The role of the female in society is ever-altering. Different expectations, viewpoints, and judgments are constantly put upon women as the times change; however, their actions in the face of adversity often parallel. In a bleak, working class world, one is forced to do what one must in order to keep their head above water. Emile Zola's Germinal details the different actions of a variety of women in what is otherwise an environment controlled by the male sex - whether as a mother, a determined mineworker, or a scandalous mistress, the need for some form of female empowerment through any means necessary is apparent. Each group of women has a unique way of improving their lives in relation to those of others through specific means that may be either demeaning or admirable in their difficulty.
Though not traditionally feminist, the maternal idea is a unifying subject in Germinal and indeed holds weight in the power struggle between characters.
Zola's mother figures are consistent and true, in addition to holding their families and community together. The most prominent mother role is that of La Maheude. In being the grounded figure of what comes to be the featured family in this novel, she exemplifies many of the traits of common maternal influence, and she gives the readers an insight into an average family of colliers in late nineteenth century France.
La Maheude, as the featured maternal influence in the story, both encompasses strength and maternal instinct, aspects of an ironic and untraditional feminism, but does not let ambition escape the mind, even in the case of children.
It wasn't something you thought about, a child just came along, naturally. And when it was grown, it brought in some money and generally kept things going. In...