chapter  3
22 Pages

Napoleon and the Revolution

WithRonnie Butler

The significance which Napoleon assumes in the Comedie humaine is essentially ideological, in the sense that he stands at the centre of Le Monde de Balzac assessment of the effect of the Revolution on the development of French society in the first half of the nineteenth century. One important area in which Balzac attempts to assess Napoleon in relation to the Revolution concerns the changes in the legal system which were the work of the Consulate. Balzac does more than simply contribute to the legend of Napoleon’s charisma. Balzac’s approach to Napoleon is governed by his analysis of changing class relationships in post-revolutionary society. The alliance of Balzac’s political realism and his admiration for Napoleon conflict with his implied criticism of Napoleon for failing to restore the ‘droit d’ainesse’. Napoleon’s religious policy provides another important criterion by which Balzac seeks to evaluate where Napoleon stands in terms of the Revolution.