Is Thérèse Raquin a Naturalist Novel?

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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 order to debate and speculate as to whether Thérèse Raquin can be read or interpreted as a Naturalist novel. Naturalism may be defined as a scientifically accurate extension of realism characterized by a magnified perspective through which the author displays the primitive nature of humans (using characters with strong animal drives who are “victims both of glandular secretions within and of sociological pressures”) and adopts an objective and emotionally detached approach to the characters in order to demonstrate the weaknesses and tragedies of 19th Century society, particularly amongst the lower classes. Zola’s prefaces to his novels at as essays on Naturalism and much of the deterministic and scientific philosophy behind the movement may be found, for example in the preface to Thérèse Raquin, Zola writes that he sees himself as a “mere analyst, who may have turned his attention to human corruption, but in the same way as a doctor becomes absorbed in an operating theatre” and comments that “the return to nature, the naturalistic evolution which marks the century, drives little by little all the manifestation of human intelligence to the same path”.

Firstly I will explore the common conventions of Naturalism that are



Bibliography: 1. Emile Zola, Thérèse Raquin (1868) 2 3. Clarence R. Decker The Aesthetic Revolt against Naturalism in Victorian Criticism, p 845, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Sep., 1938) 4 [ 3 ]. Emile Zola, Thérèse Raquin Préface de la deuxième édition (1868) [ 4 ] [ 5 ]. Ferragus. La littérature putride , (Le Figaro. 23 January 1868) [ 6 ] [ 7 ]. Charles Child Walcutt, American literary naturalism: a divided stream ( Minnesota, 1956)

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