Monday, 11 January 2010


Émile Zola made it very clear that one of the main themes of his book was to expose the woes of the French miners faced. This idea of exposure is so vital in the birth of Investigative Journalism - and the reason why Émile Zola is tremendously respected in the industry.

The title, 'Germinal,' gives away so much when it comes to understanding this book. The idea is that the crushing of the miners eventually results in them backlashing and germinating into a new world, thus the oppression is a blessing in disguise.

His realist style in 'Germinal' is not only effective in a literary sense, but in the way it is that much more provocative as a result, making the reader want to do something about this disaster. This is extremely similar to the effect of John Steinbeck's 'Grapes of Wrath.'

Here are some quotes that are typical of 'Germinal'.

"On a pitch-black, starless night, a solitary man was trudging along the main road from Marchiennes to Montsou, ten kilometres of cobblestones running straight as a die across the bare plain between fields of beet." (p. 17)

- One of the best, certainly the most striking of openings I have ever read.
- Immediately picks up on the theme of loneliness, reflected in the high frequency of negative, uninspiring adjectives.

"Nothing left, not a penny, not even a crust; what was he to do now, on the road with nowhere to go and no idea even where to find shelter from the wind?" (p. 19)

- This sentence could be used to talk about anyone who has nothing, regardless of era or walk of life.
- Extremely depressing, thus extremely effective considering Zola's agenda.
- Plays on humans basic needs: food, money, shelter. Universal themes. Reminiscent of 'Grapes of Wrath' with the timeless theme of migration.

"...he picked the child [Estelle] out of her cradle and flung her on to her mother's bed, shouting in a frenzy of rage: 'Here, you take her; I could bash her head in...The brat has got everything bloody thing she wants...and yet she grouses louder than anybody else!'" (p. 32)

- An example of the violent/hostile imagery that courses through the book.
- Deep frustration. Cursing at three month old child.

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