Is Thérèse Raquin a Naturalist Novel?

1868 words 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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On its publishing, Thérèse Raquin was accused of immortality and if the critics were not accusing Zola of an “alleged perversion of public morality” then it would be for the novel’s “unsound philosophic and aesthetic assumptions”. Despite these accusations of immorality, Zola defends himself saying that it was, in fact, immoral to refrain from including such behaviour as the lack of obvious moral material was corrupting and that "the process of honest examination purifies everything, just as fire does."

Another aspect of this novel that argues in favour of Thérèse Raquin being a Naturalist novel is the sense of pessimism that one feels when reading it. This negative atmosphere is created by deliberately making the novel feel claustrophobic with the author using a number of devices such as an omniscient third person narrative, a limited number of characters and settings as well as a prevalent theme of imprisonment. For example, Zola’s displays Laurent’s captivity within his own guilt through describing his “hallucinations” of paranoia which reinforces the theme of claustrophobia and imprisonment. There is also much imagery that could be associated with hell with reference to vaults and holes, for example Thérèse admits she feels like she is “going down into the clammy earth of a pit” and that she is buried “in a vault”. The presentation of Laurent and Thérèse in relation to such pessimism and