Bad Water Symbolism

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In Bad Waters
In literature, water symbolism is conventionally used to convey lighter themes, such as life, cleansing, and purity. However, in a novel where a pair of young lovers endeavor to murder the mistress’ husband to achieve happiness and freedom in their relationship there is an abundance of dark and sometimes disturbing water imagery and symbolism. The author, Emile Zola, uses water symbolism in a nonconventional way to emphasise the dark themes portrayed in his novel Therese Raquin.
Water would conventionally be used to symbolise life rather than death in literature, however Zola does the opposite and uses water to portray death or something akin to death. This is particularly evident in the river scene when the two aforementioned lovers, Therese and Laurent, are planning to drown Therese’s husband, Camille. To begin, Zola establishes that “[Camille] was terribly afraid of water” (60), which is understandable when taking into consideration his inability to swim, his weak physical state, and his sheltered childhood. With this line, Zola foreshadows the dark role water will be playing in the following scenes. He then incites a deathly
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The atmosphere in the morgue is described as nothing short of unpleasant, “When [Laurent] went in, he was sickened by the stale smell, a smell of washed flesh” (71). There is also the stifling humidity which caused “his clothes [to hang] against his shoulders, as though weighed down by the humidity of the walls” (71). The presence of water in the Morgue helps create that sickening and stifling atmosphere to accompany the corpses. Zola also pointed out that “there was a tinkling of running water”(71) in the Morgue to identify the presence of water in this place of death . This enforces the notion that water is death, or that it accompanies death hand in
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