No Tears for Aunt Phasie

2246 Words9 Pages
No Tears for Aunt Phasie La Bête Humaine by Émile Zola is a deeply compelling novel often noted for its depiction of murder, lies, corruption, and sex. However, the setting for this novel, the railroads of France, is both a place and a non-place, a particular, vivid location and a means of getting from one place to another. In addition, the railroad represents the fundamental changes in society created by the industrial revolution: the relocation of rural populations to urban centers, the acceleration of the pace of daily life, and the mechanization of commerce, among others. In this particular passage Zola examines this new social structure as exemplified in the train and the railway, and its effects on Aunt Phasie. In doing so, Zola’s appears to urge the reader to subscribe to the plights of lonely Aunt Phasie and simultaneously abhor the cold, indifferent, and violent railway. However, while Zola depicts the actions of the train and its working against human values as being undesirable, his language and terminology ultimately complicate the issue by suggesting that the force and the impact of the railway is evolutionary or natural, and perhaps even inevitable. Generally speaking, Zola as an omniscient narrator assumes a wholly unsentimental and detached approach in relating the events of the novel. For the most part the reader is made privy to the thoughts and feelings of the various characters in a way that is entirely void of commentary, furthering Zola’s clinical approach to the narrative. In this passage however, the narrator appears to go so deep into the mind of Aunt Phasie that the clinical aspect is left aside, and the language momentarily mimics or even shifts into hers. It is as if Phasie is now talking aloud while reflecting on the multitudes of travelers when it says, ...and not only French people, foreigners too, people from the furthest lands,
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