Thérèse Raquin tells the story of a young woman, unhappily married to her first cousin by a well-intentioned and overbearing aunt. Her cousin, Camille, is sickly and selfish, and when the opportunity arises, Thérèse enters into a tragic affair with one of Camille's friends, Laurent. In his preface, Zola explains that his goal in this novel was to "study temperaments and not characters" and he compares the novel to a scientific study. Because of this detached and scientific approach, Thérèse Raquin is considered an example of Naturalism. Thérèse Raquin is generally considered to be Zola's first major work.