Why did Zola call the novel Germinal? What is "germinating"?

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Germinal looks backward and forward, in both ways with hope, and it acts as a warning to the upper classes to get their act together and start treating the laboring poor with more decency. Looking back, the word invokes the world of the French Republic, started by a revolution brought on by hunger and want that toppled the king and the aristocracy. The new government went so far as to rename the months of the year, calling the first month in spring, starting at about March 20, Germinal, a time of seeding or new birth, following by the month Floreal or flowering. Although this calendar was abandoned in 1805, it was brought back in 1871 by the Paris Commune, a radical government that ruled France for 18 days. That memory, not so long before the 1885 publication of Germinal, would still be vivid in many people's memories. So the title functions as a warning—the seeds of a revolution are again being planted in the hearts and minds of the suffering miners and, by extension, all of the...

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