Une `danse macabre': L'Assommoir de Zola

The connotative richness of Zola's "langue verte" in L'Assommoir creates a network of literal and symbolic references to the traditional motif of the Dance of Death that both dehumanizes and universalizes the dancer. The word dance in the novel often designates festivity or life as in the scenes of the wash-house, the forge, and the ball; but is may also evoke a complicated fabric of meanings directly related to misery or death, having lost entirely any original Dionysian connotations. Thus, violence, hunger, and alcoholism are referred to in terms of "dance." This danse macabre motif transforms Coupeau's death, in a "Naturalistic" scene par excellence, into a powerful allegory as effective as that in Villon's "Ballade des pendus" or Holbein's "Dance of Death." (In French) (YBR)

Rollins, Yvonne B
Volume 1981 Spring-Summer; 9(3-4): 233-46.