I'm looking for a central topic of comparison/discussion for a dissertation on Germinal and L'Assommoir by Emile Zola. Any ideas? I was thinking of comparing the compassion and camaraderie shown by the working class in Germinal and comparing it to the selfishness of the working class in L'Assommoir, or perhaps something around the issue of alcoholism.

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Bradley Fritsch eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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For your dissertation on Germinal and L'Assommoir by Émile Zola, you might consider comparing the plight of the working class, a topic quite prevalent in both novels.

Comparisons and discussion points can be made about the main characters in each novel: Étienne Lantier in Germinal and Gervaise Macquart from L'Assommoir. Both undergo a harrowing journey to better their stations and wealth amid the social and economic circumstances of the day, and both succumb to a cruel fate, despite their efforts. Zola's greatest strength is his ability to show the working class toiling upward without progress, much like the efforts of Sisyphus.

One thesis discussion can look specifically at the decision to end both novels without the main characters succeeding or achieving their goals. Both protagonists fail to grow beyond their circumstances. What does this tell us about our world, our desire for riches and prosperity? What were the dreams of each character, and how were they lost within their lifetimes? When...

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