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Part 5, Chapter 4 Summary

The mob departs from the Jean-Bart mine and begins to move; by then, Lantier has again taken charge of the group. Jeanlin is in front, playing his horn, followed by rows of women, arms interlocked and carrying sticks. The men are next, a “disorderly herd” stretching wide into the distance. Levaque’s axe glints in the sunlight. Lantier is in the middle of the group and makes Chaval walk in front of him. Maheu “looks thunderous” and shoots threatening looks at his daughter Catherine; she is the only woman walking with the men, determined to prevent anyone from hurting her lover, Chaval.

It is noon and suddenly a cry for bread breaks out; the workers have been on strike for six weeks and are desperately hungry. Even Lantier is forced to admit that his body is craving food, but he remains calm and determined to prevent “pointless destruction.” A disgruntled hewer from another mine joins the crowd and shouts that they should go to Gaston-Marie and stop the pump, which will flood Jean-Bart. The crowd is easily led and it begins to turn, despite Lantier’s begging them not to do so. Then Lantier shouts that there are scabs still working in Mirou and they should go there. With a sweep of his arm, Lantier diverts the mob away from destruction, at least for now.

As they reach the pit, they see a deputy waiting for them. It is old Quandieu, a former deputy from Montsou. Their respect for a fellow miner causes the mob to pause when he asks why they are here. Lantier shouts at him to tell the miners below to come up; Quandieu says there are only six dozen workers (everyone else was too frightened) and they will not come up. When the crowd starts to move, the deputy comes down from his post to block their way.

The throng advances but the deputy stands his ground, saying he will throw himself down the shaft if he must, but they will not pass. This shocks the crowd, and he reminds them that he is just like them: when he is given a task, he will do it or die. The crowd immediately turns and again shouts for bread; in the middle of the shuffle, Chaval tries to seize the opportunity to escape but Lantier grabs him and keeps him here. Catherine is struggling to keep up. Lantier and her father both tell her she can leave Chaval with them, but she refuses to leave.

The mob reaches the Madeleine mine at two o’clock, but the deputy had been warned and only twenty men are left at the bottom. When they emerge, the crowd attacks them but soon moves to the next mine, Crevecoeur, only five hundred meters away. There the crowd beats and humiliates scab workers and damages equipment. In a frenzy now, the mob moves to Saint-Thomas, a mine virtually unaware of the strike. Seven hundred workers are below ground, and the throng is infuriated. At first they decide to wait, but rumors of gendarmes frighten them and they move to Feutry-Cantel where four hundred people are working the mine.

Again rumors of armed soldiers deter the crowd and they falter. Next they travel five...

(The entire section is 804 words.)