"Old Goriot" was written in 1834, when Balzac was thirty-five and at height of his powers. The story is about Eugene de Rastignac the young provincial who came to Paris to make a career for himself. The talented Rastignac, confused and ambitious law student from the country, was making his way in Paris against odds.
The character of Old Goriot gave the author a chance to mount the rostrum and vent his ideas on the differences in the social structure. Goriot himself, who grew rich out of the French Revolution, never understood or cared for what it represented. He represents the power of money, and his possessive greed too, in the hands of the rising new middle class.
This novel may be compare to Shakespeare's "King Lear" and Turgenev's novelette entitled "A Lear of the Steppes." All three tell the story of a sacrificing father and ungrateful daughters. If Balzac and Turgenev borrowed their ideas, their borrowing was from the common pool of human experience into which great artists must always dip.
Honore de Balzac had two great gifts: observation and imagination, always inextricably blended. When he was about twenty years old, he gave up the study of law for literature. He literally killed himself by overwork, dying at the age of fifty-one, with more than forty books as his gift to posterity.