, and Flaubert

Excerpt

Like many others of their century, Stendhal, Balzac and Flaubert had the unhappy conviction that the old aristocratic ideal of heroism was absurd in a predominantly bourgeois society. Yet in their novels about contemporary life appear characters who, though unheroic, define a new concept of heroism in the novel. These heroes, in whom some of the most acute moral problems of our own time are prefigured, are not romantic villains or anti-heroes but complex, sensitive individuals adrift in an expanding, vulgarized society. They are tempted by its promise of success, but suspicious of what they think success implies. They are the product of a mixture of the novelist's sympathy and self-expression, on the one hand, and his response to the demands of realism, on the other. This book is an attempt to understand them and, through them, and enduring literary effect of hostility toward the bourgeois in the nineteenth century.

The translations from the French are my own. Only a few verses of poetry are left in the outrageously if turned into English.

I wish to thank Pierre-Aimé Touchard and Mme Magali Marsan for their kindness in permitting me to quote from Dionysos, Apologie pour le théâtre and La Bataille romantique.

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