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Emile Zola is viewed by many as the most significant writer of naturalism of the nineteenth century, a theory of which the objective is the exact and scientific description of social reality.


Germinal embodies this precision and authenticity through Zola's scientific approach, encyclopaedic style of writing, his characterisation of a typology of classes and symbolism which is dictated by ideas that naturalism wishes to impose. Alternatively, critics such as J.K Huysman and Ruth B.Antosh would contest Zola's stance as a naturalist writer where the ambiguity of his ideas and artistic style and devices stand in contradiction.

Like many of his novels in Les Rougon-Macquart collection, Zola's approach to writing was similar to that of a scientist and thus Germinal can be viewed as ruthlessly scientific and therefore compatible with naturalism. Firstly, he observed a subject of inquiry- the mining community, supported by documentation- 'Notes sur Anzin'. Secondly, he carried out an experiment, in this instance by introducing Etienne as catalyst into the substance, and thirdly, he observes the results of this experiment. As explicitly laid out in "Le Roman exp'rimental", Zola claims: "'si la m'thode experimentale conduit ' la connaissance de la vie physique, elle doit conduire aussi ' la connaissance de la vie passionnelle et intellectuelle."

Germinal is a fictional story based on fact. In this respect it incorporates and illustrates an abundance of information from documentary sources such as the‘Notes sur Anzin’, and ‘l’ouvrage du Dr Boëns Boisseau’ which Zola refers to continuously in his footnotes, in order to educate the reader on illnesses unique to the mining community. In fact, Zola’s preparatory research on life in the mining community was so thorough that Zola is able to transfer his knowledge in a highly descriptive style, by paying attention to major and minor authentic details. ...
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