Balzacian Legality

01 Jan 1979

The study of law and literature is an area of growing interest to legal scholars in the United States. Honore de Balzac incorporated in his works a panoramic view of the social reality of nineteenth century France. In this context, the fidelity of Balzac's plots and characters to their external models has been well-documented in a number of fields, including sociology, commerce, and finance. In addition to this penchant for realism, however, Balzac laced his novels with an equally evident moral content. This commitment to accuracy and morality also influenced Balzac's novelistic treatment of the law and lawyers.

Balzac's work should be of great interest to contemporary lawyers, too, since his novels confront the very questions that forever perplex and challenge the minds of teachers, students, and practitioners of law; the relationship between legality, legitimacy, and morality as reflected in personal and community ethics. This article, therefore, seeks to provide a brief introduction to Balzac's writings by way of a few specific examples of his treatment of the law. In doing so, the author hopes to make an English language contribution to the contributing interdisciplinary inquiry into the nexus of law and literature.