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In Germinal, how does Zola compare the lives of the miners to the mine owners?

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krazykid34 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 19, 2013 at 9:59 PM via web

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In Germinal, how does Zola compare the lives of the miners to the mine owners?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 21, 2013 at 10:34 PM (Answer #1)

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Emil Zola's novel Germinal is a Naturalistic novel which illustrates the power and importance of nature. Repeatedly personified, the mine (the center image of the novel) is referred to as a beast which swallows the miners like food. Outside of the comparison of all who enter the mines as being food for the beast, not much between the miners and the mine owners is similar.

In fact, the miners are repeatedly referred to as animals: "they were dragging their feet and slipping on the mud, like some grim herd of animals struck down by some fatal disease" (192). Like animals, the miners worked for, basically, scraps. Many were extremely poor, families sending their very young children to work in the mines along side parents and grandparents. Unfortunately, they knew nothing more than working in the mines.


The mine owners, on the other hand, lived very profitable lives. At dinners, they spoke of shareholdings and lives of extravagance. Not worried until Etienne organizes an uprising, they believe their workers to be honest and trustworthy: "The workers would need to be proper thieves to steal so much as a pin from us" (213).

That said, when one reads into the novel, one similarity can be unearthed: all bow to the power of nature. When one of the mines explodes (sabotaged by a worker), nature fails to differentiate between the worker and the owner. All fall to the power of nature.

In the end, the lives of the elite (the mine owners) and the workers come full circle. The miners, regardless of the desire for better working conditions fail to change anything. The mine owners still run everything. It is simply the nature of things--the survival of the fittest.

 

Emile, Zola. Germinal. London: Penguin Books, 2004. Print.

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