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Written Assignment #2: Essay On Germinal: Zola's Treatment Of The Family's Economy And Daily Life In The Expanding Industrial Society.

1341 words - 5 pages

Emile Zola's novel Germinal depicts an unflattering view of the working class in late nineteenth century France. Zola presents a view into the terrible conditions of the working class and shows the hardships of a coal miner named Etienne. The worker is depicted as a slave to his employer who is treated unjust on many occurrences. Food was a pleasure to have and scarce, thanks to the problem of low wages. There were rampant dangers and problems around such as fines, strikes, and illness. The motto at the time of the workers was "To each according to his worth, and each man's worth determined by his works." (169). This period saw the work a man does determining his worth, and his work was done in horrifying conditions.The first and foremost major problem for a worker was that he was a slave to his employer. Etienne's manager even says it strait out to Etienne that "I am just a paid servant like you and have no more say in all this than the youngest of your pit boys." (217). Etienne was distressed and well aware of this situation and anxiously thought about how "the miner was waking up under the ground, germinating in the earth like good seed, and one fine morning you would see him springing up like corn in the fields...why should the worker remain the slave of the employer who paid him? The big Companies now crushed everything down with the weight of their machines." (167). This was the situation of the working class, who were forced to live a miserable existence under the horrible oppression of the big "Companies." One major problem that arose in the novel was a poster going up changing the payment method for the miners, which was literally cheating them out of their wages. The poster informed them that in view of the lack of attention paid to timbering and as it was tired of inflicting useless fines, it had decided to introduce a new system of payment for coal getting. Henceforth timbering would be paid for separately, by the cubic meter of wood taken down and used, with due regard to the quantity necessary for good work. The price per tub of coal extracted would of course be lowered from fifty to forty centimes... (178).Etienne read out the poster to his fellow miners, who were illiterate, realizing What did the company take them for? The timbering would never make up the ten centimes cut per tub. The most they could make would be eight centimes, and that meant that the company was doing them out of two, apart from time careful work would take. So that was what the company was up to, a disguised wage cut! They were economizing out of the miners' pockets. (178)Apart from being swindled out of money unjustly, food was another major issue plaguing the poor working class. Maheu, another miner, noticed "he had been haunted by the empty cupboard and the house without coffee or butter, and the memory had kept on jerky itself back into his mind in painful stabs." (115) Maheude asked for husband Maheu to get a "bit of veal" (173) because "[they] haven't...

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