Zola coloriste: l'emploi de la couleurs dans les Rougon-Macquart
Adler, Marianne Gresham
Master of Arts
Naturalism as a literary movement in France in the latter half of the nineteenth century is most closely associated with Emile Zola and his Rougon-Macquart series. Histoire naturelle et sociale d'une famille sous le Second Empire. The twenty volumes of this series reveal the scholarly documentation, objective narration, and scrupulous accuracy of detail that are the tenets of the Naturalist school. Color in the Rougon-Macquart series is the subject of this study. Whether Zola's perception and application of color is a result of the brilliance of light of his native Aix-en-Provence, of his association with the painters of the Impressionist school whom he met through his boyhood friend, Paul Cézanne, or of the influence of Gustave Flaubert, his acknowledged master and a superb colorist, is not the field studied here. Rather, it is the use of color which is explored and that use in the seven novels which seem most fully to reveal Zola's consciousness and treatment of color. Zola employs light and shade, color and colors -- for they are not the same -- in many aspects of his writing. The chiaroscuro effect of light and shadow plays constantly over the background of these novels, in some of them assuming a symbolic role. The great frescoes and tableaux, which often seem to sustain the plots, display a great variety of colors. Color is used in characterization to describe persons, animals, and milieux. Technical aspects of language rely on color, and it provides a continuity and cohesion to each of these works. It would be difficult to read these novels without being struck by the constant and effective use of color. In fact, color seems to balance their depressing realism and to go far to redeem their often sordid naturalism. These points, treated in detail here, seek to Justify the application of colorist for Zola.