Thérèse Raquin Imprisonment Quotes

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In Emile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin, the motif of imprisonment serves to convey the theme of nature’s omnipresent power over humans, as well the futility of free will. Through his naturalistic lens and numerous patterns of imagery, Zola also makes pertinent comments concerning the role of the lower classes in the hierarchal society of his time. He achieves this largely through the diction used in the description of the main characters’ circumstances, as well as choosing to maximize nature’s role in key events in order to give the impression that nature, despite humans’ best efforts, controls all. The motif of imprisonment is ubiquitous throughout the novel, although it manifests in varying forms as the novel progresses. Before Thérèse meets Laurent,…show more content…
This becomes strikingly evident near the end of the novel, when they finally became “exasperated at the cords biting into their flesh” and “suffocating[ed] with rage, they exchanged blows, hurled foul abuse, and committed shameful acts of brutality against one another.” (170) This explosive behaviour shows the final effects of their imprisonment: a specific form of insanity from which there is no…show more content…
However, this is paired with a strange sense of sympathy for the main characters. Upon first glance, it doesn’t seem as though Thérèse and Laurent are worthy of any commiseration; their actions were met with appropriate reactions. This is not, evidently, what evokes this sense of empathy, but instead it is their unfortunate position. It is extraordinarily depressing to imagine being completely powerless in one’s life, unable to change any aspect of one’s situation without being met with another even worse than the last. It is through this subtle understanding that Zola succeeds in making a pertinent comment concerning the situation of the lower tiers of society during his era. Naturalism and Realism commonly focus on the deplorable conditions of the lowest-ranked members of society in order to counter the romanticism that prevailed at the time. Zola rebelled against this romanticismromanticism, writing different type of work, one he called the “Scientific Novel.” This work “would be created by placing characters with known inherited characteristics into a carefully defined environment and observing the resulting behavior” (Brians). Zola thus utilizes the characters and temperaments of Thérèse and Laurent to represent a certain partition of society, and to comment on it through the carefully executed behaviours of the characters, who are little more than scientific subjects.

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