Short summary - L'Assommoir - Émile Zola

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - L'Assommoir
Émile Zola

The novel is set in Paris and tells the story of the lives of several heroes over the course of twenty years.


night. A young woman named Gervaise is waiting for her roommate Lantier in her wretched room. She is slender, "with delicate features, already battered by the harsh life." Gervaise is limping in one leg. Two sons are sleeping in the room: eight-year-old Claude and four-year-old Etienne. Lantier returns in the morning, talks to her very rudely. Takes Gervaise's clothes to get money for them. Later, having come to the laundry, Gervaise learns that Lantier left home: he left with Adele in a beautiful fiacre, which he hired with money received for Gervaise's clothes.

Virginie is present in the laundry, whom Gervaise saw with Adele. In hysterics, Gervaise rushes at her: a fight ensues between two women.

The scene of the fight is described in a very naturalistic way, the replicas of the heroines are selective Parisian abuse. Nobody separates the girls: “the laundry was enjoying”. Finally, Gervaise lifts Virginie's skirts, rips off her pantaloons and hits her on the buttocks with a roller to knock out the clothes. Defeated Virginie, sobbing, leaves.


"Trap" is a tavern where many of the heroes of the novel drink and spend their time.

It is there that the roofer Coupeau confesses his tender feelings for Gervaise and proposes to her.

They go to visit his sister with her husband (Lorilla), who lives with her mother (Madame Coupeau). Mr. Lorille is a master of chain, makes jewelry out of gold. Madame Lorille is a foolish, envious woman who immediately disliked Gervaise.


Wedding of Gervaise and Coupeau.

The invitees are people constantly gossiping, scolding, envious. Madame Lorille gives Gervaise the nickname "Lame".

The guests are getting drunk. And one of the guests, a drunken uncle Bazuzh, begins to rant: "When a person died ... this will be for a long time."


Gervaise and Coupeau spent four years in hard work. Gervaise gave birth to a daughter. The scene of childbirth is described in a very naturalistic way: Gervaise gives birth without stopping her usual activities - after all, she has to work and cook food for her husband: “The cutlets were already in the pan when the contractions began again. Tears rolled from her eyes like a hail, but she continued to stomp around the stove; turned the roast over. Well, what of what she will give birth to? This does not mean that we should leave Coupeau without lunch! But she barely had time to put down the bottle of wine; she no longer had enough strength to get to the bed - she fell to the floor and gave birth right there, right on the mat. "

Coupeau is very caring for Gervaise and their little daughter, who was named Nana.

The second apartment upstairs was occupied by two tenants - mother and son Guzhe. The mother was engaged in lace repair, and the son, a blacksmith, worked in a nail factory.

The Coupeau family's savings reached six hundred francs. From that time on, Gervaise lost her peace. She was seized by an ambitious dream - to open her own laundry and to hire female workers herself.

But so far her dreams are not destined to come true. While working, Coupeau falls from the roof: "His body described a slight curve, turned over twice in the air and, with a dull sound, like a bundle of linen thrown from a height, collapsed into the middle of the street." Coupeau is dying. Gervaise spends all his savings on his treatment. The envious Lorille are happy with this scenario.

However, Guet, secretly in love with Gervaise, invites her to borrow money from him - 500 francs, and open a laundry. Gouget himself put them off for the wedding, as his mother wanted.


Gervaise opened a laundry and hired women workers: crooked Augustine and lanky Clemence. Lorille finally fell out with Gervaise. Madame Lorille openly accused Gervaise of having an affair with Gouget. Gervaise became even more beautiful and was happy: her dreams were coming true.

And Coupeau began to get drunk often, to pester the washerwomen. However, Gervaise forgave him.


Gervaise's son Etienne works as an apprentice for Gouget in the smithy, Gervaise sometimes comes to them to bring the laundry and admires how Gouget works.

On the stairs, one day Gervaise meets Virginia, and a conversation begins between them, which became the beginning of a bosom friendship. Virginie said that Lantier left Adele and he had nowhere to live.


June 19 - Gervaise's birthday. All the guests are assembled, only Coupeau is absent - he drinks in the Zapadna. And a little later, drunk, he comes home with Lantier in his arms.


Coupeau invites Lantier to live with them. Lantier settles and begins to behave very freely with Gervaise. Once, during one of Lantier's harassment, Gouget catches him with Gervaise: he decided that Gervaise was sleeping with Lantier. But Gervaise dissuades him: she would never do that. Gouget invites her to leave for Belgium, to which Gervaise refuses. Yes, she loves him. But she has a husband, children, laundry.

One night Gervaise returned with Lantier and saw that the whole room was in the vomit of a drunken Coupeau. At that moment Lantier began to harass Gervaise, she agreed: "Coupeau himself is to blame." This scene is watched with curiosity by the little daughter of Gervaise - Nana.


Soon the whole quarter learned that Gervaise went to Lantier every night. “At first, she felt like a criminal, felt self-disgust, it seemed to her that she had plunged into the mud. Leaving Lantier's room, she almost rubbed her shoulders to the point of blood, as if wishing to wash away this dirt. She would like, changing men, to change the skin. But little by little Gervaise got used to it. It was too tiring to wash every time. " Gervaise gradually began to throw the laundry, her work began to deteriorate.

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old woman Coupeau told Gouge about what was happening between Gervaise and Lantier. Gouget fell ill with grief. Gervaise came to bring them underwear - Gouget asked her to leave. "Gervaise returned to the laundry stupidly, without a single thought - this is how cows return to their stall."

After a while, the laundry went bankrupt, and Coupeau thrived amid this devastation. "Positively, this damned drunkard was only getting fat from the vodka." Together, Coupeau and Lantier often beat Gervaise. She got used to it "in the end, she resigned herself, she realized that it just gives them pleasure to beat her, and meekly put her fat back under the blows."

Coupeau's mother died in front of little Nana. The same people come to the funeral - evil, envious gossips and hypocrites.

Gouget comes to the funeral. He tells Gervaise that she can always count on him.

The Coupeau couple moved into a pitiful closet because the money was getting smaller and smaller.

10 A

neighbor of the Coupeau couple, Bijar, killed his wife with a kick in the stomach. He now regularly hits his eight-year-old daughter Lali. “Meanwhile, the trap has begun its destructive work in the Coupeau family. The washerwoman had already foreseen the day when her husband, like Bijar, would take the whip and make her dance. " Gervaise gradually "sinks", begins to drink hard.


Coupeau is very cruel to his daughter Nana. Beats her, suspects that she went to the panel. In fact, Nana is just a flirt, loves to dress beautifully and look good. She is 15 years old, and she already looks like a real woman. "With all her being, Nana longed to 'have fun and twirl,' as Daddy Coupeau used to say."

An old man starts running after Nana; and once, when the girl received another portion of abuse from her drunken parents, she leaves home.

Soon Lantier says that he saw her, well dressed, walking arm in arm with the old man.

After a while, Coupeau and Gervaise saw Nana in the square, caught her, beat her and took her home. “In the end, my parents had to come to terms with Nana. Let it come or not come - as it wants, if only it would close the door behind itself. What to do, habit is the strongest, even decency! "

Once Gervaise scolded the girl, to which she replied: “I have seen you walking around in the same shirt and stockings more than once! Leave me alone, you shouldn't have set an example! "


Eight-year-old neighbor Lali dies from exhaustion and beatings from her father.

It's time for Gervaise and Coupeau to pay their rent. Gervaise is in debt and starving, Coupeau is drinking. From hunger, Gervaise goes to the panel, where he accidentally meets Gouget. He brings her home, to the room of his deceased mother, and feeds her. Gouget still loves her. And she loves him, but leaves. “She remembered her old dream: to work calmly, always have bread, sleep in a clean room, raise children well, not be beaten, die in her bed.

Now she did not work, she was starving, she slept in the mud, her daughter went from hand to hand, her husband beat her in passing.

There was only one thing left - to die on the pavement, and if she had found the courage to throw herself out of the window, it would have happened now. ”


Coupeau in the Trap got drunk and died. From that day on, Gervaise was often forgotten.

“Gervaise lasted for several months. She sank lower and lower, endured the last humiliations and every day, little by little, she was dying of hunger. No one knew why she died. The truth was that she died from poverty, from dirt and fatigue, from an unbearable life. One morning a bad smell spread in the corridor, and the neighbors remembered that they had not seen Gervaise for two days; when they entered her closet, she was already decomposing. "

Gervaise is buried by Uncle Bazouzh with the words: “Listen ... It's me, Merry Bibi, nicknamed I'll give Consolation ... You are happy! Bye-bye, beauty! "