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Consumer ChroniclesCultures of Consumption in Modern French Literature$
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David H. Walker

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781846314872

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846317156

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The grand magasin: Zola, Au bonheur des dames

The grand magasin: Zola, Au bonheur des dames

(p.155) 9 The grand magasin: Zola, Au bonheur des dames
Consumer Chronicles
Liverpool University Press

In his 1883 novel, Au bonheur des dames, Emile Zola highlights a key turning point in patterns of retail trade and consumption in nineteenth-century France. Zola's fictional store is based in large part on Au Bon Marché, which pioneered new methods of retailing from 1852 under Aristide Boucicault. Zola injected economic drama into his story by recounting the battle between department stores and the ancien commerce. He also humanises the commercial and financial aspects of his ‘Darwinian’ narrative by embedding a love story between the shop owner Octave Mouret and Denise, who represents a new class of female shop assistants known as the vendeuses. Part of Mouret's business strategy is his belief in women's limitless capacity to keep shopping.

Keywords:   Au bonheur des dames, Emile Zola, France, retail trade, consumption, Au Bon Marché, shopping, vendeuses, Aristide Boucicault, department stores

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