December 7, 2011
Émile Zola: Thérèse Raquin
In the novel, Thérèse Raquin, the author, Émile Zola, presents the reader with a story of characters that undergo the fight between free will and fate. The principle of free will is reoccurring in the realm of naturalism, which is the foundation of all of Zola’s literary works. Thérèse and Laurent, the main characters, had committed adultery, murder, and then had to deal with the consequences of their actions. Zola brings the reader to analyze what had motivated them to commit this immoral behavior and what it did to torture the rest of their lives. He presented the characters with a lack of control over their instincts which emphasized the strength of fate over one’s free will. Zola writes with a scientific approach as there are emotional events yet it is vacant of any emotion. He portrayed the characters as human brutes and their functioning resembled that of a machine. This principle of fate overpowering free will had an impact on the characters lives both physically and morally as it is evident throughout their miserable existence preceding their crimes. The consequences of their animalistic actions left them with horror filled hallucinations, physical ailments, unhealthy relationships, and no will to live. Zola explains this questionable behavior by attributing a lack of control over their decisions and a 3 of emotion in their reaction to what they had done. This brings the reader to discover this battle between one’s free will and the uncontrollable fate present in their lives Without free will, the characters, especially Laurent and Thérèse have lost hope in gaining control over their lives. They were having an affair and viewed Camille’s existence as a burden, and this instinct drove them to their actions. In a sane mind, that would not seem like a rational evaluation of a situation. This reoccurring lack of control over their immediate instincts contributes to Zola’s main theme of fate’s strength over humanity. The murder of Camille, Thérèse’s spouse, was the outstanding result of the defeat to fate Laurent and Thérèse experienced but was not the only repercussion. These two were mentally harassed by simply the presence of one another. This haunting deteriorated their relationship in all aspects, especially sexual interaction and passionate feelings for each other.
The murder committed brought complete misery to their physical state. The guilt they felt affected them in ways such as cramping limbs, discomfort within their whole body, and non stop sweating. Their soul was absent from the guilt they were feeling and it was cast upon them in a physical manner. When Laurent and Thérèse slept together there would be a large space in between and would dread the thought of any intimate pleasure with each other. For example, Zola wrote, “When they did wake up, their limbs stiff and aching, with livid blotches on their faces, shivering with discomfort and cold...ashamed to show their disgust and terror”(Zola, p125). Their bodies reactions to their feelings were the only expression of emotion that they had. Rather than feelings from their soul. This portrayed their lose of control over themselves not only morally in their actions, but physically. Thérèse at times felt the remorse, despair, and stress of what they had done to someone she had loved and been committed to. Whenever this was evident, Laurent would get upset with her and make sure that she immediately forgot those feelings and depleted any evidence of having a soul. Thérèse did not handle the consequences of their actions as easily as Laurent. She was most distressed when she was alone with Madame Raquin, Camille’s mother. One scene with just the two of them was described as, “She would lie down on the floor, then get up again, acting according to whatever idea of humility or pride, repentance or revolt came into her head”(167,...
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