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La Curée
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2014 Group Reads - Archives > The Kill (La Curée) - Chapter IV

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message 1: by Zulfiya (last edited May 07, 2014 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Please post your thoughts about this chapter.

As I posted elsewhere, I am slightly behind due to hectic end-of-semester experience and travelling arrangements, but tomorrow I will have a plenty of reading time across the Atlantic :-) Here are some very general questions to stimulate the discussion.

1. Is this chapter more revolutionary about social mores than the previous one?

2. How is the relationship between Renee and Maxime developing?

3. Why is Zola's narrative perspective is so neutral? Does it help to achieve more scathing and scornful tone or is he sincerely amused by the ' morality' of the bourgeoisie in France?

4. Is there a sympathetic character in the novel? Why/Why not?

message 2: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited May 10, 2014 07:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
I wonder if we should allot more time to this book. Several of us (including me) are a week or more behind. Or we can just each post on whichever chapter we've gotten to.

In the earlier part of this chapter, I thought Zola was staying within traditional boundaries, when he skips over the "fault" of Renee and Maxime in upstairs room of the restaurant. That is, they struggle and then "that was it" and next they are sitting on the couch and she is putting herself back in order. But when they are in her rooms, there is plenty to shock the Victorians.

He keeps calling it "incest" when that isn't strictly the case and she's only 7 years older than he is. (There are classical examples of this, such as Theseus' wife and stepson who fall in love.) But that label emphasizes how degenerate the act is. As we saw in the first chapter, Zola uses both home decoration and vegetation to demonstrate sensuality. The description of the greenhouse made me think of the Garden of Eden, they are the only two people in that tropical and fertile world and they are committing the one sin they are not supposed to commit.

There's also a continuation of the androgynous theme, that Renee looks like a boy at certain moments and acts like a man at others, while Maxime is the passive recipient of her attacks.

It's hard to feel sorry for Aristide who is so removed from his wife's daily life, and is rather surprised to feel attracted to her. I think the fact that Aristide refused money to Renee for the first time encouraged her to get back at him with Maxime. She doesn't say that but she does feel that she deserves some pleasure to forget her money worries.

I haven't read any further than this chapter, but my guess is that Maxime will tire of Renee and her possessiveness. We know she was jealous of his supposed fiancee as well as of his lovers (disturbed by the"I Love Maxime" message scratched on the mirror.)

These Rougon novels have been quite different from those I had read before, which were on the Macquart side and featured working class characters struggling to survive as miners, farmers, etc. I didn't know Zola wrote so much about the rich. He is objective in the sense that he views the characters from outside, but he's not objective in his descriptions. He uses the settings to emphasize his points and he also uses words like "degenerate".

message 3: by Zulfiya (last edited May 11, 2014 12:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments I finished reading this chapter on board the plane, and I did not expect how dramatic the changes would be in this chapter. I actually discovered how sensual Zola could be despite his naturalism. The scenes of sexual intercourse, as you said, allude to the Garden of Eden, and it is not the allusion to the vices the humanity possess - sexual and moral degradation rather than the pristine nature of human existence.

I am also slightly befuddled by Zola why he calls their relationship incestuous because they are obviously not blood-related. The same is surprisingly true about hamlet, who also accuses his mother of being wrapped in 'incestuous sheets', but it does underline the idea of moral decline.

And the androgynous theme is still very obvious even now when Maxime is a virile, grown-up man.

As for the speed, I think I will still open threads according to the original schedule, but I will allow people to post when they think they are ready to share their thoughts. the same was true for our previous read. If you remember, some posted long after the final week of discussion.

Dagny (madamevauquer) I think the reason that Zola refers to Renee and Maxim's relationship as incest is because she is at this point in time his step-mother.

Dagny (madamevauquer) The Café Anglais where Maxim and Renee went after the ball was virtually a Paris institution. It was around in Balzac's time also and many of his characters visited it.

I kept thinking that Renee would be spotted, especially after one of the stories which Maxim told her in the cab.

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments I am also surprised that no one has spotted her - they do seem to behave recklessly.

Dagny (madamevauquer) My favorite part of this chapter was deal between Saccard and Laure d'Aurigny. That was hilarious and totally fooled everyone.

Dagny (madamevauquer) Jack wrote: "In a hothouse session, Zola make the gender-switched roles of the two most explicit."

Elek publishers have the most interestingly gaudy covers. One of them for The Kill features a glorious hothouse scene. There's a slide show of various covers (not just Elek ones) at our collaborative Zola blog: The Kill is honored with three covers. You'll know the one I mean when you see it though.

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Jack wrote: "Pretty hot stuff for 1872. "


Excellent points, Jack.

message 10: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
Dagny wrote: "Jack wrote: "In a hothouse session, Zola make the gender-switched roles of the two most explicit."

Elek publishers have the most interestingly gaudy covers. One of them for The Kill features a glo..."

Those covers are great!!

Dagny (madamevauquer) Jack wrote: "They're as lurid as some of the old-time science fiction covers in the U.S. -- luscious fair damsel attacked by hideous space alien."

Glad you and Robin enjoyed the covers. They are fun to see. I was just like you, Jack, and thought they reminded me of the old SF covers.

Dagny (madamevauquer) Jack wrote: "Just googled a bit and found a site for those in the group who don't the SF covers:"

Some great ones there, Jack! Thanks.

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