Germinal Characters
by Émile Zola

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

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Étienne Lantier

Étienne Lantier (ay-TYEHN lahn-TYAY), a French laboring man who becomes a miner and falls under the influence of Marxism, which he believes is the workers’ only hope. He organizes the miners, only to lose his popularity when a strike is settled and the people go back to work. His suffering, even the loss of his lover in a mine disaster, only persuades him that he must continue his revolutionary work. He is the illegitimate son of Gervaise Macquart.

Catherine Maheu

Catherine Maheu (kah-teh-REEN mah-HEW), a girl who works as a miner. She is loved by Lantier, even though she takes another man as her lover. She eventually becomes Lantier’s lover after they are trapped together in the collapsed mine. She dies before help reaches them.

Vincent Maheu

Vincent Maheu, an elderly miner nicknamed “Bonnemort” because of his many escapes from accidental death in the mines.


Maheu, Vincent’s son, the father of seven children. He becomes Lantier’s friend and works with him in the mine. He is killed by soldiers during a strike at the mine.


Maheude (mah-HEWD), Maheu’s wife.

Zacharie Maheu

Zacharie Maheu (zah-kah-REE), a young miner who marries his mistress after she presents him with two children.

Philomène Levaque

Philomène Levaque (fee-loh-MEHN leh-VAHK), Zacharie’s mistress and, later, his wife.


Souvarine (sew-vah-REEN), a misogynist who becomes Lantier’s friend.

M. Hennebeau

M. Hennebeau (ehn-neh-BOH), one of the mine owners. He refuses to make any concessions to the miners and imports strikebreakers to operate the closed mines.

Paul Négrel

Paul Négrel (nay-GREHL), nephew of M. Hennebeau. He feels compassion for the miners and leads a rescue party to save them after a mine collapses and traps Lantier and others below the surface of the ground.


Chaval (shah-VAHL ), a miner who seduces...

(The entire section is 470 words.)