The Cycle of Nature in Germinal

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Alexandre Guay
A.P. Literature
The Cycle of Nature

The term "germinal" does not make any appearance in Emile Zola's novel, even though it is used as the title. The word itself represents the seventh month of the Republican calendar, which starts in March and ends in the middle of April. The Republican calendar is a calendar that was created by the French government during the French Revolution. Used for twelve years, the calendar had twelve months that had a certain relationship with the season that would accompany those months. Each week was separated into ten days, called a decade, and each month was separated into three decade, for a total of 30 days per month. The Republican calendar year started with the month of "Vendemiaire", which represents September 22nd for the American calendar. Each month's name was chosen from the names of plants, trees, flowers, animals, and farm tools. The month of Germinal represents the renewal of the cycle of nature. Both definitions of the term germinal don't seem to reveal anything about the novel at first, but they are the pillars of the novel. By having a metaphorical approach, the reader can have a better understanding of the relationship between the title of the novel, and the novel itself. The month of germinal represents the transition of an era from rough times, to a revolutionary era, marked by the arrival of better times. This theory is represented by the arrival of Etienne Lantier, who could be qualified as the revolutionary era itself.

The story begins "on a starless, in-dark night," (1) of March, when Etienne Lantier arrives at Le Voreux with the purpose of finding a job that could change his pitiful life. Not long after he starts working does he realize that the way the company treats the miners is "simply not fair." (56), and that lives of all the miners are constantly put at risk. When Lantier hears Rasseneur say : "Well, now! The minute they decide to cut the rate, they're sunk." (69), he "became...
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