* Germinal starts on a Monday of February 1865, in the middle of the night.
* A young man named Etienne Lantier arrives on foot at the Voreux mining pit from Marchiennes, a town located a few kilometers away.
* He is around 21 years old, skinny but strong-looking. He is a mechanic who has been fired from his job at the railroad.
* He is greeted by a 58 year old man named Bonnemort (Vincent Maheu). The man tells him there is no work for a mechanic in the mine.
* The "Two Hundred and Forty" is inhabited by miners and all the houses are owned by the mining company.
* Bonnemort, is the elder of the Maheu family. He lives with his son, along with the latter's wife and their seven children.
* Soon the miners of the settlement leave their home behind them and walk in the cold and dark morning...
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