This is a new introduction to Zola's masterpiece, published amid controversy in 1876-7. L'Assommoir is analyzed as a social and political novel, as a representative work of literary naturalism, and in the context of its repercussions in the history of the novel. Professor Baguley investigates its complex and sometimes ambiguous themes, its literary structures and its technical innovativeness. He provides a synthesis of the best research and criticism of the novel together with new insights into its interpretations. The biographical and historical context is given, and there is a guide to further reading.