Les Paradis perdus: espace et regard dans La Conquête de Plassons de Zola

Zola's La Conquête de Plassans (1874) is truly a political novel, not only for the numerous scenes depicting provincial politics during the Second Empire, but, at a more abstract and fundamental level, by virtue of its central theme of usurpation and the more intimate territorial struggles that occur throughout the work within a system of closed localities, variously denoting power, conflict, or impotency. A dynamic motive impelling these struggles is the look (le regard) that becomes a weapon of domination and dispossession and provides a measure of the characters' powers, ranging from l'abbé Faujas and his mastery of the strategy of the look to the alienated Mouret and his vacant gaze. The latter's final act of violence, with the concomitant imagery of lamp, eye, and flame, derives its full significance as a gesture of total repossession and as an exorcization of the abbé's evil eye. (In French) (DB)

Baguley, David.
Volume 1980-1981 Fall-Winter 9(1-2): 80-92.