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Money plays a crucial role in the outcome of both characters' lives in Notes from the Underground and Pere Goriot. Eugene and the narrator both exemplify the need for money, the lack of it, and the desperate desire for it. The Narrator uses money as a tool to exert power. Although in the beginning, both characters use money as a negative force, Eugene uses it in a healthy way to gain acceptance into Parisian society. However, the Narrator's use of money is self-destructive, and he is left to live a miserable life. Even though money infects Eugene's mind, he is redeemed by his goodness towards Goriot.
In Pere Goriot, Eugene is accepted as part of Parisian society after he gambles and wins a lot of money. "He gambled heavily, losing and winning large sums of money. In almost no time he had adopted all the expensive habits of the fashionable young man-about-town" (Balzac, pg 159). After winning huge sums of money, he pays off his debts, and he shows appreciation towards his family by giving back more than he owed. For example, he sent fifteen hundred francs out of his first winnings to his mother and sisters, along with handsome presents. This proves that Eugene is an honorable person.
Although Eugene's mind is infected by his desire for money, his compassion towards Goriot allows him to maintain a healthy relationship with money. He uses all the money in his possession, to help Goriot in his final days. Eugene acts selflessly when he chooses to pawn the watch Delphine gave to him, so he could buy new sheets for Goriot on his death-bed. He explained to Delphine, "Your father has no money to buy the winding-sheet in which they will wrap him this evening. Your watch is in pawn: I had nothing else" (Balzac) This statement proves that even though Eugene is concerned with getting rich quickly, he is a moral person.
The Narrator, in Notes from the Underground, is insignificant in Russian society because he doesn't have a lot of money. His encounter with three of his wealthier school friends makes him feel like an outcast. During their talk, they declare aloud that with twenty-one rubles total, three men, seven rubles each, they could throw Zverkov a fine party. This enrages the Narrator because it shows that they refuse to notice that there is a fourth man present, the Narrator. Infuriated, the Narrator declares he would join them, even though he had no money, because he wants them to like him. He admits, "I had no money. All I had was nine rubles, and I had to give seven of them to my servant, Apollon, for his monthly wages" (Dostoevsky, pg 1343).
In Notes from the Underground, the Narrator uses money in a destructive way. Money represents his power, and he tries to break Apollon's pride by withholding his wages. "Here's the money, you see! But you won't get it; you won't until you come to me respectfully, with your head bowed, to ask my forgiveness" (Dostoevsky, pg 1371). When he refuses to give Apollon his wages, he is mean spirited. Moreover, he expects him to grovel. Apollon refuses to ask for the Narrator's forgiveness and he becomes absolutely enraged. After the Narrator fails to make Apollon submit morally, his last resort to use money to display his status.
The Narrator uses money to exert his power when he thrusts a crumpled blue five-ruble note into Liza's hand. The Narrator tortures Liza by insulting, and spiting her. He admits to Liza that he only wanted to have power over her and humiliate her. "Power, it was power I needed, I craved the sport, I wanted reduce you to tears, humiliation, hysteria" (Dostoevsky, pg 1374). "He begins to criticize himself and states that he is in fact horrified by his own poverty and embarrassed by his situation." (http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Notes_from_Underground) After the Narrator realizes Liza wants to embrace him, he uses the only source he knows will crush her. His worst insult came when he stuffed a five dollar ruble in her hand before she left his apartment. He states, "I opened her hand and placed something in itâ€¦ out of spite" (Dostoevsky, pg 1377). He deliberately attempts to assert that she is still nothing but a prostitute. This shows how absolutely corrupt the Narrator's mind became. Money represents power to him.
Both Pere Goriot and Notes from the Underground show the role money plays in each of the character's lives. Money is the key to fitting in with the rest of society. In Pere Goriot, Balzac paints a troubling portrait of a society preoccupied by wealth and social standing. Eugene goes from having no money, to getting rich quick, and loses everything in the end for the sake of saving Goriot. In Notes from the Underground, the Narrator is very poor, and he uses the little money he has to cause distress to the people socially lower than him, such as Apollon and Liza. Money infects the Narrator's soul, and in the end he is consumed with hatred towards society.