Date of Award

Spring 2011

Thesis Type

Open Access


Dr. Patricia Lancaster


The focus of this study concerns the critical analysis and interpretation of three nineteenth-century French novels: La Cousine Bette by Honoré de Balzac, one of the pair of Les Parents Pauvres novels and last of La Comédie Humaine; Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, his first complete and successful novel; and, Nana, Émile Zola’s ninth novel in the Rougon-Macquart series. The voice of the authors is of particular interest to this study: how they, as writers, manipulate their creations through effective narrative to convey action to the character, suspense in a scene, and conflicts in plot. It is through the authors’ controlled voice that they are able to represent the tensions surrounding the stories within the turmoil of nineteenth-century France. Furthermore, by comparing and contrasting characteristics of each work, this study illustrates what their contributions were to the evolution of narrative style that has become the mainstay of the modern novel of today. This analysis will encompass the extrinsic influences to include that of the social, religious, biographical, psychological, economic, and philosophic disciplines that helped to shape the man, the implied author, the characters, the settings, and the Zeitgeist of the day. Most importantly, this analysis explores the intrinsic texture of the narrative authority, examining the rhetoric in storytelling to include the point of view, subtle narrative shift, style, imagery, metaphor, allegory, and myth that make up the balanced prose of each writer and his work. Accordingly, this thesis delves into how the extrinsic influences the intrinsic to make the noble art, in particular the genius of the Literary Realists: Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, and Émile Zola.