Esau in thE Coal fiElds: owing our souls to thE Company storE _ Michael Kline Emile Zola, writing of working conditions in the French coal fields of the late nineteenth century, penned vivid pictures of coal camp life that resonated deeply with mining developments in the new State of West Virginia during the same period. This fiction, based on Zola's six months of intensive research living and taking careful notes in the coal mining district of Borinage in the Alsace Region of northern France, featured such familiar themes as child labor, appalling working conditions, hunger, ever-mounting debt at the company store, crippling and maiming from industrial accidents, and early death from industrial diseases. In Germinal, Zola explored another mortifying interaction between the company store and the village women and girls, daughters, and wives of the coal miners: "It was a known fact that when a miner wished to prolong his credit, he had only to send his daughter or his wife, plain or pretty, it mattered not, provided they were complaisant" (p. 70). In West Virginia, we have our own versions of child labor, appalling working conditions, hunger, ever-mounting debt at the company store, mine guards, Gatling guns,
Appalachian Heritage – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Aug 13, 2011
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