Reference will, of course, be made to such works when appropriate. Their generally self-directed radical educations combine with, or actually produce, a set of features that reappear with remarkable fullness in all four characters: In L’Assommoir , the Goujets, a widowed mother and her twenty-five year old son, embody many of these values and are described in language that echoes Miehelet’s sentimental evocations of the simple, humble lives of the common people. Such emphasis and reiteration is placed upon the jumbled, fragmentary, poorly understood radical reading of these and other plebian characters that it seems clear that Zola is satirizing in a rather melancholy way one of the most important items on the romantic populists’ political agenda—popular education and popular literacy. A certain sterility is suggested by the failure of this would-be romance hero’s efforts to save her from her worsening situation with Coupeau and Lantier and to get her out of Paris.

As opposed to the sacred, haven of peace and the moral sense that Michelet found, in the working class family, L’Assommoir shows the various forms of domestic disintegration—adultery, abandonment, and violence—as pervasive in the peuple. Nonetheless, the familiar romantic or partisan sociology, which assumes a certain superiority in the lower classes compared to the rest of society, reappears in the plebian episodes of the series and provides some of the foundations on which these characters build their political programs. In particular, we will be seeking to illuminate the various facets of what we call ‘literary texture’ and how these might be rendered in translation. At first they refuse to believe any of Etienne’s ideas, but eventually they are brought under his charm: There was the thoroughly romantic notion, found for example in the early Michelet, that an uneducated lower class, by the natural, intuitive wisdom it possesses, could rule better than the sophisticated, the “cultured,” those out of touch with the heart. Part of that loathing and part of his own incongruity in that milieu stem, once more, from his literate background as a teacher.

Translating Zola’s L’Assommoir: a stylistic approach

In the scene at the lavoir Gervaise has come to work to support herself and her two illegitimate children and encounters Virginie, whose sister has stolen Lantier away from her and who has come to the lavoir for seemingly no other reason than to taunt Gervaise. If the Romantic vision had rested ultimately on a mythic basis, the peuple as a collective romance hero, a collective Christ or Christ-like martyr, or as a collective Prometheus, Zola changes that mythic basis and substitutes elements of the Orpheus story.


emile zola lassommoir dissertation

Even to the very end of the novel when the whole market district has turned against him and has revealed his radical activities to the police which moves immediately to arrest him, Florent remains naive about the Translation to come These are characters who ignore the Translation to come Home Research Durham e-Theses. Similarly, Valjean in Paris can be considered wealthy and retired; in Montreuil-sur-mer he had manufactured jet which was often used to make buttons.

emile zola lassommoir dissertation

Indeed, L’Assommoir is a great landmark of a novel in that it is set entirely in a working-class milieu and does not introduce the peuple merely as domestic servants or as foils for middle-class or aristocratic characters. They expect from popular revolution a sudden, apocalyptic, sometimes almost bloodless change in the dissertaton and in the nature of man. Despite Florent’s claim that Translation to come In such moments it is lassojmoir chosen receiver of divine or transcendental knowledge as zzola whole.

In Michelet this means several things: More importantly, his vision of the revolution is one that expects a wholsale moral change in the character of the working class and thus implies that he is profoundly disgusted by the peuple:.

A “Brave enfant,” it is precisely his ignorance that generates his “enthousiasmes,” a process which will occur again and again in Zola’s romantic revolutionary in the working class. There was the thoroughly romantic notion, found for example in the early Michelet, that an uneducated lower class, by dissertwtion natural, intuitive wisdom it possesses, could rule better than the sophisticated, the “cultured,” those out of touch with the heart.

The Populist Romance: L’Assommoir and Germinal: Orpheus among the Peuple

That the cataclysm brought with it physical destruction made little difference since what was destroyed, was an expression of the same corrupt world.

In fact one reviewer saw Zola as preaching to the worker through this particular character.

The romantic populist found Prometheus to “be a useful, expressive figure in many ways: The dizzying prosperity of the early years of the Second Empire could only be followed inevitably by decay and disaster toward the end. Although it may seem contradictory to label Zola’s revolutionaries, whom many critics have observed to be conspicuously similar, romantic populists at all, their careers and their characteristics are quite unlike those of Michelet’s own life or of Hugo’s revolutionaries.

Orphic beliefs were otherworldly, and indeed Etienne’s ideas quickly soar into the visionary: However, labelling them “romantic populists” emphasizes what is unusual or outstanding about them, and thus as an ironic label serves a useful function.


Of course Etienne does no real civilizing in any practical way, though his revolutionary visions imply a civilized and morally transformed peuple. Similarly, she seems able to accustom herself to practically any level of depravity; as she sees it, Translation to come However, to all but the most suspicious of minds, Valjean’s interests in Cosette are entirely generous and paternal. Nor are Zola’s revolutionaries much like the Princess Casamassima or Hyacinth in James’s novel or like Beramendi in Galdos’s, as we shall see in the following chapters.

If there is a progressive sense of history in Zola’s series, something that breaks out of the historical pattern of the Eternal Return, it is not because of the peuple. Madame Putois and Virginie’s discussion of abortion techniques in their rough, sarcastic tone illustrates this. We then move onto the thorny terrain of prose rhythm, examining how the particular beat and pressure of the original text might be made to resonate within the echo chamber of another language.

During a portion of the novel, the latter teaches a Translation to come Of course there are obvious differences: The revolutionary spirit contained in the very air of Paris, according to Hugo, becomes the equally intoxicating fumes of alcohol in the Paris of L’Assommoir. Etienne Lantier, as many have noted, is the most fully developed of all of Zola’s revolutionaries in that, along with possessing all the other characteristics discussed earlier, he is the most politically active and successful.

But as hardship mounts and becomes relentless, she finds it increasingly difficult to persist.

Translating Zola’s L’Assommoir: a stylistic approach – Durham e-Theses

Again, this may he no progressive spirit at all hut simply the will to bounce hack and begin the cycle of the Eternal Return all over again. Zola’s portrait of the peuple can be defended in one other respect; L’Assommoir is less of a political statement—if lassommkir political statement at all—than an aesthetic one. This familiar romantic revolutionary view is fiercely satirized, in Les Rougon-Macquart.