The year 1880 was rife with nationalist fervor and a general glorification of the French nation through imagery, literature and legislation. However, at this same time, Les Soirées de Médan, a collection of stories concerning the Franco-Prussian war also appear, bringing with them a distinctly anti-nationalist, harsh, and unforgiving view of the war and France's role in it. This thesis will examine personifications of France within L'attaque du Moulin and Boule de suif, the first two texts of Les Soirées de Médan, and their definite lack of the nationalist enthusiasm that characterized the time of their creation. The study of these allegorical representations reveals the place in the mentality of the French people of the concept they represent, a shorthand for a complex and evolving idea. Though others have mapped out the historical appearance and place of representations of France, I will delve into the possible reasons for the necessity of the feminine in this allegorization, the connotations and conventions that make it an effective tool for fighting nationalist tides for both Zola and Maupassant, and the historical and political context that allow us to trace a general shift in the concept of the nation through these female symbols. Furthermore, given the prevalence of female allegories at the time, and the monopolization of their usage for political purposes, the choice of these authors to employ allegory (a rhetorical mode characterized by its official status with the very regime they are criticizing) takes on further levels of criticism and satire. Exploring the opposition and relationship of these two literary female allegories to contemporary allegorical and visual representations will reveal how they relate to-and eventually criticize and reject-the prevailing political and nationalist discourse of their day.



College and Department

Humanities; French and Italian



Date Submitted


Document Type





female, allegory, France, nationalism, Marianne, Joan of Arc, Maupassant, Zola, Franco-Prussian