Established in 1877, “The Trap” was Zola’s seventh novel, part of the long literary cycle Rugon Makkara. The main character of the work – the Parisian laundress Gervaise McCar – became the foundation that allowed the writer to show almost the entire working class of the French capital and give a naturalistic analysis of his life.
The first lover and common-law husband of Gervaise is Auguste Lantier, the father of Claude and Etienne Lantier (one of the main characters in the novel Germinal). By the nature of his activity, he is a hatter (in charge of hat production), but in essence he is an ordinary life-burner and gigolo living at the expense of his mistresses. Auguste throws Gervaise with two young children as soon as the family eats all the money, but returns to her when her laundry begins to generate income, and the laundress herself – throwing money to the right and left. Subsequently, the same Auguste scrolls with Virginie Poisson, the sister of Adele, to whom he once left Gervaise. Having ruined the Virginie confectionery shop, Lantier seeks a new victim for himself and disappears on the endless streets of Paris.
Gervaise’s husband, Roofer Cupo, is a representative of the working class himself. He is engaged in black, dirty and dangerous work, after which he wants only one thing – to drink. Kupo begins to drink in the “Trap” of Uncle Colomb during the courtship of Gervais. Subsequently, he becomes addicted to drinking, moving from a light cream to wine, and then vodka. After falling from the roof, Cupo realizes how beautiful life is when you do not need to constantly take risks and especially work. From this moment, the transformation of the hero begins. “Burnt” in the roofing business, Cupo in no way wants to break away from the bottle, drank to delirium tremens and dies in terrible agony.
The platonic lover of Gervaisa, the blacksmith of Gujo, is the son of a lace-maker. Naive, kind and faithfully loving his lady of the heart, he adores his work just as much. When a beloved woman visits him at the forge, Guzho carves real love sparks from metal, while the laundress reaching for him with all her heart does not feel burning bites of flame on her body. Brought up by a decent woman, Guzho is an honest, hardworking, faithful person. He is ready to give everything to his beloved, but he can’t take it, even in times of extreme need (when Gervaise decides to sell his body for a piece of bread).
The daughter of Gervaise and Coupo – Nana – a girl spoiled from childhood. Growing up in an atmosphere of universal love, from a young age she began to reach out for bodily love. The ruin of parents becomes an excellent opportunity for Nana to justify her debauchery. After the first sacrament, she immediately decides to work as a flower girl under the guidance of her aunt, Ms. Lera, because she hears how unflattering adults speak of women working in this profession. The impoverishment of the Kupo family and their own young beauty leads Nanu to the idea that you can live happily by selling yourself to wealthy manufacturers or dancing erotic numbers in cafesanthans.
The artistic time of the novel “The Trap” includes about two decades of the life of Gervèza Coupeau, starting from her arrival in Paris with Lantier and ending with a starvation. Exhausting work in the laundry room, a wedding with a roofer, the birth of a daughter, opening one’s own business and ruin are shown in the work as one of the most natural life patterns of a simple person. The art space of the “Trap” is limited even at the very beginning of the narrative by the Gervézé looking out of the hotel window. Looking at the streets of Paris, the laundress feels that her whole life will now be concentrated between the slaughterhouse and the hospital. The title of the novel – “The Trap” – is deeply symbolic. It defines the true essence of life of the representative of the working class in the French capital.
In the novel, Zola with inimitable skill reveals the professional features of building laundry, blacksmithing and jewelry production, restaurant and flower business, hospital treatment. Many work processes (washing, forging, making gold chains, etc.) are described in such detail that the author himself has been engaged in them for more than one year. The naturalism of the novel can be traced both in the description of the details of life (most often, beggarly), and in the smallest details of the saturation of the characters with food.
Food periodically becomes the main character in the Trap. Tasty dishes are the outlet of the hard-working Zervaza. Other heroes happily follow her to the table, absorbing the food offered by the washerwoman with such passion, as if eating for the last time in her life. The feast in honor of the nameday of Gervaisa – the last piece of the ruining washerwoman – resembles a feast during the plague. Relatives and guests eat greedily, to show and envy the whole of Paris. Female stomachs swell up to the state of “pregnancy”, people begin to release gases, spew out the food they eat, but nothing prevents them from enjoying the next dish and wine – both expensive and cheapest. Food – the meaning of the life of a simple Parisian worker – is perhaps the only thing that can unite all the heroes of the novel at one table. Separated by envy, hatred, pettiness, the characters of the “Trap” are united only under the auspices of the good-natured Zherveza, who dreamed of living a calm, well-fed life, but died, like most Parisian women, in hunger and poverty.