Essay about Is Thérèse Raquin a Naturalist Novel?

1870 Words Nov 14th, 2012 8 Pages
Is Thérèse Raquin a Naturalist novel?

Émile Zola is often considered the chief literary theorist of the Naturalist movement and so one would assume that his creative offspring, including the novel Thérèse Raquin, would display the traits of the genre. Zola may be responsible for many of the conventions that one would associate with Naturalism and so naturally you could extend this logic to argue that his work defines the genre. To the modern reader, Thérèse Raquin appears anything but naturalistic with a dramatic, fast moving plot that boasts murder, adultery and revenge that almost becomes synthetic in places. However, for the sake of this essay, I must decide upon a firm definition for Naturalism, in its correct historical context, in
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Controversy may be viewed as another defining characteristic of the Naturalistic genre and if we are to consider Thérèse Raquin in its correct historical context (1867), it is not difficult to understand why it caused much scandal due to Zola’s honest and uncompromising exploration of the darkest aspects of human existence. One critic, Louis Ulbach, wrote in Le Figaro in January 1868 that the novel was “a pool of mud and blood” and was a perfect example of “the utter filth that is contemporary literature”. It is the disposition of the Naturalist writer that assumes an amoral attitude to the plot and acts somewhat as a voyeur rather than a judge. Personally I view François, the same cat over which many critics and scholars speculate as to whether it is the cat in Manet’s portrait Olympia, as somewhat of a metaphor for the Naturalist author. François is present in many of the most climatic and socking scenes, most notably the passionate scene of Camille’s murder, and remains detached but also demands some sort of presence so much so that Laurent becomes frightened and wants to “kill the beast” as he remarks how “human” it looks. The fact that Laurent almost personifies the cat may suggest that animal and man are alike in the very basic sense of instinct. I think that the Naturalist author assumes a similar stance to this cat as he remains a quiet and unbiased third