Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Soleiade (sal-ayd). Aix-en-Provence residence of Doctor Pascal, located about fifteen minutes by foot from the Cathedral of St. Sauveur, and the center of the town’s diverse social life. The novel’s descriptions of the home are filled with the warm contrasts between shadows and light, stone and vegetation, so characteristic of the private lives of its occupants. More important than the interior, usually closed off from the sun, is Soleiade’s terraces and balconies overlooking the garden, where Pascal and his niece Clotilde spend a good part of their time.


*Aix-Plassans (aks-plah-SANZ). Quarter of Aix-en-Provence in which Pascal lives; it looks out on the beginnings of the countryside, which offers Pascal and Clotilde a refuge from daily social contacts during their frequent strolls. The soft valley of Plassans seems timeless, shaded by century-old cypress trees. As the region opens onto the countryside, the yellowness of its dusty soil recalls again the contrasts between shade and light. As for Aix-Plassans itself, Émile Zola probably chose this quarter because of his own father’s association with it, as an architect and builder of a prominent town fountain.

*La Viorne

*La Viorne (vjorn). Stream running through Aix-Plassans that is visible from the outer terrace of Doctor Pascal’s residence. Its shaded banks seem to draw the viewer’s attention away...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Grant, Elliott M. Émile Zola. New York: Twayne, 1966. Detailed analyses of Zola’s works, as well as of his theories, plans, and methods. Includes a discussion of Doctor Pascal, the final volume of the Rougon-Macquart cycle and a pivotal work in Zola’s oeuvre.

Hemmings, F. W. J. Émile Zola. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1966. Discusses Doctor Pascal as the summation of the Rougon-Macquart cycle. The birth of a male child at the end illustrates the theme of rebirth and rejuvenation. The character of Dr. Pascal is interpreted as incorporating Zola’s own ideas and philosophy of life.

Lanoux, Armand. Zola. Translated by Mary Glasgow. London: Staples Press, 1955. Lively biography that includes discussion of Zola’s works. Characterizes Doctor Pascal as a portrait of Zola in middle life. Like Zola, the hero’s chief concern is his fear of old age.

Nelson, Brian. Zola and the Bourgeoisie: A Study of Themes and Techniques in Les Rougon-Macquart. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1983. Doctor Pascal is included in a discussion of utopia and sex in the bourgeois world. Nelson concludes that the novel illustrates themes of decadence and renewal, and he links Zola’s utopian vision of progress to the value of work.

Wilson, Angus. Émile Zola: An Introductory Study of His Novels. New York: William Morrow, 1952. Informative theoretical background of Zola’s naturalism and materialism. Wilson characterizes Doctor Pascal as one of Zola’s novels of Aix, the scene of his provincial youth.