Emile Zola began his novel Germinal with the intention of showing how Étienne had inherited his parents' alcoholism. Try to decide as you follow his story whether he is genuinely an alcoholic.  

Expert Answers info

Madeleine Wells eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write3,263 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

The modern textbook definition of alcoholism centers on the frequent craving to imbibe. In many ways, this definition has likely held firm for centuries and across many cultures. Take a look at the definition of alcohol abuse disorder here.

In Germinal, our protagonist, Etienne, is the son of alcoholics. Through him, Emile Zola presents a realistic portrayal of the struggles of the working class in 19th century France. For many miners, alcohol is both a proletariat panacea as well as the vehicle for further degradation and ruin. In Part One, Etienne admits to Catherine that he was fired from his mechanic's job at the railroad for striking his boss. However, he confesses that alcohol had a part to play in his loss of control.

"I ought to say that I had been drinking," he went on, "and when I drink, I get mad; I could devour myself, and I could devour other people. Yes, I can't swallow two small glasses without wanting to kill someone. Then I am ill for two days...He hated brandy with the...

(The entire section contains 606 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial