The miners, beaten down and oppressed by the profit driven system, continue the cycle of violence and exploitation by beating the women and they in turn beat the children, who then fight amongst themselves: “a man was cursing and swearing, a women was crying and there was sounds of a battle going on, with a shuffling and stamping of feet and a dull thumping sound as if someone were punching an empty marrow. “The usual song and dance Mayhem observed calmly… If the soup wasn’t ready its understandable” (Cola 1 13). This horrendous scene of domestic violence is a normal occurrence in the miner’s everyday lives.
The miner’s, unable to productively vent their frustrations with the oppressive capitalist system; take out their frustrations on their wives. Capitalism does not merely cause problems for the women, but for the children as well. Poverty caused by the heavy demands of capitalism hinder the children’s education and prevents them from ever escaping the clutches of the mine. By perpetuating the never ending cycle of poverty and oppression it keeps them enchained. In the mining town, children are expected to grow up fast and help where they are deed, whether it is in the mines or at home.
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A perfect example of this cycle in action would be Lazier. She is a big help around the house and practically a second mother to her three younger siblings. Unfortunately, she does all this at her own expense: Lazier went back to the bedroom with Estelle, who had begun to scream and although only eight she already had a woman’s knowledge of the tender wiles that would soothe and distract her… But what about school mum? School? Well that’ll have to wait for another day… L need you 87-88). Lazier has to sacrifice her future in order to help keep ere family going.
This environment of poverty and oppression is a fertile breeding ground for sexual promiscuity, another prominent theme in Germinal. In the mining town, Boys and girls are introduced to sex at a young age. They are forced to bath together; they hear it through the paper thin walls of their homes or come across lovers in fields. Like Jeannine and Lydia, they see everyone doing it and they want to duplicate what they see: “she was his little women, and together in dark corners they would experiment at the love they heard and saw going on at home behind partition alls or through cracks Of the door “(Cola 125).
Though sex is a strong link in the chains that bind them to the capitalist system, it is the miners only free recreation, the one thing in their lives that the company does not have control over. One character who takes full advantage of this particular freedom is Mosquitoes. Mosquitoes shamelessly flaunts her sexuality as a sign of her freedom. Neither the capitalist owners, nor a single miner owns her. Through sex she controls her own destiny and maintains her humanity. Probably the most detrimental effect of capitalism in Germinal is the dissolution of immunity and the gradual regression of the miners into a primitive state.
The first encounter of lost humanity in Germinal is in the scene when Tontine meets Bonnet. Bonnet is a classic example of a Marxist alienated worker. He is alienated from his fellow man, alienated from his labor, and alienated from the product of his labor. Bonnet’s humanity is so far gone that he actually takes pride in his oppression: “Not bad, eh? Fifty years working at the pit, and forty-five of them underground! “(Cola 1 1 His greatest goal in life is earning thirty additional francs.
He has been reduced to the level f an animal, with his one care being where he will get his next meal “so long as we’ve got something to eat… That’s just what I say. As long as there’s bread to eat we’ll survive” (Cola 13). Bonnet’s humanity is practically non- existent. He has no dreams Of grandeur, or Of a better life, he simply answers to the primitive need for food. He is so alienated from his fellow man that he does not even speak to the other miners when working. Bonnet is so prone to silence that on the rare occasion Bonnet has a conversation, his co-worker can only stare at him in awe: “… Paler had set down on the ground, but he remained fiercely taciturn and simply looked up at the driver with wide expressionless eyes as though somehow put out by so much talking. For indeed the driver was not usually given to such expansiveness” (Cola 10). Bonnet is also alienated from the product of his labor, as his family has been for the past century: “Oh yes indeed! He and his family were old hands at cutting coal. They’d been working for the Mattson mining company every since the beginning, and that was a long time ago, one hundred and six years to be precise”(Cola 1 1 ). Unfortunately, the tradition of oppression continues.
Generation after generation of miners labor, dig and sometimes die, in search of coal, while the unknown capitalist owners steal the fruit of their labor and just sit back and collect their profits: “it was his grandfather, Gallinule Mayhem, then a lad of fifteen, who had discovered soft coal at requital, which had become the company’s first pit… “(Cola 12). This is merely one of the many instances in Germinal where capitalism thrives of the fruit of someone else’s labor. In Germinal capitalism as an exploiter and a storey of men is the most dominant theme, It prevalent throughout the entire book.
It can be seen through major and minor characters and all the way down to the tiniest seemingly unimportant scenes. Jean line, although a minor character is probably one of the most significant manifestations of the capitalist spirit in the Story. Jeannine is like a sponge that absorbs all the negativity in his environment and puts it into action. Like capitalism beats down the miners; Jeannine beats down Beret and Lydia, capitalist steal from the miners so does Jeannine: “what have you got to say for yourselves, eh?… Oh can each have your share of this fist if you think you can start demanding things… T once Jeannine stuck a fist under their nose… Beret had no answer and just accepted the two souse” (Cola 124). Like the miners are forced to accept a lower pay rate, Beret and Lydia must take what little they can get. Another example of the capitalist taking what they don’t deserve is the bourgeoisie luncheon scene. Capitalist mines devour the miners humanity like the bourgeoisie devour their meals, thoughtlessly and without remorse. M. Gooier is a prime example of this: ‘Stolen it?… My fortune? Did my great orientated not earn the money he investigated all those years ago… Hen Hypochlorite came round with the platter of crayfish, he absentmindedly grabbed three and started crushing the claws with his teeth”(Cola 213). He sees nothing wrong with his family living a leisurely life of abundance on the backs of the miners while, the miners themselves labor from dusk until dawn only to barely get by. Instead M. Gooier defends his religion of capitalism by any means necessary whether it is by false rationalizations, hypocrisy or denial. With no real way to fight Ca fatalism the miners revert back into a remitter state in order to physically and emotionally survive.
This regression can be clearly seen with Jeannine: “suddenly, just as another cloud cast everything into darkness, Jeannine sprang on to the sentry’s shoulders in one enormous bound, like a wild cat, clung on by his nails, and plunged his opened knife into the man’s throat from behind”( Cola 419). Capitalism beats down the humanity of men until there is nothing left but primitive Murderous animals. Capitalism negatively impacts every aspect of the miner’s lives. The large economic gap it causes between the bourgeoisie and the working lass promotes general discontent between the classes.