In your second essay assignment, consider the socio-political issues in mile Zola’s The Belly of Paris. Write a 1000-1500-word letter from one character or from Zola himself to another character or public figure we learned about in class.
While grading, I will be looking for your ability to offer specific reference to the novel and to historical events. Note also that I will be looking for interpretive conclusionscan you draw your ideas together?and an overall analysis of the novel.
Here are some options. Feel free to generate your own ideas.
1. Adopt Florent’s voice and perspective to explore his job as a fish inspector at Les Halles. Consider how Florents position at the fish market is the impetus for his socialist, revolutionary ideals. How can we consider this plot point in relation to the development of a revolutionary character living under the Second Empire? How is a revolutionary made? What did he try to accomplish? And what consequences did Florent face?
2. For Claude Lantier, a modern painter, the tension between Fat and Thin, two hostile groups, characterized the Second Empires power structure as the Fatdevours the otherand endlessly enjoys itself (191). Adopt Claude’s voice and perspective to explore his views on the class structure of the Second Empire. How does Fat and Thin operate as a political metaphor (191)? What was Claude’s pictorial project? What is the role of the artist during a time of political uncertainty?
3. Madame Franois, an allotment farmer from Nanterre, sells vegetables at Les Halles. Adopt Madame Franois voice and perspective to explore her views of Paris and Les Hallesa place of deathin contrast to the joy she finds on her allotment, where Florent was reborn in the pure air (189). In providing a juxtaposition between Paris and Nanterre, how can we consider the relationship between urban spaces and rural places? And with a modern, remodeled (Baron Haussmann, anyone?) Paris?
4. Lisa Quenu and Quenu enjoy a bourgeois (middle-class) lifestyle in their charcuterie publicly and make subversive choicessexual and political, respectivelyhidden from neighborhood view. Adopt their voices and perspective to explore the juxtaposition of their respectable public life versus their hidden life. How do they rectify their behavior? Why call into question the hypocrisy of those benefitting under Napolon IIIs Second Empire?
5. Zola emphasized the interrelated relationship between food and violence throughout the novel. From the first descriptions of Les Halles, to scenes of stuffing blood sausage, or to the “bleeding gills” of the fish market, food signifies death, decay, and destruction (17, 87-89, 91). In contrast, Madame Franois’ garden “restored [Florent] to life in the fertile atmosphere of the country” (190). Adopt Zola’s voice and perspective to explore why he wrote the novel. How did Zola use food to underscore what happened in Paris before and after the Second Empire?