The Structural and Functional Manifestation of Space in Zola's Rougon-Macquart

Spatially, the novels of the Rougon-Macquart form a tightly knit system in which characters and events seem imprisoned. Zola's descriptions of things, which constitute space, structurally manifest this notion of enclosure. Beginning with the various milieus he wishes to depict, he focuses on geometric lines of orientation and the relationship among things as to their size, quantity, or number and combines reality with his own poetic imagination, evoking primarily the aspects of space that create an atmosphere of physical and mental entrapment. His exposition and resolution of chronologically developed relationships between things and characters structures our increasing knowledge of the space in which his stories unfold. Thus he fuses the structural manifestation of space with its functional manifestation, which enables him to impose on us the effect of journeying into a world where people are oppressed by the sensation of suffocation and haunted by darkness, anguish, and death. Simultaneously, however, Zola's novels present a world marching forward, toward prophetic openings in space that are functionally complemented by the new points of view its very depiction imposes on us. (LK)

Kamm, Lewis
Volume 1975 Spring-Summer; 3(3-4): 224-36.