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Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola was originally published in France in 1867. It tells the story of a young woman who is unhappily married to her first cousin by an overbearing aunt. Thérèse's husband, Camille, is sickly and selfish, and when the opportunity arises, Thérèse enters into a turbulent and sordidly passionate affair with one of Camille's friends, Laurent. 
In response to his critics, Zola explained that he sought to make an analytic study of temperament and not of character. "Thérèse and Laurent are human brutes," he wrote, "nothing more. I have sought to follow these brutes, step by step, in the secret labour of their passions, in the impulsion of their instincts, in the cerebral disorder resulting from the excessive strain on their nerves."

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