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The novel takes place during the Bourbon Restoration, which brought about profound changes in French society; the struggle of individuals to secure upper-class status is ubiquitous in the book. The city of Paris also impresses itself on the characters – especially young Rastignac, who grew up in the provinces of southern France. Balzac analyzes, through Goriot and others, the nature of family and marriage, providing a pessimistic view of these institutions.