Zola's Biological Vision of Politics

The first of Zola's Rougon-Macquart novels introduces a number of themes recurring throughout the cycle, among them that of the relationship between sexual pathology and the striving for social reform The adolescent Sylvère, whose political innocence cannot be divorced from his idealistic conceptions of love, confuses love for the Republic with love for his girl friend. Zola's symbolism so clearly underlines this emotional confusion that a number of them read like post-Freudian clichés. And his revolutionary characters are so obviously suffering from sexual or nutritional deprivation that one need look no farther to explain the ardor of their campaign for justice, Zola's sociological explanations are (like his theory of heredity) by comparison weak and unconvincing. Only in Germinal does Zola succeed in combining the elements of sexual and social pathology, of personal desire and class aspiration, to form a convincing portrait of the revolutionary hero. (GCG)

Gerhardi, Gerhard C.
Volume 1974 Spring-Fall; 2(3-4): 164-80.