Study Guide

Thérèse Raquin Chapter 2

By Émile Zola

Chapter 2

  • Now we jump back in time to get some backstory on the characters.  
  • After her husband's death, Mme Raquin gives up the haberdashery shop and moves to Vernon. She lavishes (focuses) all her attention on her son Camille, who is a very sickly and weak child.  
  • One day, Mme Raquin's brother, Captain Degans, arrives from Algeria with his baby daughter, Thérèse.
  • Thérèse's Algerian mother died during childbirth.  
  • So Captain Degans dumps the baby in Mme Raquin's arms and immediately returns to Africa. Of course, he's later killed—how could we define good novel if not "orphan for a protagonist"?—and Mme Raquin's left to raise Thérèse, along with her own son, Camille.  
  • Camille's sick all the time, which his kind of stifling to Thérèse. She never gets to do anything fun. She is full of energy and passion.  
  • At least that's what we're told. But she hides it under a mask of indifference. 
  • At eighteen, Camille decides to get a job because he also finds his home stifling. Well, his mother, really. She's always fussing over him, because he's sick. 
  • Years pass and Mme Raquin decides that Camille and Thérèse will marry. (That's fine, we guess.) 
  • On the night before the wedding, Mme Raquin finally tells Thérèse about her father and mother.  
  • Instead of retiring to her own room that night, Thérèse goes into Camille's room. This is the only time she's ever broken her daily routine. 
  • Gulp.