Study Questions for Zola's Germinal

Not content merely to follow in the footsteps of such realists as GustaveFlaubert Madame Bovary ), √Čmile Zola decided to createhis own literary movement and call it "naturalism." A variant ofrealism, it emphasizes even more than realism careful research to preparesettings and other details to be described. Zola's theories also embody a kindof determinism in which the characters' heredity and environment essentiallydetermine their actions. Characters are representative types rather thanunique individuals. Groups are often important. In addition, Zola's naturalistnovels usually end in some sort of large - scale catastrophe. Modern disasternovels and films can trace their heritage back to Germinal.
Germinalis part of a 20 - volume series of novels depicting variousaspects of life in France in the second half of the nineteenth century, intendedas a kind of sequel to Honor√© de Balzac's Human Comedy,which was a lengthy series of stories and novels depicting the early part of thecentury. Characters reoccur in various books and are related to characters inother books. √Čtienne Lantier, for instance, was born to alcoholicparents in L'assommoir (1877) and became a leader of the radicaland disastrous uprising of the 1870 Commune in La d√©b√Ęcle (1892) and is the brother of the protagonist of Nana (1880). The series as a whole is called after the two families whosegenetic inheritance determines the fates of their members: the Rougon - Macquart.
Labor groups objected that in L'assommoir Zola had depicted thelaboring classes in an entirely unflattering light, neglecting the labormovement which was in the process of transforming capitalism; so he set himselfthe task of researching radical and reformist labor movements for this novel. The result is the only important 19th - century piece of fiction to take seriouslythe ideas of the labor movement of the time. Not that he entirely endorsedthem: although Zola was eventually to become a socialist, at this point he didnot ally himself entirely with the workers. Although he clearly sympathizeswith their sufferings, he also portrays them as irrational and destructive.
It is vital to keep some facts in mind about the labor movement in France. Asin most industrialized countries, workers tended to want more than higher wagesand shorter working hours. In many cases, the labor organizations weresocialist, aiming at the total transformation of society and the redistributionof property. The bourgeois readers who made up most of Zola's audiencecertainly viewed them that way, and made no distinctions between mild reformersand revolutionaries. Essentially all labor organizing activities, including allstrikes, were illegal, and were routinely broken up by force.
Most members of Zola's audience in 1885 could remember the disastrous Commune of1870, the first communist revolution in world history. When the characters of Germinal, set in 1866 - 67, predict that the revolution will comethey are uttering a prophecy that the audience knew had come true just threeyears later. This is no empty radical gesturing, but a sober statement ofhistorical fact. And the readers doubtless saw these predictions as a warningof what could happen again in the near future if conditions for workers were notimproved.
Page numbers below refer to the Hochman translation published by New AmericanLibrary.
Part One
Chapter 1
5: Germinal is famous for its use of a carefully controlledpalette. Here the color black is prominent, and will remain so throughout thenovel. What other colors can you find recurring throughout the novel, and whatsignificance do they seem to have? It is March 1866 when the novel begins. Late March and early April together formed the Revolutionary month called"Germinal," the month of germination. The calendar used during theFrench Revolution substituted rational, natural names for those traditionallygiven the months of the year: the rainy month, the foggy month, the windymonth, etc. Germinal is the month in which plants first begin to sprout fromthe ground; but the image of sprouting plant life is also used throughout thenovel (and particularly at its conclusion) to symbolize the rising consciousnessof the workers as they realize the sources of their suffering and organize tocombat them. Look carefully for mentions of growing things and germination,especially as they are linked to sex and reproduction. Although Zola claims tobe a meticulous realist, in fact his descriptions are often deliberatelyoverstated to achieve poetic effects. How realistic is it that a man's handswould actually be bleeding from the lash of the wind if he couldstick them in his pockets?
7: Le Voreux means "the voracious one." Note the useof the word "devour" on this page. Look for instances in which themine is compared to an all - devouring beast. This is one of the centralmetaphors of the novel, based partly on the legend of Melek or Moloch, aCanaanite god to whom children were sometimes sacrificed, and which came torepresent human greed (Amos 5:26, compare "Mammon" in Matthew 6:24). Flaubert had memorably depicted such a child - devouring god in his novel ofancient Carthage, Salammb√ī. What does the imagery implyabout the nature of the mine itself and of the economic system which hasproduced it? Montsou means "mountain of pennies,"which suggests a large number of very poor people clustered tightly together.
9: Bonnemort means "good death." What aboutGrandfather Maheu has caused him to be given this nickname?
10: What evidence is there that Bonnemort has black lung disease?
11: Why is it ironic that his grandfather had discovered the mine? Whatconnection is there between hard work and ownership in this novel?
12: What earlier image does Bonnemort's vision of the "crouching god"connect with? What do you think this second god represents?
Chapter 2
13: Montsou is a "company town," a relatively new, artificial mass ofcrowded - together buildings erected to house the miners and workers brought intothe area. It has no historic roots, and little sense of itself as a place. Howdoes Zola convey the depersonalized nature of this town as he introduces us toit?
14: Catherine is going to be the most important young woman in the novel. Howis her description strikingly different from the sort of portraits we find ofyoung female protagonists in most nineteenth - century novels? On the next fewpages, how many instances can you find of a carelessness about sex that wouldhave shocked Zola's staid middle - class audience? What is he trying to sayabout the effects of poverty on these people?
17 - 18: Maheu's brutality here is not paralleled anywhere else in the novel. Usually he is a model father and husband. Keep an eye on him as arepresentative of the miners. In this particular area of France (the farnorthwestern corner, near Belgium), the miners have adopted the custom ofcalling women by the feminine article La and their husbands' orfathers' last names with a feminine ending. Thus the wife of Maheu is LaMaheude, the wife of Pierron is La Pierronne, and thedaughter of Old Mouque is La Mouquette. A similar effect inEnglish would be to call Mr. Smith's wife "The Smithess" or"Smithette." This pattern would have seemed as strange to Parisianreaders as it does to modern Americans. La Maheude is perhaps the mostinteresting character in the novel, and the one whose transformations most fullyreflect its themes. Try to note the changes she goes through.
Chapter 3
21: "Richomme" means "rich man." Dansaert, as chiefforeman, is neither owner nor laborer. Chosen by the mine administration tooversee the other workers, he is identified by both sides as not being truly oneof them. How is his exploitative role reflected in his private life aswell?
23 - 25: On his tour of a typical coal mine, Zola had taken careful notes aboutthe cage (the elevator in which workers and coal are raised and lowered) whichhe here incorporates in the novel. What elements of his description go beyondmere documentation to a kind of symbolism? Many readers would have regarded LaMouquette as a "slut." How does Zola try to convey a more positiveimage of her?
26: What does it tell us about Catherine that √Čtienne can mistake her fora boy? What has caused her immaturity?
28: Note the mentions of the leaks in the shaft casing which allow subterraneanwater to leak into the mine. Zola sets up in this scene much of what you needto know to understand the action in the rest of the novel, but without embarkingon a dry technical lecture. He is highly skilled at integrating descriptionwith action, a technique that many other authors were to imitate.
31: The Maheu team calls the passageway where it works "hell." Hellish metaphors are going to occur frequently in the novel. Chaval is pronounced almost the same as cheval - - "horse." What about Chaval is horse - like?
Chapter 4
34: What is the dilemma that keeps the team from paying proper attention to"timbering" (shoring up the roof with large timbers)?
35: Pierrot is a traditional Commedia dell'Arte figure you haveprobably seen in the form of porcelain figurines: a sad - looking clown dressed inwhite ruffles and a tall peaked cap. In what ways does Zola continue to breakwith the Romantic stereotypes of depicting the first encounter of two peopledestined to be lovers in his portrait of this encounter of √Čtienne andCatherine?
36 - 37: Lydie exemplifies the premature sexuality which pervades the novel. Whatcauses this phenomenon? What effect is it designed to have on the reader? Howis sex made animalistic here?
38: Zola began this novel with the intention of showing how √Čtienne hadinherited his parents' alcoholism. Try to decide as you follow his storywhether he is genuinely an alcoholic.
41: Firedamp (methane) is an invisible, odorless, but deadly gas which occursfrequently in coal mines. It can cause suffocation or, by being ignited by arandom spark, explosions. It is still one of the chief hazards of coalmining.
Chapter 5
43: Paul Négrel represents the type of the rebellious offspring of thebourgeoisie who rebels against his upbringing, but who does not really identifywith the workers. Note his transformation in the crisis which comes later.
45 - 46: Explain Maheu's analysis of what the change in payment means.
47: In classic love stories the lovers must overcome external obstacles, oftenin the form of a tyrannical father who opposes the match. What keeps Catherineand √Čtienne apart?
50 - 51: How does the protest against the Company begin? What role does√Čtienne play in it?
55: Rasseneur is a former activist, leader of an earlier strike, now living offwhat his wife's tavern makes in defiance of the Company. Watch how hisrelationship with √Čtienne develops. Note that it is taken for grantedamong the workers that women work both as laborers and as business owners. The19th - century stereotype of the housewife was reserved for the bourgeoisie.
57: Pluchart is an organizer for the Communist International Workingmen'sAssociation, an organization to which Karl Marx and Friederich Engels originallybelonged. It tried to organize laborers from many countries into a singlemovement to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism.
59: Why does √Čtienne decide to continue working at Le Voreux?
Part Two
Chapter 1
Compare this chapter with Chapter 2 of Part One. In what ways are the settings,characters, and events deliberately contrasted to stress the differences betweenthe workers and the owners? Have the Grégoires become rich through hardlabor, or any other virtue? How does their story illustrate Marx's dictum thatthose who work acquire nothing, and those who acquire anything, do not work?
Chapter 2
71: How do the pressures of poverty interfere with education?
73 - 74: Maigrat suggests maigre, "meager,"which alludes to the storekeeper's stingy, greedy nature. He runs the companystore, which is the only store that will advance credit to the miners when theyhave no ready cash. Perpetually in debt, they can only shop at this store wherethey are overcharged and abused in a pattern which in agricultural settings isknown as debt peonage. They are never able to accumulate enoughmoney to escape from the Company's demands; and since they live incompany - controlled housing, they have no basis for independence whatsoever. Company stores and towns were not built out of a charitable concern forworkers: they were a means of shackling them firmly to the company in a state ofsemi - slavery. Zola here explores a theme much discussed currently: sexualexploitation by men in authority of women in their power.
75: The Grégoires have conventional ideas about charity. What do we knowabout the Maheus that makes their ideas unfair?
76: Why do the poor have more children than the rich?
77: Note La Maheude's humble philosophy of life, and how it will change.
Chapter 3
80 - 81: What evidence is there that the workers lack a sense of solidarity witheach other?
83: Why do mothers object to their sons getting married early?
87: How does Mme Hennebeau try to deny the suffering in front of her?
Chapter 4
90: Why would it make economic sense to reserve scarce meat for the father ofthe family?
100: Jeanlin's tyranny over Bébert and Lydie is going to parallel that ofthe owners over the workers. Watch how he becomes transformed into a monsterincarnating all the evils of their lot.
102 - 103: Why do you think sex is so insistently linked with reproduction in this novel? How is it linked to nature, to germination?
Part Three
Chapter 1
111 - 112: Why does Catherine allow herself to be dominated by Chaval when shereally loves √Čtienne? How is the image of germination used here?
113 - 115: Souvarine (Russian Suvarin) is modeled on the violentanarchist leader Mikhail Bakunin (1814 - 1876), who escaped from exile in Siberiato London. His split with Karl Marx caused the first InternationalWorkingmen's Association eventually to collapse. He advocated terrorist acts ofassassination and destruction to disrupt governments and inspire people to riseup against them and create a peaceful egalitarian utopia. Marx rejected secretconspiratorial activities on the grounds that only an open movement couldprovide the necessary basis for a true socialist revolution. Czar Alexander IIwas in fact assassinated by a terrorist plot in 1881, just four years before thepublication of Germinal. The violent anarchists of Russia called nihilists were the leading image in most people's mind of radicalactivists. They were said to act out of an irrational desire for destruction,and their ideals were normally ignored. Zola demonstrates remarkable insight inportraying Souvarine as a sensitive man traumatized by love (see pp. 366 - 367),who has turned to violence out of compassion. This pattern in fact fits many ofhistory's most violent nihilists. What signs can you find here and later thatSouvarine is in fact a loving, kindly man? It should be noted that although allanarchists were lumped together in the public mind, many of them rejectednihilism, and were in fact pacifists. Much of Poland was dominated by Russia inthe nineteenth century. Why do you think the Russian Souvarine calls his petrabbit "Poland?"
116 - 117: How do the workers view of the famous French Revolution of 1789? Whydo they feel the need for another revolution? The so - called "iron law ofwages" of the English economist Ricardo was adopted by Marx in his ownphilosophy. It argues that in a capitalist society wages tend always to bedepressed to the lowest minimum capable of allowing the workers to reproduce. How is this mechanism used to portray the workers as being treated as acommodity rather than as living people? √Čtienne is interested the ideasof Ferdinand Lasalle (German, 1825 - 1864), who believed in achieving socialismby popular elections which would force governments to set up self - governing ,worker - owned cooperatives. His ideas lie at the opposite end of the radicalpolitical spectrum from those of Souvarine. Note how Zola is careful todistinguish among the many shades of radical opinion, usually lumped together inthe popular mind.
118 - 119: The method of having teams of workers bid for mining contracts had infact been outlawed shortly before this novel is set; but Zola includes it toillustrate how wages are set in a competitive environment in which there is asurplus of labor. What effect does this bidding process have on wages? Howdoes it illustrate Ricardo's "iron law of wages?"
Chapter 2
124 - 127: The nailmaker's fair is a classic example of "slice of liferealism," a detailed description based on his observations and notes. Zolawas an extremely efficient writer: he used in his novels almost every note hemade, which led sometimes to more detail than is strictly relevant to theaction being depicted. But in a time without film or television, readers wereentranced by detailed depictions of unfamiliar places and customs. Note how inthe dance scene he manages to describe the movements of the group as a whole, atechnique he specialized in.
133 - 134: How is √Čtienne being changed by his studies?
135: How is the image of germination being used here? Keep this passage inmind. It is echoed at the end of the novel. The image of a crop of men growingout of the land comes from the Greco - Roman myth of the dragon's teeth. Deucalion slew a dragon and planted its teeth, which sprouted into armed men. Zola was not the only writer to use this myth for political purposes. UptonSinclair, an American radical writer, called his third novel Dragon'sTeeth (1942). Both ignored the part of the myth in which the newly - bornmen slew each other and had to be replaced by a new generation. Despite hisradical literary theories, Zola was very fond of using classical mythology inhis works.
137: What does the socialist slogan, "To each according to his worth, andhis worth according to his work" mean? What changes would itsimplementation cause in the society of Montsou? How does La Maheude react to√Čtienne's radical talk?
Chapter 4
141 - 142: In 1866 the French coal industry was struck by a crisis. America hadstopped importing massive quantities of steel to build its railroads, which hadthe effect of lessening the demand for coal to manufacture the steel (see p.306). What great historical event had interrupted the export trade and waseventually to lead to America building its own steel industry and becoming oneof the world's great industrial powers? Why is this a bad time for the workersto go on strike?
147: How does the Company try to separate the workers from √Čtienne? (Seepp. 167 - 179 below.) This technique is very widely used by oppressive groups:identify leaders as "outside agitators," and insist that "ourpeople" are contented if not "stirred up." Is this a fairanalysis of the situation in Montsou? Might the workers have struck evenwithout √Čtienne?
Chapter 5
151: Note Jeanlin's prophetic comment at the bottom of the page.
152: The cave - in is the first in a series of disasters in which Zolamethodically explores all safety hazards of coal mining. Why is it logical thathe should begin with a cave - in, given the developments that have preceded thisaccident?
157: How is La Maheude's grief over Jeanlin's accident warped by her poverty?
Part Four
Chapter 1
160 - 163: Madame Hennebeau's affair is meant to provide the mine company managerwith suffering to balance that of the miners. Is Zola successful it making youfeel that his sufferings equal theirs? This motif is developed further on p.226, in a passage that Zola cited to someone who criticized his novel as beingtoo sympathetic with the miners.
166: Marx argued that capitalists tend, during periods of economic growth, toover - expand, leading to the creation of excess capacity which is reduced only intimes of economic recession. How does Hennebeau's explanation of the currentcrisis reflect this theory?
168: Why is it ironic that Hennebeau thinks Rasseneur is responsible for pushingthe miners toward a strike?
168 - 169: Paul Négrel is obviously familiar with the popular socialistslogan, "Property is theft," which meant that under capitalism wealthwas created only by owners expropriating the profits generated by underpaidworkers. Socialism was driven not merely by a desire for equality, but by theconviction that the current system of economic exploitation was a form of legalrobbery. What three conventional arguments does Grégoire give to defendhimself as a capitalist? What weaknesses can you find in his arguments?
170: Why is Hennebeau not necessarily opposed to a strike? What advantages forhim might a strike have over massive lay - offs?
Chapter 2
174 - 175: How well does Maheu serve as a spokesman for the miners?
178: What is the significance of the unknown god referred to at the bottom ofthe page?
Chapter 3
184: How has La Maheude changed?
185 - 186: What keeps Catherine from leaving Chaval?
Chapter 4
193: How have √Čtienne's political ideas changed?
195: How do Souvarine's ideas differ from √Čtienne's? Note the referenceto Bakunin.
196: What do we learn here about Souvarine that explains his powerful aversionto getting involved with women?
202: What effect does the attempt of the gendarmes to break up the meeting haveon the miners?
Chapter 5
207: How is La Maheude continuing to develop?
Chapter 6
216 - 225: The wildness of Jeanlin and the other children prepares us for theanimalistic behavior of their elders later.
Chapter 7
228: Note how the rally is punctuated by this ominous silence.
229 - 230: Zola does a fair job of summarizing typical 19th - century socialistideals here. What are their main features? Note in the rest of the chapter howhe depicts the collective emotions of the miners.
233: How does √Čtienne make use of Bonnemort?
234: Note the recurrence of the dragon's teeth motif. How is it furtherdeveloped here? What other motif is it connected to?
236: What effect does Zola create by balancing the shouts of the crowd againstthe silence of nature?
Part Five
Chapter 1
244 - 245: Le Tartaret refers to the Greek hell, Tartarus. What isZola's intended symbolism in creating an inferno underground which creates aparadise on the surface? What idea is he trying to convey?
Chapter 2
248: How does Catherine's nakedness reinforce the symbolism?
251: What does Catherine's fatalism tell us about the lives of most of themining women?
252: Before the days of steam - powered lifts, ladders were used to descend intothe mines and haul the coal out. Now they serve as emergency exits. Catherinehas almost been asphyxiated when this crisis begins. Follow her through therest of the following episode and see how Zola subjects her to almost unbearablesuffering, though in the end she survives remarkably well. Try to list all thethings that happen to her.
Chapter 3
257: √Čtienne begins drinking. Try to follow the course of hisdrunkenness. Does Zola convince you that it is the alcohol that causes hisactions?
258: Note that although three thousand had sworn to strike last night, only atenth as many have shown up for this protest. Watch as the numbers growthroughout the day.
263: Jeanlin with his horn is meant to suggest the Greek god Pan, who couldinspire panic (named after him) by blowing on his pipes. Pan had goat's legs,suggested here by Jeanlin's crippled limbs.
264: How does Zola make the mine seem more human than ever here? Why is itironic that it is Deneulin's mine which is the first to be damaged?
Chapter 4
265: The immediate cause of the French Revolution was a shortage of bread. Boththe miners and the owners are keenly aware of this as the former shout"Bread! Bread! We want bread!" They are symbolically calling not onlyfor food, but for revolution. Is √Čtienne leading this riot? Is hisdrunkenness causing him to urge them on to excesses?
266 - 267: Old Quandieu ("when God") faces down the crowd according tothe standard 19th - century view of crowd behavior which argued that one boldindividual could turn away a riotous mob.
268: What techniques does Zola use here and elsewhere to depict the mob as agroup?
273 - 274: Are you convinced that √Čtienne's actions are satisfactorilyexplained by his alcoholism?
Chapter 5
276 - 279: Why does Zola time Hennebeau's discovery of his wife's ether flacon tocoincide with the arrival of the workers? See also pp. 286 - 287.
281 - 283: Zola prided himself on his visual sense. He was an important artcritic, especially as a friend and defender of the Impressionists. He oftenspoke of his writing as a kind of painting. If he had lived in our time hewould probably have become a film director. Try to visualize the scene thatfollows, as the women hiding with Paul Négrel peer out the barely - openedstable door and see the mob thundering past. The point of view is clearlyestablished. How does Zola build this scene to a climax? The singing of the Marseillaise, the revolutionary anthem that was written for the1789 revolution, was strictly forbidden. The miners are committing a revolutionary act by singing it. Which is the last and most violent group to pass? La Mouquette's ultimate gesture of contempt may be Zola's one slip in trying tobuild this awesome scene to a grand climax. Does he convince you that there isnothing comic about it? Compare this scene with the one on p. 348 when youreach it.
Chapter 6
289: Although it is rather crudely done, Zola's contrast between the point ofview of the miners, which we know so well, and that of the owners is powerful. How do you react to it?
290: Vol - au - vent ("fly in the wind") pastry shells areclassic lighter - than - air containers for creamy fillings of various sorts, andare highly fragile.
291: Note how even Hennebeau, more sophisticated than most of the bourgeois, isso poorly informed about the political currents among the miners as to supposethat Rasseneur is some sort of revolutionary leader. See page 300 forRasseneur's real attitude.
292 - 293: This incident, in which the mining women and Bonnemort almost killCécile, is one of their more repulsive deeds. Why do you think Zolaincluded it? To what extent it is symbolic of the entire class struggledepicted in the novel?
296 - 298: How does Zola contrive to make Maigrat at least partially responsiblefor his own death?
289 - 299: How does Zola use the scene of Maigrat's mutilation to underline thetheme - - which runs throughout the novel - - of the contrast in sexual experiencesand attitudes between the bourgeoisie and the workers?
Part Six
Chapter 1
302 - 303: During the riot, most of the miners' rage was directed againstinappropriate targets in a way that did not further their cause. How is theowners' revenge similarly inept? How is the Abbé Ranvier different fromhis predecessor, and what are his motivations?
304 - 305: What does Zola present as √Čtienne's main contradictions andfailings?
Chapter 2
312: Zola shows the miners as conducting a fairly successful campaign tocontinue the strike, and yet as lacking much of a sense of community. Do youfind it persuasive?
320: How has the strike changed La Maheude?
Chapter 3
323: Note the ominous news of the collapse of the International. Try to notehow many other disasters follow during the rest of the book.
325: What do you think of Souvarine's critique of √Čtienne and theothers?
332 - 333: Zola here avoids the traditional successful union of the lovers (orpostpones it). How realistic do you think this scene is? What does it tell youabout the two characters?
334 - 336: What is the significance of Jeanlin's murder of the little soldier? What points do you think Zola is trying to make in this scene?
Chapter 5
343 - 353: This scene depicts a kind of confrontation repeated many times duringlabor and political struggles in modern times: angry protesters armed only withstones and bricks facing armed militia. Such confrontations have often hadmomentous consequences. How does this scene illustrate √Čtienne'smusings in the last chapter about the way poor people are manipulated intoopposing each other? How do the deaths of the miners affect you? Does havinglived with these characters through 350 pages make you regret their deathsmore?
Part Seven
Chapter 1
354: The opposition newspapers would be those owned by parties opposed to thecurrent government, and therefore seeking to make use of the shootings todiscredit the leadership.
355: How has the strike affected Deneulin? See the bottom of p. 364.
356: Probably no other 19th - century writer would have dared to use a girl'sfirst menstruation in this way. What is Zola trying to symbolize here?
360 - 363: How does the relationship between √Čtienne and Rasseneurchange?
364: How does the transfer of the abbé Ranvier fit in one the otherevents in this chapter?
Chapter 2
365 - 366: Are Pluchart and √Čtienne completely discredited as leaders now? Why does Souvarine object to √Čtienne's interpretation of Darwin?
367: How convincing do you find Souvarine's explanation of his total oppositionto love among revolutionaries? Can you understand his motivations in acting ashe does in the rest of the chapter?
372: Why do you think love inhibits √Čtienne and Catherine?
Chapter 3
381: How does Zola's description of the Torrent here go beyond the strict limitsof realism?
384 - 387: The spectacular collapse described in these pages may seem far - fetched,but in fact it follows quite closely newspaper accounts of a similar event (anaccident) which had happened at a coal mine in France the year before the novelwas published. Does knowing that fact make you regard it as any morerealistic? Should it? How does transform Souvarine into a symbol at the end ofthe chapter?
Chapter 4
388: Why is the Company anxious to hush up the fact that the disaster was causedby sabotage?
394: Which of the many forms of possible disaster in coal mining is depictedhere?
398 - 399: What do you think of Zola's attempt here to create an encounter whichwill encapsulate the conflict between workers and owners? Is it credible? Isit effective?
Chapter 5
403: Bataille means "battle." Why is it an appropriatename here?
410: Does Zola convince you that this episode is caused by alcoholism?
411 - 417: Sensational stories of subterranean starvation or suffocation were verypopular in the 19th century. What are the main effects of this one? How doesZola try to de - romanticize the experience? Does he also romanticize it? How? How does tragedy overcome old enmity here?
Chapter 6
This final chapter is a prose poem drawing heavily on the mythical themes thatZola had used earlier. Remember that √Čtienne is going off to join arevolution in Paris that in fact proved temporarily successful, if ultimatelydisastrous. Although the miners have seemingly been defeated on every front andthe Maheu family has been reduced to a fragment, Zola has taken pains to plantsigns of hope for the future throughout this chapter. How many of them can youfind? Remember that hope for the miners may mean a successful uprising. Whatis the final stage in La Maheude's development? How does Zola use natureimagery to reinforce his revolutionary theme? Note that the novel ends, as itbegan, in the month of Germinal (early April).
What do you think Zola was trying to accomplish in writing this novel? Revolutionary agitation? Conservative warning against revolution? Somethingelse? What is your reaction to the events in this novel? With whom do youultimately sympathize? How do you feel about the political views of thevarious characters?

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