University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Abstract: Treier

The project I am currently working on is the undergraduate level honours thesis, which concludes my four-year bachelor’s degree of Arts. The field of study that I work in is nineteenth-century French literature with a focus on the oeuvre of Émile Zola. I am writing a mini thesis on the subject of punishment in Zola’s novel Nana and whether the naturalist writer allows his underlying moral connotation to judge, and in the end punish, his main character. My methodology for this thesis subject consisted of looking at articles written on Zola’s view of women and more specifically on his opinion of Nana, as well as researching the definition of punishment and of course including analyses of important literary passages taken from the novel. This thesis analyzes how Zola allows his character to get away with certain things such as ruining wealthy bourgeois men, driving some of them to suicide or jail and causing the demise of her colleagues. Furthermore, Zola mocks the bourgeois men for adoring and worshipping this lower class prostitute. Therefore, the inevitable question I needed to ask and to which I would like to find an answer is: Does Zola judge and punish his main character under the guise of morality or does he report the “false morality” of the social upper class who welcomed this prostitute into their circle? If the latter idea is in fact true, Nana symbolizes nothing more than an offering or a sacrifice in order for Zola to denounce the corrupt morals and values of the society in which he lived.