“The Fortune of the Rougons”, analysis of the novel by Emile Zola

The work of the eminent French writer Emile Zola (1840 – 1902) was a transitional stage from the classical realism of Balzac to realism and naturalism of the 20th century. Zola, like the author of The Human Comedy, created a large series of social novels. In the early years, the writer began to think about the need for a broader study of society. This idea was realized by him in the series of novels “Rugon-Makkara”, on which the author worked from 1868 to 1893.

The novel “The Fortune of the Rougons” opens the series and is a kind of prologue to it. The author draws the origin of the Rougon and Makkarov family, as well as the origin of the Second Empire, which opened up new opportunities for the bourgeoisie. The background and culmination of the novel is a coup d’état, in the format in which it was perceived by the French provincials.

The reader learns about the origin of the family, which originates from the daughter of a prosperous gardener – Adelaide Fook. The girl married her laborer Rougon and gave birth to his son Pierre. After the death of her husband, Adelaide converges with a tramp and poacher Makkar. From this union illegitimate children are born – Ursula and Antoine. The offspring of Rougon inherit peasant acumen, greed, cunning. In the blood of Mccar, on the contrary, recklessness, a penchant for drunkenness, a passion for vagrancy, and courage are embedded.

As in any province, in Plassan everything is in sight. Therefore, the alignment of political forces is shown quite clearly. Residents of the town sacredly honor the customs that help them maintain their privileges from the attacks of the mob. Especially persist in this nobleman.

Entrepreneurs behave differently. With their commercial transactions, they somewhat enliven the sleepy atmosphere of Plassan. Bourgeois go to evenings, open salons. One of them – the “Yellow Salon” by Pierre Rougon – invariably collects “free-thinking” politicians from among shopkeepers and small businessmen. They read newspapers and flirt with the workers, but at the same time most of all venerate the authorities.

The third estate represented in the novel is artisans vegetating in the poverty of the old quarter, as well as peasants who sweat over the fields here.

Most of the characters are written out by Zola in the language of satire, because in his opinion, animal instincts are the basis of politics. So, the publisher of the Catholic newspaper Plassansky Vestnik looks like a slippery toad, the landowner Rudier is a spilled sheep, the leader of the merchants Granu resembles a well-fed gander. Among other things, these conspirators of the Yellow Salon are very cowardly.

The son of Pierre Rougon – Eugene is the link of the Paris counter-revolutionaries with the predators of the provincial town. His relatives skillfully use the moment. Pierre Rougon stage the Republican attack on the town hall and does not stop before the murder. Thus, he established himself as the savior of the city, “a great citizen, which Plassan will forever be proud of.”

Only representatives of the “third estate” truly protect the republic. This is the son of artisan Silver and his girlfriend, the peasant girl Mietta. The story of their love gives the novel a lyrical coloring.

Unfortunately, the tragedy of the era turns into a tragedy for its heroes. Mietta is hit by a stray bullet. Silver was shot by the gendarme. But for other characters in the novel, happy days come. In a fit of the predatory joy of the winner, Pierre Rougon changes his bloodstained shoes and accepts congratulations from the conspirators.

The coup on December 2, 1851 returned the crown to Bonaparte and laid the foundation for the prosperity of the Rougon.

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