– Emile Zola Essay, Research Paper
Zola presents a rapid and powerful development of the affair between Th r se and Laurent. How effective is Zola s portrayal of the encounter between the lovers and what are the changes evident in the previously calm and assured Laurent?
Therese is fascinated by Laurent when he first walks into her life as an adult. She is spellbound by his sheer manliness and animal magnetism. He is strong, muscular and handsome the antithesis of Camille. As Zola writes, Therese had never seen a real man before. Laurent is able to transfix and unsettle her with a single look. It is obvious, right off the bat, that he has the young woman in his power. She sits, slack-jawed and pale, and watches Laurent attentively while he tells his story. He thinks up an excuse to come over to the Raquins more often Therese s reaction to him is intriguing. For the rest of the evening, he ignores her while she trembles with emotion.
Zola describes Therese s reaction physiologically, as he does other characters throughout the book. She cannot understand what it is about Laurent that makes her weak in the knees and constantly nervous around him. She, too, wants to find out more about the interesting stranger. She watches him paint Camille s portrait, oblivious to everything else . A strange force attracts her to him and she is unable to tear herself away. Therese can barely even speak to Laurent when he tries to make conversation; she quivers without knowing why. In describing the encounter in chemical and physiological terms, Zola is excellent. All of her behavioural symptoms of lust are presented in just the cold and objective way the author was aiming for.
Laurent s deliberation over whether or not to take his friend s wife as a mistress is interesting, tense in its vacillation but, ultimately, useless. He is doomed to love her. The situation is set up in a way that Laurent, with all his faults, cannot resist. His psychological addiction to the pleasures of the flesh and his intrinsic laziness draw him inexorably into the affair. Laurent s consideration of the consequences of his actions is but an afterthought, a rationalisation designed to put his mind at ease. With the decision made, he is confident enough to regard the affair as a done deal and let his imagination wander. He knows (or thinks he knows) that he can do what he pleases with her when he desires without fear of persecution.
When Camille s portrait is finished, Laurent finds himself alone with Therese. Neither are sure what to do until they come face to face. He grabs her roughly and she surrenders with only the most fleeting of resistance the act of love, or (more appropriately) lust is silent and brutal. Zola builds up suspense and it is finally released when the two lovers consummate their affair. Without fully understanding what is going inside them, they begin their tumultuous journey.
The lovers see their affair as inevitable and natural. Therese releases the pent-up emotions she has bottled for years in her passionate demonstrations of love, and Laurent satisfies his need for sex. Laurent seems unchanged after the relationship has begun but already he starts seeing Therese as beautiful and looks forward to their meetings more and more. She is growing on him and he feels ill at ease with her total abandon in bed. He has never known a woman who felt so strongly about him and the feeling quickly become mutual. The mere act of being away from her for a week physically pains him. From then on, he bows to her will . The ardour of Therese s love doesn t die down if anything, it increases. His confidence disappears and is replaced by caution and actual fear. Laurent, initially the controller, becomes the controlled as Therese s frenzied zeal takes her past him, to new heights. Slowly, she is taking over Laurent s mind and body but his uneasiness is the only sign that he knows this.
Therese becomes more daring and Laurent settles into his new existence as he realises how blind the people around him are and accepts the intrinsic risks in his quandary. He relaxes and regains his self-assurance. His only fear now is of his newfound bliss coming to an end. Still, his dependence on her is shown when he is forbidden to leave his job and he literally wilts without Therese. He, somehow, has become enslaved by his mistress, completely at her mercy. His initial conviction that this would be just another fling is replaced by the conviction that he cannot live without Therese by his side. Suddenly, Camille s murder seems like a valid and viable option to the adulterers. To Laurent, the husband is the obstacle in the way of his true happiness. He sees Camille s murder as the only way to continue his contented, lazy existence with his lover. So he puts his brutal peasant logic to work on conceiving a suitable accident for a man who is no longer his friend, but a hurdle on his personal track to ecstasy.