THE NATURALIST NOVEL: REALISM, IRONY, OR MYTH? AN ARCHETYPAL STUDY OF ZOLA'S "LA CUREE"
BAILES, JULIA MARGUERITE
Doctor of Philosophy
The series of the Rougon-Macquart is the grand epic of the nineteenth century. As in the series that comprise the earlier, classical epics, each link in the chain can stand alone and be examined separately from the rest. La Curee, the second novel in the series, is particularly interesting for, in it, a naturalist novel--itself an ironic form--Zola has written a myth in the true sense of the word. An archetypal study of La Curee reveals three distinct and definite stories recounting the Quests of three distinct and definite heroes. All of these heroes follow the pattern of what Joseph Campbell calls the Monomyth, the universal, metaphorical rendering of the explanation of life. This Monomyth is the story of the Hero's Quest and always entails certain steps: separation from society (especially mother), initiation (tests and trials), and return to society, the Hero bringing with him the boon of knowledge gleaned from the Quest. The myth of La Curee, like the universal Monomyth, has a specific structure: it is quite definitely circular and cyclical. The novel is circular in physical structure and the themes of death and rebirth, construction and destruction and the continual round of the phases of time recur in cyclical fashion. Zola's mixed use of demonic and apocolyptic imagery throughout is a further indication of the author's feeling (conscious or unconscious) for the mythic form within the guise of the ironic novel. Zola's desire to write a great epic succeeded in The Rougon-Macquart series, but his writing of La Curee shows that he was more than a scientist observing the history of a family--he was an imaginative author capable of explaining his world and survival in it, just as the classics and primitives explain theirs, through the metaphysical restatement of the Monomyth, the only truly universal art form.