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Poor Me Another One The speed at which industrial revolution stormed the bastions of the traditional aristocracy of feudal

Europe hurled millions of people into cities seeking prosperity, cheaper goods, and variety. The rate at which man could live his life now relied on the rate at which the factories produced the goods they consumed, which in turn determined the growing concentration of urban populations. Expecting to find a place to enact their beliefs, support a family, and enlarge their social world, instead the immigrants to cities found poverty, vice, and hopelessness. The standard of living in this new world operated solely on monetary value. In The Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx studied the effect that the stratification of productive forces have on the common lot of humanity, and found it to create a quickly dying trickle of wealth to the wage laborer as the system expands. Within this argument, he claims that the spirit of man is subsequently quashed by the value of the capital that his arduous labor earns. Rather than studying the economic forces at work in this century, Emile Zola, voice of the French commoner, studies the everyday conditions that the wage laborer faces in Paris by examining five generations of family life of the bourgeois and working class, in the respectively titled Rougon-Macquart cycle. His most widely read novel in this series, The Drinking Den, takes place in 1837 shortly before communist revolts broke out in Paris and follows the life of a laundress, Gervaise, as she struggles to make ends meet in the oppressive slums. While Marxist sentiments abound in Gervaises low income environment, it is ultimately the social conditions in her life that cause her demise. These two great sociological scientists, Marx and Zola, share many dissatisfactions with the state of 19th century affairs. Zolas arguments, however, are couched in social interaction rather than blind economic value, making his sentiments more relevant to the deficiencies of their contemporary society.

Marx founds his arguments for the liberation and equality of the working classes in the economic dichotomy between the bourgeois and the proletariat: those who command the instruments of capital production and those who supply the labor for the owners of the capital (Marx, p.4). Using this inherent class antagonism as the driver of all social conditions throughout European history, Marx examines the effect of increasing technological efficiency. Marx proposes that the division of labor first began its metamorphosis during the transition between the feudal era and the industrial era when household guilds of a community split labor output between each member of the household workshop. Mutual success for members of these individual guilds was eventually negated by the efficiency of output made possible by factories, the giant modern industry, the place of the industrial class, by industrial millionaires, the leaders of industrial armies, the modern bourgeois. (Marx, p. 5). Due to this disembedding of feudal social relations from economic relations in 19th century capitalism, Marx believes that his modern state creates no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous cash payment, which has converted important social functions such as doctors, lawyers, priests, and families to the disenfranchised monetary climes of wage based labor (Marx, p. 6). Marx grandiosely states that man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations to his kind, making national hostilities and narrow mindedness impossible as trade relations increasingly dominate social relations (Marx, p. 7). Ultimately, the movement towards the automated production of the goods of society led to the concentration of capital producing property in a few hands (Marx, p. 9) As holders of the rights to the private property that all consume, the bourgeois requires an ignorant, static, and immense labor force to act as appendages of the machine. Their increasing need for factory labor caused a great migration from the idiocy of rural life to urban life (Marx, p.9). This shift from agricultural output to factory labor created in turn a class of laborers who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital. (Marx, p. 11). Marx believes that this 19th century redefinition of

labor as a commodity subjects it to the the vicissitudes of competition found in a market. Additionally, the nature of the labor brings with it a loss of individuality for each worker as only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knackis required of him. (Marx, p. 11,12). Marx then argues that the bourgeois capital gain restricts the worker and his offspring to an existence of subsistence because the commodities the laborer consumers are only worth the price of his labor. This labor is limited to the ever decreasing value of what he produces: the quantum of existence becomes his wage (Marx, p. 12,24) As the burden of his toils is ever increasing, and all holders of private property: landlords, shopkeepers, and pawnbrokers seek to increasingly capitalize off his efforts, an ever more hateful and embittering environment is created in which each man is pitted against each man and lower classes are swallowed into poverty and immorality by the maw of capital (Marx, p. 13). According to Marx, the increasing diminution of tiered capital to lower classes is a direct function of the scale of population involved. This hastens its own demise: cheaper goods require more workers, and more workers decrease the distribution of wealth in their class. With invariable market fluctuations due to competition, many of the lower middle class are constantly plunged into the proletariat, and many of the proletariat into the dangerous class: that passively rotting mass of revolutionary tendencies. Marx argues that the inevitable sinking of the modern laborer into pauperism, which inherently develops more pauperism, proves that the bourgeois is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slaverythat it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. (Marx, p. 19). For the proletariat to escape the positive feedback loop of poverty, Marx believes that the whole superincumbent strata of official society(must be)sprung up into the air, (Marx, p. 18) and the proletariat must centralize credit, communication, infrastructure, industry, land, agriculture, and education to the state so that each who contribute to the great machine of modern society have equal ownership of its fruits (Marx, p. 32,33)

In The Drinking Den, Emile Zola chronicles the trials of a working class woman, Gervaise, in 19th century Paris during the Second Republic of France. After her migration from rural life to urban with two children and her romantic partner, Lantier, Gervaise becomes a single mother after Lantier begins drinking and sleeping with other women. Struggling to support two children and pay for rent at the Hotel Boncouer, Gervaise works as a laundress at Madamme Fauconniers to make ends meet and lives a simplistic life style, eating only bread and wearing the clothes she moved to Paris with. Gervaise maintains her pride, however, and settles down with a good natured roofer who lives above her, Coupeau, who swears he would never drink liquor or womanize as his work is more important to him. Coupeaus family, the Lorilleux, reluctantly agree to the marriage but hold a grudge against Gervaise because she has a bum leg and is not independently wealthy: the Lorilleux forge gold links day in and out and hoard the money they make for themselves. Once the couple is happily married, puts in four years of diligent labor, and sends one of the boys to a boarding school, they move into a nicer, cheaper apartment across the avenue, and Gervaise gives birth to a third child, Nana. Their new neighbors, a widow and a blacksmith called Goujet, befriend Gervaise during a dinner to discuss the christening of Nana and Gervaise tells them about Lantiers betrayal: Madame Goujet was widowed after her husband went insane from alcohol and hung himself. With good people influencing her, Gervaise begins to dream of owning her own laundry facility to supplement the new familys income. To accumulate the startup capital to open a laundry service, however, the couple must pool their resources for months and live sparingly to achieve her dream. Unfortunately, Coupeau falls off a roof and breaks a leg, and Gervaise puts her plans on hold to nurse him back to health: the hospital is expensive and she couldve risked losing Coupeau to the irresponsibility of nurses in the sick ward. With her plans dashed, Gervaise accepts her modest lifestyle, but the Goujets offer her the money she needs to start the laundry facility. With Coupeau in recovery and Gervaise as the head of the household, the Lorilleuxs grudge against Gervaise is transformed into jealousy, and Coupeau slowly loses his inspiration to continue roofing and

turns to drink: the wages he received for menial labor could not compensate him enough to risk his life when the bourgeois becomes filthy rich by doing nothing. Gervaise is glad to support Coupeaus drinking habits and his meals to get him out of the shop. Gervaise hires workers to help her increase the laundrys output to compete with the other laundry facilities and realizes a very prosperous few years before her indulgent nature becomes her downfall. Giving in to the Lorilleuxs constant belittlement of her, Gervaise becomes embroiled in a spending war with the neighborhood, hosting feasts, buying sweets for herself and others, sending gifts to the neighbors, allowing Lantier to rent out a room in her shop, and even housing the Lorilleuxs grandmother. Despite this, she begins losing customers due to gossip and Lantier eggs on Coupeaus downward spiral turning him into a waster like himself. Thankfully Goujet takes Gervaises other boy as an apprentice, but even his factory, has decreased his daily wage by two francs since the shop was opened. Gervaises new prodigal manner causes her to slip further into debt with the Goujets to the point where she cannot even pay back the original money they lent her and is forced to take payment in advance for laundry service. Spiraling downwards into poverty, Gervaise and Coupeau entirely neglect the education of Nana, and she grows from snotty brat to vice filled harlot. Before all is lost, however, Goujet asks Gervaise to elope with him to a different country where they can start anew, away from the poisonous streets, but Gervaise feels she cannot leave: Paris has become her spirit, her alpha and omega. In her last few years, Gervaise witnesses the loss of her shop due to Lantiers conniving, Nana running away from home and entering a life of high class prostitution, Coupeau lashing out against Gervaise and falling victim to delirium tremens, her own resort to alcohol, and finally putting her wasted body up for sale. In her last months, Gervaise recalls her initial hopes to quietly get on with her work, always have bread to eat and a reasonably decent hole in which to sleep, to bring her children up well, not to be beaten and to die in her bed, but nothing was left for her now but to die in her sleep. At the end, she realizes that however modest your wishes, you may still end up penniless. Not even a crust and a bed (Zola, p. 412).

Zola and Marx both recognize the evil that resides in a modern industrial society; it has the inherent ability to make human detritus out of the working class. While Marx believes that the working conditions and class antagonism enforced by profit hungry capitalists create this hateful and embittering environment, Zola would argue that the current system only allows for isolated incidents of tragedy in the working class because of human indecency. Many of Marxs observations apply to Zolas depiction of slum life in 19th century Paris, although the blame lies not on society but on the way Zolas characters react to challenges they face. Take for instance, Goujet, as the penultimate working class hero. Even though his wages fall yearly due to automation in new factories, he brings home all of his wages and pours his lifeblood into his forging: his work is his art. Whereas Coupeau, once injured, never returns to roofing and later loses his individuality in the government owned factories in Etampes, spending his money on drink and comradery. Was it the bourgeois fault that he got injured? No. Is it the responsibility of the bourgeois to pay for his hospital bill? Zola and Marx would be inclined to agree. The real question is what is the bourgeois responsibility? While Marx would say, They have none, the scoundrels! Zola would take the stance of political activist, not revolutionary: the state cannot improve the value of labor, but it can provide compensation for the necessities of life not provided by it. If the workers act as ignorant and static appendages of the machine, the body must nurture its arms and legs when they are injured and help to remobilize the arms of the paralytic slum. As a member of the class of who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital, it is only the most easily acquired knack, laundry, which Gervaise earns as a subsistence wage. Gervaise downfall, however, was enabling people around her to live a life of excess and drinking. As this excess begins to intrude into her own lifestyle, the quality of her labor begins decreasing: she scorches Madame Goujets lace and permanently creases her sons shirts, and so does her quantum also decrease, causing her to fall farther into debt. While Marx correctly interprets the vicious cycle that is present in the slums, the unstoppable descent of a working man into pauperism

and prostitution, he incorrectly attributes this to the fault of class antagonism. Gervaises plunge was due not to the factories or the vicissitudes of laundry competition, but to the vice of her own class and family. Despite Lantiers abandonment of his children, Gervaise still provides for them. Even after pawning off all of her laundry supplies to support Coupeaus and Lantiers lifestyles, Gervaise continued to work, going back to Mme Fauconniers for a time. It is at this point that Zola states, Of course, the Coupeaus had only themselves to blame. Even when life is hard, one can always get by, with thrift and good housekeeping: Look at the Lorilleuxthough in truth they did lead the lives of scrawny spiders. (Zola, p.318). If there truly was no other nexus between man and man than callous cash payment, certainly Gervaise would have kicked Coupeau, Lantier, and Mother Coupeau out of the house; Even the Goujets had shown compassion towards Gervaise even at her lowest points. Although the Lorilleux secured for their selves a stable lifestyle through thrift, they constantly mocked Gervaise for trying to increase her wealth through hard labor. Not even Gervaise, let alone the bourgeois, is fit to rule drunkards and laggards; it is impossible to assure an existence to this slave within his own slavery. After Coupeaus accident, Gervaise was not once fed by the money Coupeau earned because he would spend it as soon as he earned it. Even Coupeaus first outpatient absence at the mental ward due to the deterioration of his brain from excessive drinking did not last long. He became more and more dependent on it the worse his conditions became. It is not until Gervaise is depleted of every opportunity to work and to thrive, that she also resorts to alcohol. It is not the fault of the state, but rather the fault of the vice within the people in her life that brings her to this. To prevent society from slipping into vice, the public must be educated and made aware of the dreadful consequences of alcohol and violence in society. To put an end to the breeding of vice and poverty, children like Nana must have a stable and productive home life, free of the despairing influences of alcohol but presented with opportunities for personal development. To compel man to face his real conditions and his effect on others with sober senses, the social factors

influencing his refuge in vice must be mitigated by the state, but not controlled. The state could institute these compelling factors by introducing workers compensation for Coupeau, child support for Gervaise, free public education for Nana, nursing homes for the elderly, and a reduction of the number of taverns in a square mile of slums. The economic stratum of the industrial society does not need to be sprung into the air, but rather the social stratums of society lofted into the pure air of morality and virtue. Economic equality would not save man from the pitfalls of human nature, but social fairness could.