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Course Hero. "J'Accuse Study Guide." January 24, 2020. Accessed February 20, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/JAccuse/.

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Course Hero, "J'Accuse Study Guide," January 24, 2020, accessed February 20, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/JAccuse/.

Overview

Author

Emile Zola

Year Published

1898

Type

Primary Source

Genre

Argument, History

At a Glance

  • In 1894 a French army captain, Alfred Dreyfus (1859–1935), was convicted of selling military secrets to the Germans. Dreyfus, who was Jewish, received hostile treatment from the French press.
  • In 1896 evidence emerged that Dreyfus was innocent. Another man, Ferdinand Walsin-Esterhazy (1847–1923), was tried and acquitted in 1898 of the same crime.
  • Esterhazy's acquittal caused an outrage. Émile Zola (1840–1902), a famous writer, wrote an angry letter addressing the president of France. The letter was published on the front page of the newspaper L'Aurore on January 13, 1898.
  • Zola's letter, titled J'Accuse (meaning "I Accuse"), protests that Dreyfus was an innocent victim of an anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) witch hunt, launched to cover up for the real spy and the incompetence of French military leaders.
  • Zola dared the French authorities to arrest him for libel (publishing defamatory, or insulting, statements about people). He was arrested, tried, and convicted of libel and sentenced to a year in prison.
  • Zola's letter helped fuel public anger over how Dreyfus had been treated. As a result, in 1898 Dreyfus was retried and convicted again, but he received a pardon from the president.
  • In 1906 Dreyfus was finally cleared. The Dreyfus Affair revealed major flaws in the French military and political systems, as well as widespread anti-Semitism in French society. Zola's letter played a major role in identifying and denouncing these trends.

Summary

This study guide for Emile Zola's J'Accuse offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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