In Germinal by Emile Zola, what are three reasons to support whose approach represents the miners' best hope-- Etienne Lantier, Rasseneur, or Souvarine? Why?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Germinal by Emile Zola, all three miners--Etienne Lantier, Rasseneur, and Souvarine--develop a Marxist stance concerning unfair labor treatment and unfair wages. Karl Marx argued against the capitalist system, asserting capitalism leads to economic instability and social class divisions. More specifically, he argued that the persistence of capitalism will lead to a revolution led by the oppressed proletariat, or working class, against the bourgeoisie, or middle class business owners. Since all three agreed with Marxism ideals, three reasons that support which character represents the miners' best hope for achieving economic freedom will be found in evidence other than Marxism.

Instead, it can be argued that out of the three, Entienne Lantier's approaches truly represent the miners' best hope of achieving equality and economic freedom. One piece of evidence we see concerns the fact that Lantier is the only one of the three characters who becomes the actual leader of the strike. More importantly, other characters even argued against the strike, such as Rasseneur, who warned Lantier that the strike could develop into a violent mob, which sadly does happen. In fact, it can even be said the strike did not achieve the immediate results Lantier and the others were hoping for.

Regardless of the strike's violence and inability to generate immediate success, Lantier soon learns that his strike has instigated strikes all over France. Hence, the second piece of evidence showing Lantier represents the miners' best hope for relief from oppression is the fact that, just as Karl Marx predicted, the entire working class of France has risen up in revolt against the bourgeoisie. Lantier knows these strikes happening all over France will develop into a revolution that will hopefully bring economic and social equality and fulfill the miners' hope of relief from oppression.

A third piece of evidence can be seen in the fact that, even though Lantier's strike led to violence, other characters used more violent and destructive means to make their protests. For example, Souvarine actually sabotages the  mine, leading to miners becoming trapped and killed. Souvarine acted violently out of both a desire to destroy the oppressive company and to make sure his voice of protestation was heard by leaving his mark on the company, as we see in the following passage: ... "he had left his mark; the frightened world would know that the beast had not died a natural death" (Part 7, Ch. 2). However, wanting to destroy the company, at any cost, shows that Souvarine does not really care about the well-being of his fellow miners; he really only cares about making his protest. Therefore, it can be said that only Lantier truly cares for the well-being of his fellow miners, showing us that Lantier is truly the miners' best hope for overcoming oppression.

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