Essay on Germinal: Zola's treatment of the family's economy and daily life in the expanding industrial society.

Essay by dimi19University, Bachelor'sA+, October 2004

download word file, 10 pages 5.0

Nothing has so clearly defined the modern world and produced such a revolutionary break with the past as the Industrial Revolution. Beginning in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century, it spread throughout Europe and North America during the nineteenth century and has had an impact on the whole world in the twentieth. Ideology in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries revolved around interpretations of the social effects of the Industrial Revolution. Socialist and Marxist thought zeroed in on the new urban proletariat, envisioning this new class as a force for radical social change. The appeal of fascism and National Socialism was in great measure to those in the middle classes who felt they were losing out in the rush of social change that industrial development precipitated. Writers such as Dickens, Balzac, and Zola described life in the new cities, making the nineteenth-century novel the instrument par excellence for exploring the human consequences of industrialization and analyzing the standard of living of industrialized society.

What drove the Industrial Revolution were profound social changes, as Europe moved from a primarily agricultural and rural economy to a capitalist and urban economy, from a household, family-based economy to an industry-based economy. This required rethinking social obligations and the structure of the family; the abandonment of the family economy, for instance, was the most dramatic change to the structure of the family that Europe had ever undergone.

In Germinal, Emile Zola creates a very special and powerful human drama based on a miners' strike in late Nineteenth Century France. The common people who are its main characters engage in a class struggle against overwhelming odds, and given the forces arrayed against them, the reader is aware that they are doomed to defeat. Towards the denouement, however, their cause is still...