Histoire naturelle et sociale d'une famille sous le Second Empire

A brief summary

The social and natural history of a family under the french Second Empire (second half of the 19th century). This is the tagline of Émile Zola's masterpiece, a series of twenty novels about the history of the members of the Rougon-Macquart, over more than 20 years. 5 generations are represented in two categories : the Rougon, the "wealthy" part of the family, upper middle class in Plassans, a small countryside town, and the Macquart, mostly members of the working class, often alcoholic and depicted as losers.
However, as the story streches out, one finds out that the Rougon are not the sanest people on earth, and the Macquart not as bad as they seemed to be in the first place.

The Books

The Characters

The Family Tree

    Marius Rougon ---- + --------------------- Adélaïde Fouque -------------------------------- Eustache Macquart
        (†1788)        |                          (1768-1873)        _______________|______________
                       |                                            |                              |
                    Pierre                                       Ursule                        Antoine
                    Rougon                                      Macquart                       Macquart
                  (1787-1870)                                  (1791-1840)                    (1789-1873)
    ___________________|___________________               __________|_________          ___________|_____________
   |        |          |         |         |     1840    |          |         |        |            |            |
 Eugène   Pascal    Aristide  Sidonie    Marthe - + - François   Hélène   Silvère     Lisa       Gervaise      Jean
 Rougon   Rougon     Rougon   Rougon     Rougon   |    Mouret    Mouret   Mouret     Macquart    Macquart     Macquart
(1811-) (1813-1873) (1815-)   (1818-) (1820-1864) | (1817-1864) (1824-) (1834-1851) (1827-1863) (1829-1869)   (1831-)
      _________________|         |          ______|_______          |           _______|  __________|____________________
     |        |        |         |         |      |       |         |          |         |          |          |         |
  Maxime   Clotilde  Victor  Angélique  Octave   Serge  Désirée   Jeanne    Pauline   Claude     Jacques    Etienne    Anna
  Rougon    Rougon   Rougon   Rougon    Mouret  Mouret  Mouret   Grandjean   Quenu    Lantier    Lantier    Lantier   Coupeau
(1840-1873) (1847-) (1853-) (1840-1873) (1840-) (1841-) (1844-) (1842-1855) (1852-) (1842-1870) (1844-1870) (1846-) (1852-1870)
     |        |                                                                          |                               |
  Charles   Unknown                                                                Jacques-Louis                       Louis
  Rougon    Child                                                                     Lantier                         Coupeau
(1857-1873) (1874-)                                                                  (1867-1870)                     (1860-1869)

The Freak Show

  1. Adélaïde Fouque (1768-1873) - Aunt Dide

    After having been married to Marius Rougon who died in 1788, Eustache Macquart, an alcoholic smuggler became her lover. She lived in Plassans and was helped during her older days by Sylvère Mouret. Conscience-stricken by her fault, she went insane in 1851 and was confined at the Tulettes, a psychatric institute. She died at the age of 105, of a stroke.

    The books in which she appears:

  2. Pierre Rougon (1787-1870)

    He married Félicité Puech, an intelligent, active and ambitious woman. They grew richer because of their opportunism towards Napoléon III, the emperor. Thus, they took advantage of the coup d'état, helped by their son Eugène, home secretary of Napoleon. Pierre lived in Plassans and became an influent member of the city. He died of an indigestion September 3rd, 1870 after Sedan's fall. His wife carried on their dream of glory by burning Pascal's compromising files concerning the family. She also inaugurated the Rougon mental institute, the mirror of the family's greatness.

  3. Ursule Macquart (1791-1840)

    She married the hatter Mouret, who hung himself three weeks after her death.

  4. Antoine Macquart (1789-1873)

    He married Joséphine Gayaudan and they both lived at the Tulettes. They were lazy, alcoholic and gruff. Widow, he is kept by his children and specially Gervaise. He drank all day long and died burnt by his pipe which fell on him and consumed his body very slowly. Félicité saw the whole scene and did nothing to save him

  5. Eugène Rougon (1811-)

    Home Secretary of Napoléon III, he was married to Véronique Beulin-d'Orchères an unobtrusive woman. He was aiming at power and was also very authoritative : he helped his friends, his "clan" like he said, had arrested and sent away in Guyana the enemies of the regime. He was finally abandoned by his "clan" and by Clorinde, his unsatisfied Love. She finally bankrupted him, forcing him to quit his job.

  6. Pascal Rougon (1813-1873)

    He was a doctor and a bachelor, still living in Plassans, in an estate called La Souleïade. He studied heredity by taking for example his own family. He gathered many files on all its members, that Félicité wanted to recover because they were compromising the family's honor. As a doctor he earned a lot of money so he could later on live on his private income, and devote himsef to his studies. He felt threatened by Clotilde, his niece and Martine his maid who wanted to seize his files to save his soul. After a fight, he finally conviced Clotilde to help him with his studies. They fell in love, but he forced her to leave him because of her brother whom she had to take care of. In the meantime, he was robbed by his banker. The day he recovered the money, Clotilde sent him a letter telling him she pregnant, but he died of a heart sclerosis the day after, just after having sent her a telegram asking her to come back (This is worse than Romeo and Juliet!!). Taking advantage of his death, Félicité burnt all his work, but Clotilde, aware of that, managed to save the family tree of the Rougon-Macquart.

  7. Aristide Rougon (1818-) - Saccard

    Also known as Saccard, Aristide is a great businessman. He took advantage of the Grands Boulevards by Haussmann. He speculated with Eugène his brother, home secretary who gave him insider information. His first wife, Angèle gave him three children. His second wife, Renée, was incestuous with Saccard's son, Maxime. At the age of fifty, he was broke and abandonned by his brother. But he came back with the foundation of the Banque Universelle with Madame Caroline and her brother. His various trickeries made him wealthy again, but his enemy Gundermann, a powerful jew (Saccard was actually antisemite), made the stock value collapse. In the meantime, Caroline found out that he raped in his youth a young girl Rosalie who bore his child he didn't know about : Victor. He was finally charged with fraud, condemned to spent 5 years in Prison, but allowed (thanks to his brother) to exile in Belgium. Later pardoned, he came back in France and became director of the newspaper L'Epoque.

  8. Sidonie Rougon (1818-)

    After being shopkeeper, she became procuress, underwear saleswoman and did a little bit of everything. She is cold as ice, brutal and unconcerned, but also gossiping: she was the person who told Aristide everything about the incest of Maxime and Renée. She gave birth to a child 15 month after her husband's death, Angélique Rougon, whom she abandoned. She retired from her various businesses and became paymistress of a charity.

  9. Marthe Rougon (1820-1864)

    She married her cousin François Mouret. She was republican, submissive towards her husband. Because of their tenant, Father Faujas and his mother, she became devout, which drove her husband to despair. She died soon after him, neurotic and half crazy.

  10. François Mouret (1817-1864)

    François was wholesaler in wines and spirits. He went crazy when his wife became devout and renounced everything : business, children, even himself. He locked himself in a room. Charged with molesting his wife (which was false, because she was beating herself due to her neurosis), he ends up at the Tulettes with Aunt Dide. He managed to escape and to burn down his house, killing himself and the tenants in the process.

  11. Hélène Mouret (1824-)

    She married Charles Grandjean in 1841 who died in 1853. She fell in love with the doctor of her daughter, Henri Debrerle, but won't give up her principles. She spent many afternoon at the doctor and his wife's house. She finally got happily married but with another man, Rambeau in 1857.

  12. Silvère Mouret (1834-1851)

    Silvère helped Aunt Dide when she was mentally ill. As a republican, he stood up against the coup, and was killed with his friend Miette during a demonstration.

  13. Lisa Macquart (1827-1863)

    She was butcher at the Halles, because of her marriage with Quenu. They were both avaricious. When they died, they left an important legacy to their only child Pauline at the age of ten.

  14. Gervaise Macquart (1829-1869)

    Gervaise was beaten by her father Antoine Macquart during her childhood. She started to work very young to support her family. She had three boys with her lover, the tanner Lantier, but he soon left her with the three children. After that, she managed to marry Copeau, a zinc roofer. He fell one day from a roof and she had to work as a laundress, and was pretty successful at it. She had a daugther Anna. The story went on pretty badly from here. Lantier came back, forming a threesome. The laundry filed for bankruptcy, Coupeau drank more and more followed by his wife. He died at Saint-Anne hospital. She died too, alone, after having been thrown out of her appartment.

  15. Jean Macquart (1831-)

    Called Caporal, because he served during the campaigns of Italy, he was a woodworker and ended up as a manservant at M. Hourdequin's estate, La Borderie. He fell in love with Françoise Fouan, Lise Fouan's sister. Since the sisters just inherited the soil from their father, Lise and her husband Buteau were against the union. They finally managed to marry, but one day, while Françoise was pregnant, she was raped by buteau with the complicity of Lise who killed her with a scythe right after. Alone, Jean left La Borderie and joined the army to fight against Prussia in 1870. Wounded twice and saved twice by his brother in arms Maurice, he came back in Paris to meet him again. But it was the Commune and Maurice was part of the rebels, while Jean still served in the army. He accidentally killed him on a barricade. Fed up, he left Paris for Plassans after the war, married a country girl Mélanie Vial who gave hime two children and came back to the soil.

  16. Maxime Rougon (1840-1873) - Saccard

    Lover of his father's second wife, Renée, he was effeminate, and women found him attractive. At 15, he gave a child to Justine Megot the maid, Charles. He married another woman who died early, leaving him an important legacy. After his father's fall, he signed in the army and went to war against Prussia. When he became ill, he was helped by his sister, but he finally died paralyzed.

  17. Clotilde Rougon (1847-)

    Clotilde was very young when sheltered by her uncle Pascal who wanted to save her from the social surroundings of her life. She became her assistant, but the influence of Martine, the maid, made her believe in God which had a negative influence on Pascal's studies. They finally fell in love with each other. She left him to watch out for his brother Maxime, who is ill. Pregnant, she came back too late, Pascal was already dead. She could only save the family tree from the fire, all the files had been burnt by Félicité.

  18. Victor Rougon (1853-) dit Saccard

    Unlawful son of Saccard and Rosalie, he was concieved on a stairway by a rape. He was raised by an woman living in a slum, and was finally found by Madame Caroline, who put him in a charity (L'Œuvre du Travail), founded by Saccard's Banque Universelle. At the age of 15 he raped and almost killed a classmate Alice.

  19. Angélique Rougon (1851-1869)

    Born of an unknown father, she was abandoned by her mother at the age of 9. She was sheltered by Hubert and Hubertine, both embroiderers. She fell in love with Félicien de Hautecoeur son of the bishop, a nobleman intended for a noble marriage with Claire de Voincourt. She begged the bishop, and finally got to marry his true love. Alas, she died on the parvis of a kiss.

  20. Octave Mouret (1840-)

    He settled in Paris with the idea to use the women to be admitted in the high society. He seduced by that mean many women, including Marie Pichon and Berthe Vabre which induced some problems with her husband. He worked in a silk trade (Au Bonheur des Dames) where he met and married the owner, the widow Caroline Hédouin. She died soon after, during the works launched by Octave to enlarge the shop. He became the owner of a department store that bankrupted all the small shopkeepers. He fell in love with one of his salesgirl Denise Baudu. After a struggle, they finally got married and she gave him two children.

  21. Serge Mouret (1841-)

    Priest at Les Artaud, a small town full of non-believers, he deceived his father François, when he took holy orders. Nevertheless, he failed in the priesthood : he became amnesiac after an illness and slep with the girl, Albine, who cured him. One day, as they were living happily together, he saw his church and remembered his oath. He came back to God, against Albine's will, who died of despair.

  22. Désirée Mouret (1841-)

    She was a retarded person who only liked nature and the animals. She lived with her brother Serge, priest at Les Artaud.

  23. Jeanne Grandjean (1842-1855)

    She loved her mother very much and cared a lot about her happiness. She suffered from many illnesses, which made her mother meet doctor Deberle, who became her lover. Very jealous of the doctor, Jeanne suffered great despair, and finally died at the age of 12, being constantly ill.

  24. Pauline Quenu (1852-)

    Orphan at the age of ten, her parents left her an important legacy. She was sheltered by the Chanteau family, cousins of her father. She was gradually bankrupted by Madame Chanteau, who used Pauline's money to help her son Lazare with his various project, using the fact that she was in love with him. Born to help people, she took care of Madame Chanteau during her illness, but also Monsieur Chanteau and she helped Lazare to marry Louise, in spite of her jealousy towards her.

  25. Claude Lantier (1842-1870)

    He was an unknown painter in Paris. He met Christine Allegrain who became his model and his wife who bore his son Jacques-Louis. He started a painting on a huge canvas (8x5m) and deserted his wife even though he used her as a model. Their child died and he immediatly painted him. The painting was exposed but remained unsuccessful. Depressed, he hung himself in front of his unfinished work, partly because other painters whom he inspired were recognized.

  26. Jacques Lantier (1844-1870)

    Bachelor, Jacques was a locomotive driver. His engine, La Lison was all his life. At the age of 16, he discovered that he was driven by the desire to murder women. He tried many times but always backed up at the last moment. Because he witnessed one day the president Grandmorin's murder by Roubeaud, Jacques was seduced by the murderer's wife Séverine to buy his silence. They fell in love and decided to kill Roubeaud. But his murderous drive surfaced and made him kill her instead of her husband. Full of remorse, he tried to love another woman Philomène to prove himself he was cured. Alas, her jealous lover, Pecqueux, discovered their relationship and started a fight with him on the engine. They both fell and died crushed by the train.

  27. Etienne Lantier (1846-)

    Son of Gervaise and her lover Lantier. As a child he worked as an apprentice for a blacksmith. Fired because he molested his employer, he found a new job in the mines. Angry because of the poor condition of the miners, he became strike leader and held a strike which lasted 2 months. After a demonstration that turned in a bloodbath, the strike failed, which made him leave the town while the workers went back to work. Sentenced by the Commune, he went into exile in Nouméa and had a daughter with a local.

  28. Anna Coupeau (1852-1870) - Nana

    Daughter of Gervaise, she slept with her mother's lover Lantier. Beaten by her alcoholic parents, she ran off her home, to become an actress. First kept by several men, she turned prostitute. She was what we would call today a teaser. She bankrupted all the men who slept with her with her fancies. She died of smallpox.

  29. Charles Rougon (1853-1873) - Saccard

    Son of Maxime, he is expelled from highschool for shameful depravity. He looked a lot like Aunt Dide. He lived in various places in the family. While at the Tulettes in the room of his great great grand mother, he started to bleed and died.

  30. The Unknown Child (1874-)

    Son of Clotilde Rougon and Pascal Rougon, the story of the family ends with the birth of this child.

  31. Jacques-Louis Lantier (1860-1869)

    Born in Bennecourt, he was the son of Christine Allegrain and Claude Lantier who were not married. His godfather was Pierre Sandoz, a friend of Claude and writer. He was never allowed to play because of his father's work. He died in 1869, and his father immediatly painted him. "L'enfant mort" (the dead child) made it into the exhibition where it was run down by the public.

  32. Louis Coupeau (1867-1870) - Louiset

    Born before the beginning of Nana, he was watched over by Madame Lerat while his mother was working. He died before his mother of smallpox.


As you may have noticed it, these guys are pretty fucked up : rape, murder, illness, prostitution, alcoholism, madness, incest, jealousy... No wonder if only one member of the family remained after five generations.

Since the purpose of this w/u is not to explain why Zola chose such a pityful family for his study, I will conclude with a recapitulative list of various illnesses genetically propagated througout the generations. Luckily, the unknown child, the last member of the family escaped Macquart's genes, but I don't know if this is a good thing since he is the result of an incestuous love between Pascal and his niece. <irony>What a beautiful legacy left by Aunt Dide for the future...</irony>

First generation :

Second generation :

Third generation (3 families, 11 persons) :

Fourth generation (7 families et 13 persons) :

Fifth generation (4 persons) :

  • 3 children died before 15

sources :
  • http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/ezola.htm
  • http://lorencio1.free.fr/zola/cadrezola.htm
  • http://www.as.wvu.edu/mlastinger/zola.htm

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