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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The evolution of the theme of criminality from Balzac, to Hugo, to Zola Ross, Sarah Margaret


In the work of Balzac, Hugo and Zola can be found a diversified literary concentration on the theme of criminality which mirrors the evolution of parallel social movements in France during the Nineteenth Century when significant economic and political changes were taking place as a result of demographic shifts and altered social patterns. This brief survey attempts to demonstrate how these three prominent, yet disparate novelists have dealt with the theme of criminality from conflicting viewpoints during a period which saw the rise of a new capitalist bourgeoisie and the establishment of large urban industrial centres. This thesis explores the individual approaches of these three novelists and compares their criminal profiles through the study of at least three novels for each author. It will be seen that Balzac tended to adhere to the Eighteenth Century classical view of the criminal, while also leaning towards the newly introduced positivist thinking. Hugo's romantic vision of society is explored through his depiction of the criminal as victim; and Zola is examined in light of his experimental approach to the criminal phenomenon, which reflects the philosophical and scientific ideas of the late Nineteenth Century.

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