Review of Reviews,  13 (1896), 491–507.

Character Sketch. M. Émile Zola, Author of "Rome"



Regular Feature, Biography


Heredity, Degeneration

    Asserts that Émile Zola is 'the great prophet-priest' of the doctrine of heredity, which views man as being 'overwhelmed by monsters, which issue from the immensity of the past in order to reduce to impotent despair the generation of the present'. In all his novels, and the "Rougon-Macquart" series in particular, Zola describes the 'same appalling tragedy' of individuals and families 'throttled by the ever-constricting folds of what may be described as the antenatal influences of heredity and suggestion, reinforced enormously by the not less potent forces of environment and tradition'. (491) Notes that Zola 'prepared for his great work [i.e. the "Rougon-Macquart" novels] by reading up the question of heredity, finding [...] Doctor Lewis's work on the law of natural heredity particularly useful'. At this time the 'doctrine was much talked about and little understood', and Zola's 'theory was that if men knew how to master the influence of heredity, they would become rulers of the destiny of the human race'. (498) Comments that 'No one more than he has dwelt upon the terrible living power of heredity, the resurrection of the dead of yesterday in the men of to-day', but Zola's deterministic conclusions are 'not good news for the toil-worn, sin-laden, pain-scourged children of men' (507).

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