Saturday, June 30, 2012

Rougon-Macquart: Keeping the Family Straight

Rougon-Macquart family tree (not mine)
As mentioned in my post about The Conquest of Plassans, I have found that the first novel of the Rougon-Macquart cycle (The Fortune of the Rougons) is an important reference for the other novels. Knowing Zola's intent was to explore heredity as a core influence on people's characters and lives, I drew out a family tree while reading The Fortune of the Rougons  to keep all the family relations straight. Zola introduces new characters in later novels of the cycle, and I added them to my tree as I went, however much of the detail about the family is included in the first book.

In addition, I also made a list of the Rougon and Macquart family members Zola depicts in The Fortune of the Rougons and wrote the page numbers from that novel in which they figure. Since many of the members of the family are to be developed by Zola in one or more books of the cycle, there is often only a smattering of information. However, this information is often very useful background to get an idea of where Zola might be headed with each character.

If anyone else out there plans to tackle the Rougon-Macquart cycle, I recommend these two exercises as a  way to keep the characters straight and to create easy access to Zola's introductory information on each member of the family. In this way, The Fortune of the Rougons becomes a reference to help understand Zola's intent with many of the characters. It's been very helpful to me in getting the most out of several of the novels.

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