Les Miserables Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Nana focuses on the outstanding novel written by Emile Zola called Nana. This paper analyzes the character traits of all the characters in the novel, especially a young prostitute named Nana. It was through this novel that Zola exploited the weaknesses of the Parisian society. The paper also illustrates how Nana goes about making her living and how she exploits men's weaknesses to gain temporary wealth.

Emile Zola, a French novelist and a critic was the founder of the Naturalist movement in the world of Literature. He redefined Naturalism by stating it to be "Nature seen through a temperament. Nana was one of Emile Zola's most profound literary works. It was written in 1880 to expose the true state of prostitution in France. The book mainly intended to take its audience to the world of sexual exploitation.

Zola was convinced that that nobody had yet the courage or the ability to paint a true to life portrait of the modern courtesan - the rich, powerful demi-mondaine or high class cocotte, who during the second empire had succeeded the poor sentimental, consumptive grisette of Louis Phillip's reign and Henry Murger's novel. Admittedly there existed a large number of titillating novels, often anonymous, about the courtesans of Paris, but Zola not unreasonably dismissed these barely literate productions as stupid, mediocre, which can only tempt schoolboys on holidays. In 1878 Zola began documenting himself in earnest for Nana (Emile Zola And George

Holden, Nana).

The book opens by introducing to the audience, Fauchery, a drama critic who is eagerly waiting for his hottest play named "The Blonde Venus" to open in Paris. The play is a conglomeration of bad music and bad actresses in which a new star named Nana is born. Nana appears on the stage in a manner that upholds her audience frenzy. She appears dressed up in diaphanous wraps and escapades the paroxysm caused by her almost nude performance. The author of the novel portrays Nana as a skillful harlot. Through her off scene performance she wins her first lover named Steiner who is a wealthy banker. From here, begins Nana's true escapade of exploiting herself through sex in order to achieve money and a high status among her fellow citizens. The reader of the novel at this point feels that Nana was a case of the underclass striking back. One ponders, how today's acting and modeling compared to the Second Empire Paris was any different. The character of Nana corroborates the saying, every woman is sitting on a gold mine to be correct. She also proves herself to be suitable for the saying easy come and easy go. Hence, Nana is represented to the audience as a beautiful woman who makes use of her beauty and charms to conquer the elite class of men in Paris in order to gain high status, immense power, wealth and attraction.

The wealthy banker named Steiner buys Nana a country house where she entertains other lovers in order to win more gifts and wealth. She also ends up having an affair with an impecunious student named George. Upon discovering Nana's true nature, Steiner lets her loose and she ends up in an affair with an actor named Fontan. With Fontan, she tries to be kind and domestic but suffers from physical abuse from him. Fontan later abandons her and Nana is left with no choice but to turn to the streets. Hence, the financial situation of Nana goes from good to bad to worse. Nana's financial status never depended upon herself but on the bank accounts of her lovers. Once they threw her away she was left to the state of a beggar. After being thrown away by Fontan, Nana quickly starts searching for a new lover or a benefactor. She also does this after being threatened by the police, who in order to halt the spread of Syphilis were imprisoning street women or prostitutes and performing compulsory gynecological tests.

Her next victim is a man named Comte Muffat, whom Nana greatly humiliates. Throughout the novel, the readers find Muffat to be Nana's main benefactor. No matter how disrespectful and insincere she is, he willfully withstands great hardships and agony from her with absolutely no protest. Later in the novel, Muffat discovers her in the arms of young George and then with his elderly father-in-law. Nana also brings home a man named Stain who is a streetwalker and to be her lover and confidante. Hence, Nana was not only insincere to her lovers but also rude; she did not leave any opportunity of degrading her lovers and robbing them off every penny, respect and dignity they possessed. Nana surely portrays herself to be a heartless and an undignified woman. It seems to the audience that a woman from the gutters was brought into an elite society only by ways of her looks. Young George ultimately becomes so jealous of Muffat and his brother, who is another of Nana's captivation, that he kills himself in her bedroom. In order to reach Nana's bed, her other lovers had to step over the bloodstain. In the later parts of the novel, the audience discovers Nana to have caught smallpox and as a result dies miserably. Thus small pox was a disease that annihilated her beauty. She dies in 1870 just as the Franco-Prussian War begins.

The readers of the book may feel at certain points that the author of the book may have exaggerated a lot but the truth is that he gave an honest portrayal of the French Society under the Napoleon III. Nana took all that she could form the high society she wanted to be in, ruining everyone who succumbed to her "sensuous curves and marble like skin" (Emile Zola And George Holden, Nana).

From chapter 2 of the novel, the readers discover that Nana's parents had already passed away and throughout the novel Nana does not get in contact with her three half brothers. It is only in Chapter 10, that Nana, while entertaining her guests talks a bit about her family, background and where she came from.

Arising from a family ravaged by alcoholism and abuse, the great beauty Nana becomes a celebrity in theatre and then as the mistress of the high aristocracy and bourgeois. At her core, she is a devourer, empty of anything but the will to suck whatever she can out of anyone who comes near. She ruins the fortunes of numerous men with frivolous demands for things she barely wants, and Zola in the process illuminates how they made their careers and were ruined by their appetites for this woman, who becomes an archetypal destructive force. It is indeed a bleak and severe indictment of an entire society: you learn how celebrity worked in it, from the bottom up and back down again. Her sexuality is omnivorous, the men her willing victims for mention in the Figaro gossip columns (Book Reviews).

After reading the novel, the audience can easily acclaim that Nana was a characterless woman who had no respect and morals. But before we blame Nana for anything, we must also blame the society that existed around her. The men who were Nana's lovers had no morale of their own, if they did then they would have never opted for a girl who was involved in prostitution. If Nana was using her lovers to attain wealth, then her lovers were also using Nana for illegal sex. The author of the novel makes his readers notice and judge the discrepancies of the society that existed during that time. By taking Nana in, her lovers were also involved in the exploitation of a girl for sex. The society in no way tried to help Nana change herself. Zola rightfully examines the nature of his characters…

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