“The Belly of Paris”, analysis of the novel by Emile Zola

The novel “The Belly of Paris” was written by Emile Zola in 1873. In it, the French writer showed the tragedy of one person’s life and the natural course of life of a whole group of people connected by the same district of Paris – the Central Market. The novel became the third work in the literary cycle ” Rugon-Makkara”, consisting of twenty independent major stories. In the “Belly of Paris”, one of the main characters belongs to the Rugon-Makkarov family – the beautiful Lisa, the wife of the sausage owner Kenyu and daughter-in-law of Florent.

The novel got its name from the main scene – the new Central Market, built in Paris during the seven-year absence of the protagonist. Accidentally taken on the streets of Paris on December 2, 1851, Florent escapes from exile home, it seems, with the only thought – to find his younger brother Kenya and to continue the life of a respectable citizen so ridiculously cut off. From the very first pages of the novel, the reader, together with the main character, plunges into the food splendor of the “cast-iron colossus”. Dying of hunger, Florent enters Paris on the “bed of vegetables” Ms. Francois. The first walk in the French capital turns into a true torture for a young man – he is constantly forced to observe a delicious scattering of earthly fruits, the main of which is cabbage. Despite all his naturalism, Zola describes this vegetable in a very picturesque way: he compares cabbage leaves with “green velvet”, forks with “huge roses” and “dull metal bombs”.

Throughout the novel, the French writer has consistently addressed a particular product topic. Each of the heroes appears in his food environment. Zola describes the product range in detail. The artistic characterization of the characters is largely given by what they sell. In the “shaved physiognomy” of Kenyu’s sausage, “distant resemblance to a pig’s snout” is noted; the son of a fisherwoman, Louise Meyden, has been playing among the fish since infancy and as a “nimble little mullet” constantly climbs into the water; the flower-selling girl-found Kadina “herself was a warm, lively bouquet”; The “vile speeches” mademoiselle Sage and Mrs. Leker are akin to cheeses that are “unbearably stink” in the shop.

Most merchants of the Central Market are a class of petty bourgeoisie, content with their existence and thanking the Empire for it. Their position in life is most fully reflected in Lisa’s reasoning that the main thing is to work honestly and not harm anyone. The well-fed, fat-filled merchants in the novel are opposed by the circle of revolutionaries headed by Florent. Not finding himself in the role of a fish inspector, the former exile decides to devote his life to a revolutionary cause. The main character dreams of changing the world around him, but does not take into account one simple fact: he is not a killer. Best of all, the inner essence of Florent is determined by his close friend, the artist Claude Lantier, calling him “a dreamer politician.” And indeed: the failed lawyer and former school teacher, with all his revolutionary disposition, is not able to endure even the scenes of the killing of pigeons. At the same time, the bulk of traders in the Central Market calmly relate to fresh carcasses, assessing the correct consistency of blood and working with fresh meat. As a true naturalist, Zola in great detail describes unsightly episodes of market life – the preparation of black pudding, crabs with torn legs, the stench and stench of the fish pavilion on hot summer days.

The central market – it is the Belly of Paris – becomes in the novel a symbol of “sustainable digestive happiness”, “the hidden pillar of the Empire.” Having pushed out a foreign element in the form of Florent, the Central Market continues its measured life.

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