Bovary: "Once I can get pregnant and have kids, then I'll be happy"; "Once I'm not pregnant and sick anymore, THEN I can be happy"; "Once we get out of this apartment and into our house, then I will surely be happy"; "Once the baby starts sleeping through the night, I can definitely be happy"; "Once the baby is out of diapers I want to be content with my circumstances, whatever they may be, and Mme. Bovary is a reminder of what happens to those who are unable to find contentment in the journey, and are continually seeking yet another unsatisfying destination.
View all 34 comments. Mar 13, Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it did not like it Shelves: did-not-work-for-me. Oy, the tedium, the drudgery of trying to read this book! I tried to get into this story. Really, I did. It's a classic, right? And everyone else likes it. I kept making myself continue, hoping I could get into the story and figure out what's supposed to be so good about it. I won't waste any more of my precious reading time on this.
It's about a self-absorbed young wife who longs for anyone else's life except her own. When she's in the city, she dreams of the farm. When she's in the country, she Oy, the tedium, the drudgery of trying to read this book! When she's in the country, she dreams of the city. When she's at a social gathering she imagines that everyone else's life is so much more exciting than her own. Blah, blah, blah. Too many wordy descriptions of what people were wearing, what the buildings looked like, etc.
If you're going to take a long time to tell a story, it had better be a good story. This one is NOT! View all 95 comments. And Emma tried to find out just what was meant, in life, by the words bliss, passion, and intoxication , which had seemed so beautiful to her in books. Before she is Madame Bovary, Emma is keeping house for her father on a remote farm. It is inconceivable to think of her married to a farmer or a tradesman or being swept away by a travelling peddler. She is beautiful enough to be a duchess or a marquise, a pretty bobble for the dance floor, or an elegant adornment for the dinner table, and certainly, the perfect fine drapery for a night at the theatre.
Charles just expects her to be a wife. A woman to manage his household. A woman to uplift him and give him confidence to keep trying to better himself. He is successful in a dull and conservative way, and whenever he tries to raise himself up further, perhaps in an attempt to win the respect of his pretty wife, he is met with utter failure. There is nothing romantic about him. He is steady and completely devoted to her. Whenever he tries to express grand passions, somehow these attempts lack the ability to ignite the flames of desire or evoke the effervescent emotions that her novels tell her are the indications of true love.
Her frustrations, once contained in a heavy ball beneath her heart, begin to unravel like many hissing snakes, and her docile nature becomes viperous. Men can sense her dissatisfaction behind the cute dimple of her smile and the twinkling stars in her eyes.
She is ripe for the plucking. Being a man well experienced with the betraying beguilement of beauty, I would like to think that I would be impervious to her charms. I would only have to clutch the slenderness of my wallet to realize that a woman of her insatiable need for material things would only lead me to disaster and ruin. Two men are led into catastrophic affairs with Emma. These indiscretions prove even more disastrous for her.
They are driven now to dream, not to take action, to experience the purest passions, then the most extreme joys, and so they hurl themselves into every sort of fantasy, every sort of folly. The other problem that Madame Bovary has is a lack of funds. Her husband makes a good living, but he can not even begin to keep up with her need to possess fine things, or to conduct a lifestyle better suited to an aristocratic pocketbook.
This is a theme of particular interest to Gustave Flaubert. In fact, he wrote a whole book called Dictionary of Accepted Ideas , condemning the very worst detrimental aspects of having too much money and not enough curiosity. It included traits such as intellectual and spiritual superficiality, raw ambition, shallow culture, a love of material things, greed, and above all a mindless parroting of sentiments and beliefs. He takes advantage of her naivete concerning the truth worth of hard currency and plays upon her covetous nature for decadent things.
She is so close, with an extended line of credit, to living a life of frivolous fun, buoyed by a series of passionate, heart fluttering affairs, that she can almost see it, almost taste it, and almost believe she can obtain the life she has only read about. As much as booksellers would like to claim to have diabolical control over readers, we have to defer to the writers.
In fact, Flaubert had to defend himself in court for charges of immorality regarding the publication of Madame Bovary. Nothing drives book sales like a court of law trying to deem a book too scandalous for people to be trusted to read it. To me, this book encourages morality and fiscal responsibility. However, I do understand the feeling that some women have of being trapped in a cage, even if it is a gilded one. The responsibilities of life can make one feel the itch to be reckless, unfettered, and pine for romantic assignations that will awaken youthful desires.
Maybe this book is more of a how-to manual on how not to conduct oneself with torrid affairs and fiscal carelessness. This novel is considered the first example of realistic fiction. This translation is pages long. Flaubert had over pages of rough drafts that this relatively slender volume emerged from. The lyrical nature of the writing attests to the stringent diligence that Flaubert insisted upon to craft each page of this novel. It is easy to condemn both of these women, but who among us has not had destructive desires which we have either indulged in or at least coveted? Both women are fully drawn characters, completely exposed to our critical judging eye, and at the end of the day, deserving of our pity.
Either woman would have made a wonderful heroine for a Shakespearean drama. I can hear the gasps from a 17th century audience. View all 23 comments. Feb 26, Petal X rated it it was amazing Shelves: fiction , reviewed. Three and a half stars, uprated to 5 stars because I can't get it out of my head. Not sure what to make of it. The self-obsessed Emma Bovary was obviously to me a side of Flaubert himself.
She feels that there is so much more but her limited life fences her in and instead of drawing into herself, seeing what she has to offer, how to make the best of herself, she wants happiness to come to her just as it does in the romance novels she, and Flaubert, read. I understood that spiritual Three and a half stars, uprated to 5 stars because I can't get it out of my head.
I understood that spiritual flailing around, turning this way and that, using looks to make up for depth, using sex to pass for love, and enjoying fooling those she lived with into believing what they saw was what they got. We've all been a bit shallow at times, but to have made a whole career, a whole life of it, no!
But then Emma departs from the author and becomes entirely his creation. She doesn't think forward, thinks her beauty will solve all. Thinks that those who say they love her don't mean they love having an affair, having sex, with her but that they love her deeply and for all time. Not that she is capable of loving that way herself either, so maybe she really didn't know what it meant. Her idea of love is the bodice-ripper, secret affair, always-exciting, happily-ever-after variety, except her affairs die when the men are satiated with this demanding woman.
She can't even conceive of real-life nurturing of her child or being supportive, that's for fools like her husband. She always thinks someone will be there to pamper her and indulge her and that there will never be any consequences, that the piper will not call round to be paid for his pretty tune.
Such a sad story, so beautifully written and it deserves a far better review than these few lines but I felt like writing down my first reaction on finishing the book, I don't want the emotions to wear off and have to analyse it critically, it wasn't that sort of experience for me. View all 40 comments. Before marriage she thought herself in love; but the happiness that should have followed this love not having come, she must, she thought, have been mistaken.
And Emma tried to find out what one meant exactly in life by the words felicity, passion, rapture, that had seemed to her so beautiful in books. I was mesmerized and suffered along with her as she capsized further and further into the ambushes life presented her. Yes, I felt like I was in a trance and could not escape. Oh, Emma, dear Emma, why do people hate you so? Why did you make them feel that way? I am sorry for being so blunt. You, and your seemingly shallow priorities, gave your critics plenty of ammunition.
You did the unthinkable. What excuse did you have for such a selfish, impulsive and futile behavior? Did you by any chance hear Virginia Woolf say 'You cannot find peace by avoiding life. What did you have to dive head first before she even professed this truth? She was not alone in her infidelity, did you know that? Not in her time, not today. What about the reason for marriage? She married to escape, I know. And she hoped for a better life. Maybe she romanced him, what woman would not do it in her place? Why did I marry? All, surely, could not be like this one. He might have been handsome, witty, distinguished, attractive, such as, no doubt, her old companions of the convent had married… But she—her life was cold as a garret whose dormer window looks on the north, and ennui, the silent spider, was weaving its web in the darkness in every corner of her heart.
And I remembered Jane Austen, who opened the door for woman to search for happiness in their marriage. Why did women marry in those times? Women married only to increase their social standing or for money, but with Austen they start to have a chance at happiness. Flaubert does something similar with Madame Bovary, I believe. Poor Emma. I pitied her for each time she fixed her gaze on some scheme of happiness and how her eyes led her astray. Then the lusts of the flesh, the longing for money, and the melancholy of passion all blended themselves into one suffering, and instead of turning her thoughts from it, she clave to it the more, urging herself to pain, and seeking everywhere occasion for it.
She was irritated by an ill-served dish or by a half-open door; bewailed the velvets she had not, the happiness she had missed, her too exalted dreams, her narrow home. The only pastime she could enjoy without guilt was reading. From that she built fantasies, it is true. But did she not have the right at least of her own fantasies? It seems not, as we overhear Charles and her mother in law talking: "Do you know what your wife wants?
If she were obliged, like so many others, to earn a living, she wouldn't have these vapours, that come to her from a lot of ideas she stuffs into her head, and from idleness in which she lives. Reading novels, bad books, works against religion, and in which they mock at priests in speeches taken from Voltaire. But all that leads you far astray, my poor child. Anyone who has no religion always ends up turning badly. As if she had the choice of earning a living, being a female. What hypocrisy! The only choice they see to avoid her turning badly is to forbid her reading her novels.
One of the few pleasures she was allowed. She hoped for a son; he would be strong and dark; she would call him George; and this idea of having a male child was like an expected revenge for all her impotence in the past. A man, at least, is free; he may travel over passions and over countries, overcome obstacles, taste of the most far-away pleasures. But a woman is always hampered.
She was so right, men at least were much more free than women. I not only comprehend her reasons, but commiserate with her. So, why look at a baby girl she knew had been born with the wrong gender! It all went against her most heartfelt dreams. Emma might have towards the end had a touch of evil brought by desperation.
But who wouldn't? Ambushes and pitfalls Oh, she tried to renounce all her dreams through moments of fervent religious devotion. At mass on Sundays, when she looked up, she saw the gentle face of the Virgin amid the blue smoke of the rising incense. Then she was moved… Intrigue, however, had already tempted her and kept coming her way.
Why would she be invited and attend a ball in a house so out of her reality? Was it not a trap? After that, you could not help yourself but wish you had access to that fairy like life. What an ambush, when she was attempting to behave: Her journey to Vaubyessard had made a hole in her life, like one of those great crevices that a storm will sometimes make in one night in mountains.
Still she was resigned. She devoutly put away her beautiful dress, down to the satin shoes whose soles were yellowed with the slippery wax of the dancing floor. Her heart was like these. In its friction against wealth something had come over it that could not be effaced.
Such a fortuitous event served only to stress the undesirability of her life. After the ennui of this disappointment her heart once more remained empty, and then the same series of days recommenced. So now they would thus follow one another, always the same, immovable, and bringing nothing. Other lives, however flat, had at least the chance of some event. One adventure sometimes brought with it infinite consequences and the scene changed. But nothing happened to her; God had willed it so!
The future was a dark corridor, with its door at the end shut fast. Another bait would present herself in the person of Monsieur Lheureux. Why, I could give you some, if need be. The endless line of irresponsible credit was not more than an option offered her that she could not have imagine existed if were not for this trickster. Later we witness how she tries to reform, to be more tolerant and wishing to endure her life as it was, taking responsibility for her daughter and taking interest in the housework.
She is tired of him, no doubt. She is gaping after love like a carp after water on a kitchen-table. Yes, but how to get rid of her afterwards? Oh, yes, she went along with it and of her free will. But it was too much temptation, for someone so thirsty. I imagined that if it was not Rodolphe it would be another. And later on came Leon. After the affair with Rodolphe begins, Emma marvels at how much she had lacked living before: "I have a lover! So at last she was to know those joys of love, that fever of happiness of which she had despaired!
She was entering upon marvels where all would be passion, ecstasy, delirium. An azure infinity encompassed her, the heights of sentiment sparkled under her thought, and ordinary existence appeared only afar off, down below in the shade, through the interspaces of these heights.
Thus, Flaubert puts all these temptations in her way. It is as if Emma when walking down a meadow starts to stumble on beautiful, ripe apples that lie on the ground and cannot resist but pick some and take a few bites. Could she have resisted them all? But could Emma have escape her destiny? Could she have simply accepted life as it was offered to her?
Scenes from a provincial life
I believe all that she lived was utterly inevitable. Could she have run away from her own behavior and avoided her ultimate destiny? Emma was on the same boat as Oedipus found himself in. I felt after reading Oedipus Rex that there was not really anything that Oedipus could have done to get himself out of his destiny. Could Emma have done it differently?
It seemed to me that the more Oedipus attempted to get out of it, the deeper he was immersed in its inevitability. It is simply that there was no way for him to avoid doing it all and facing his fate. I do not believe so. There was no chorus to declare that to us, but Flaubert himself serves the role, even if it is not so explicit and you have to read between the lines: It seemed to her that the ground of the oscillating square went up the walls and that the floor dipped on end like a tossing boat.
She was right at the edge, almost hanging, surrounded by vast space. The blue of the heavens suffused her, the air was whirling in her hollow head; she had but to yield, to let herself be taken; and the humming of the lathe never ceased, like an angry voice calling her.
And so it all ends… But as in the beginning in the end, you beguiled me Emma. I was with you from the start and you could not escape me even in death. Seriously, I tell all your critics, your tragic story would not leave me alone. You had no choice like Oedipus could not escape killing his father or marrying his mother.
So, why people do not stop condemning you when they pity him? You were clever and wanted to exercise your intellect. Imagine the frustration of nothing to do? Perhaps your mother in law was right, you were fated to end badly. What a tragedy of never finding someone that could begin to understand you. Flaubert with his impressive prose evokes her thoughts and feelings throughout the novel, and I had no choice but be enticed by his heroine.
She would have liked to strike all men, to spit in their faces, to crush them, and she walked rapidly straight on, pale, quivering, maddened, searching the empty horizon with tear-dimmed eyes, and as it were rejoicing in the hate that was choking her. Finally, I think I was able to grasp the reasons that make Madame Bovary a classic, a modern tragedy where a soul is doomed because she appreciates and battles against all that comes her way.
Despite her limitations in life and as a product of her time, Emma has an unbridled passion and ends pursuing her fantasies. That ends condemning her. Nevertheless, Emma Bovary is brave in her irresponsible choices because it brings her closer to the happiness she wants, even if doing so she is able to attain only a glimpse of her dreams. Even if for that she had to die. And she died so that other women could strive for a more compassionate fate.
View all 49 comments. My 3rd reading of this masterpiece written with irony and finesse. The eternal story of Emma Bovary and her broken dreams is heartbreaking every time. The narration is actually quite modern in that the perspective changes quite often from a mysterious first person in the beginning a schoolmate of Charles Bovary? The descriptions of the various locations in the book are always surprising with tiny references to the principle charac My 3rd reading of this masterpiece written with irony and finesse. The descriptions of the various locations in the book are always surprising with tiny references to the principle characters.
It may surprise you to know that this book, which is essentially a tragedy, also is full of humor and sarcasm. In a similar, if more romantic vein, the whispered conversation of Rodolphe and Emma in the lodge as the vice-Prefect gives the world's most boring speech his boss couldn't be bothered to come was extraordinary. Every word in Flaubert is measured and perfectly weighted to each situation, the original French is absolutely splendid - whether he is describing the pretentious conversation of M.
Homais or the various season and their impact on the moods of the characters and tone of the novel. The only criticism that I can bring is that the denouement is a bit long - that being said, there is another fantastic ironic payoff in the last sentence. This book from is of course a product of the Romantic period in culture but it surpasses most of its contemporaries by its precise psychology - both of men and women, its irony, its subtle criticism of the "petit bourgeois" and French society, and the meticulous observation of detail.
Even years later, it remains a monument of literature and a summit of free expression Flaubert was pursued in court and beat the censors. View all 19 comments. Jun 25, Lisa rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , books-to-read-before-you-die. We are old friends, Emma and I. I spent hours and hours over a dictionary at age seventeen in high school, trying to read about her agonies in original French, with only the Isabelle Huppert film as a guidance.
In fact, I actually think I owe it to Emma Bovary that I finally made it over the threshold to understand written French. That ultimately led me to university studies in French literature, and Since I read Quicksand by Nella Larsen this week, Emma Bovary started haunting my mind yet again! That ultimately led me to university studies in French literature, and a lifelong love for French writers.
But she did so much more for me, as well. She awakened in me a sense that the world holds different options for women and men, and that women's dreams are dangerous, detrimental and slightly sentimental and ridiculous. She made me socially, politically angry for the first time. I know there are thousands of erudite studies showing all the weaknesses of Emma Bovary, but from the start, I could not - would not - see her that way.
I was with her when she danced in the ballroom, and I wished the party would never end. I hated the conventional goodness of Charles, and understood Emma's frustration with him better than his frustration with her. After all, she had ideas, dreams, longings, and he had: routine, reputation and boredom. I rejoiced that she dared to do what men have always, always allowed themselves to do: enjoy a sexual life of her own choice. She knew she would pay a much higher price than any man ever would for that freedom. I loved the fact that she embraced life in its passion and pain, and I suffered through the horrifying pages of her brutal final agony with the feeling that I would not have wanted her to say no to one single piece of experience in exchange for a better end - living according to her husband's standards would have been death over and over, without end.
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I am fully aware that this is not a moral reading or interpretation of the novel, and I don't encourage or follow her choices in real life, but I loved Emma Bovary's daring rebellion without limits when I was young, and it has never actually changed. Whenever I remember my encounter with Emma, the first thought invariably is: "Go girl! Do what you want! She always pulls out, runs away, hides from too strong emotions, and in the end, she resigns herself to rural life with a preacher she hates, and multiple pregnancies to bind her to the hopeless boredom and tedium.
View all 36 comments. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. One day, Charles visits a local farm to set the owner's broken leg and meets his patient's daughter, Emma Rouault. Emma is a beautiful, daintily dressed young woman who has received a "good education" in Emma is a beautiful, daintily dressed young woman who has received a "good education" in a convent.
She has a powerful yearning for luxury and romance inspired by reading popular novels. Charles is immediately attracted to her, and visits his patient far more often than necessary, until Heloise's jealousy puts a stop to the visits. When Heloise unexpectedly dies, Charles waits a decent interval before courting Emma in earnest. Her father gives his consent, and Emma and Charles marry.
The novel's focus shifts to Emma. Charles means well but is plodding and clumsy. After he and Emma attend an elegant ball given by the Marquis d'Andervilliers, Emma finds her married life dull and becomes listless. Charles decides his wife needs a change of scenery and moves his practice to the larger market town of Yonville traditionally identified with the town of Ry.
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There, Emma gives birth to a daughter, Berthe, but motherhood proves a disappointment to Emma. Jan 23, Kat Kennedy rated it it was ok. Henry James once said, "Madame Bovary has a perfection that not only stamps it, but that makes it stand almost alone; it holds itself with such a supreme unapproachable assurance as both excites and defies judgment. Defies judgment. I don't know Unfortunately, I had to read a translation as my French is nowhere near good enough to read the original. Though I am assured that the prose in the original French are amazing and inspiring.
I can certainly a Henry James once said, "Madame Bovary has a perfection that not only stamps it, but that makes it stand almost alone; it holds itself with such a supreme unapproachable assurance as both excites and defies judgment. I can certainly appreciate the characterization and story-telling ability but I personally struggled with the story as I reconciled what Flaubert seemed to be saying about society, women, women who had affairs, men and romance. Now, I would like to take a moment to quote Manny's Review , since he is the one who convinced me to read this book in the first place.
So, now back to the tree In fact, it seems to me that he doesn't stop judging through this entire book. You can't see it but you know it's there.
Why else would Flaubert so meticulously describe and relish in Emma's fall from grace? Every little detail is mentioned with the same eagerness as a kid dobbing in their little brother. He puts together a file of evidence for her complicity, a smoking gun as you'd say, and leaves it up to us to point the finger. What would a child do working in a cotton factory, you ask? Oh, just a little mill-scavenging. They were not allowed to sit, rest, or take a break while the mill ran - which was always except for Sunday when they cleaned the huge, spinning WHEELS OF DEATH that caused these children to live in a constant state of grief and terror Well, doesn't that just cheer you up!
The entire story arc and every unnecessary tidbit condemns Emma like one more nail in the coffin. Society is condemned, men are condemned, romantic idealism is condemned. Really, this novel thinks everyone is to blame. What is this novel's answer to it? It seems to be saying, "Well, that silly woman had so much and she threw it all away and look at her now, kids.
She's dead! And poor, which is really much worse. A safe and comfortable home, a good husband who doted on her and she just couldn't be happy with that. Then it looks at society and says, "Well, you created this and now you've helped destroy her too, you assholes! I wonder what this book would have been like if it displayed a far more realistic approach to a woman having an affair and her reasons. Because, let's face it, this book's depiction of a woman and why she has extra-marital relations is very obtuse.
Emma's life and situation is hardly the common for women who seek more out of life. This book makes her quest for more seem silly, unneccessary and ungrateful. Most of all, I wonder what this novel would have been like if it had dealt with Emma as a real character. One who didn't need to be mostly insane to justify having an affair.
One who wasn't both stupid and entitled and didn't lose all her money through a lack of self-control and ability to take five seconds to do the math. One who was capable of growing and learning from life. Unfortunately all that is lost. Even in the end, Emma learnt nothing. All sound and fury. Signifying nothing. Much like this novel. My final criticism about this book This was a book about people gettin' it on Curse you! View all 45 comments. Emma is a rather silly, very passionate too much so bored, uneducated to the reality of the real world young woman, who believes in the romantic novels she reads, moonlight walks, eerie, forbidding castles, dangerous flights into unknown, and strange lands always trying to escape their frightening captors Emma lives on a farm in mid nineteenth century France, the widower, a remote still gentle father, Monsieur Rouault anxious to get rid of his useless daughter, and though he enjoys the work, is not very good at it, farming but a considerably better businessman; being an only child, she wants excitement.
Hating the monotonous country, dreaming about the titillating city, Paris and the fabulous people and things there. Yet meeting and marrying the dull, common , hardworking good doctor, Charles Bovary who fixed her father's broken leg, he adores his pretty wife, life has to be better elsewhere she thinks, so agrees to the marriage proposal. Moving to the small, tedious village of Tostes , Emma regrets soon her hasty marriage. Even the birth of a daughter, Berthe who she neglects, not a loving mother the maid raises , has no effect on her gloomy moods. She craves romance, her husband is not like the men in her books, ordinary looking, not fearless or intelligent, words do not inspire coming out of his mouth, he lacks the intense feelings she wants.
After moving to another quiet village, Yonville Ry clueless Bovary thinks the change of scenery, will lift his listless wife out of her funk. The local wealthy landowner Rodolphe Boulanger, sees the pretty Emma, senses her unhappiness and seduces , a veteran at this sort of thing, he has had many mistresses in the past. At first the secret, quite perilous, thrilling rendezvous behind the back of Emma's house, clandestine notes, reckless walks in the predawn mornings to his Chateau, reminds Emma of her novels Rodolphe gets annoyed, unexcited, he also doesn't feel like the beginning, sends a letter breaking off the affair.
The emotional Emma becomes very ill, her husband fears that she may die, puzzled at the sudden sickness. A slow recover ensues, Emma still has the same husband, starts another affair with a clerk, shy Leon Dupuis, younger than she more grateful too not like the previous lover, the erratic Madame Bovary is in control. In the nearby town of Rouen in Normandy they meet every week, until this also becomes uninteresting, the spendthrift woman behind her trusting, loving, naive , husband's back drives them to ruin through her unreasonable buying sprees.
Emma Bovary learns much too late, that the only person who loves her, is the unremarkable man she married. What can I say, love or hate this , it remains a controversial classic , the crowds flock to. View all 26 comments. Mar 27, Martine rated it really liked it Recommends it for: incurable romantics and those who love nineteenth-century literature in general. Shelves: continental-european , film , psychological-drama , nineteenth-century. Like every European teenager who takes French at secondary school, I was supposed to read Madame Bovary when I was seventeen or so.
I chose not to, and boy, am I glad I did. I couldn't possibly have done justice to the richness of Flaubert's writing as a seventeen-year-old. Moreover, I probably would have hated the characters so much that I never would have given the book another chance. Which would have been a shame, as it's really quite deserving of the tremendous reputation it has.
Madame Bovary is the story of Emma Rouault, a mid-nineteenth-century peasant woman who has read too many sentimental novels for her own good. When the hopeless romantic marries Charles Bovary, a country doctor, she thinks she is going to lead a life full of passion and grandeur, but instead she gets stuck in a provincial town where nothing ever happens. Hell-bent on some escapism and yearning for someone who understands her romantic needs, Emma embarks on two adulterous affairs, plunges herself into debt and ends up very badly indeed, leaving behind a husband who might not have been the dashing hero of her dreams but who most certainly did care about her.
Madame Bovary is most famous for its portrayal of an unfulfilled woman, and indeed it's Emma's ennui and desperate need for romance that the reader will remember. They are described so convincingly that it's hard to believe the author was a man rather than a woman. However, Madame Bovary isn't all about one woman going through life dreaming and breaking down every time reality catches up with her. Like other great classics of realism, it's about society — about the social mores and conditions which instil certain kinds of behaviour in people and then punish them for it.
Flaubert's depiction of Emma's provincial village a haven of all that is base and mediocre is painstakingly detailed and realistic. It's a wonderfully vivid and well-observed account of life in mid-nineteenth-century rural France, where people go about doing their jobs, conducting illicit affairs, gossiping behind each other's backs, ruining each other financially and generally leading lives which are far from exalted.
Flaubert's portrayal of his characters is unabashedly vicious and misanthropic, but such is the quality of his writing that you forgive him for taking such a dim view of humanity. There are descriptions in the book the seduction at the market, the club-foot operation, the endlessly prolonged death from arsenic poisoning which rank among the best things nineteenth-century realism has to offer — gloriously life-like scenes which make you feel as if you're right there in the thick of things, watching things happen in front of your horrified eyes.
And if the whole thing has a tragic and deterministic slant to it, well, so be it. That's realism for you. At least Flaubert has the decency to grant his heroine a few sighs of rapture before her inexorable demise. For it may be a realist novel, but it has some genuinely romantic moments of passion and drama cab ride through Rouen, anyone? Ultimately, how you respond to Madame Bovary depends on your own susceptibility to romantic notions. If, like Emma Bovary, you're prone to dreams of passion, beauty and perfection, and yearn to feel and experience rather than being stuck in a dreary life in a village where nothing ever happens, chances are you'll be able to relate to Emma and thus see the genius of Flaubert's depiction of her.
If, on the other hand, you think that such romantic escapism is a lot of sentimental, self-indulgent claptrap which it is — that's the tragedy of it! As for myself, I'm definitely in the former camp. If I'd been Emma, I probably would have walked into the same traps that she does.
I would have fallen in love with the one neighbour who seems to understand my need for intensity, I would have gone through the same mad cycle of repentance, dissatisfaction and making the same mistakes again, and I probably would have spent a bit too much money in my quest for soul-affirming experiences, as well. My ruin wouldn't have been as complete as Emma's, but it would have been fed by the same dreams and desires.
Oh, yes. So don't let anyone tell you Madame Bovary is an old-fashioned creature whose dilemmas are no longer relevant to modern readers. There are plenty of people in modern society who are as much in love with romance itself as she is, and not just women, either. And how many people today don't rack up huge debts because the magazines they read have led them to believe that they're entitled to more than is within their means?
Replace 'sentimental novels' by 'TV', 'movies' and 'magazines', and all of a sudden Emma's cravings won't seem so outdated any more. Quite the contrary; they're as timeless and universal as they ever were. That's the hallmark of a classic — it speaks to us from across a century and a half and shows us ourselves.
We may not much like the picture of ourselves, but it's pretty powerful all the same. I'd give the book four and a half stars if I could, but alas. In the absence of half stars, four stars will have to do, with the assurance that it's well worth another half. View all 13 comments. You dawdle along, indulging yourself with odd details. And I have to smile at his foresight when he makes Emma Bovary wish that the name Bovary will become famous, that it will be displayed all over bookshops and repeated in the newspapers.
But as the quiet pages turn, I find myself longing for a change for Emma and for me as a reader. Her world is too limited. Spare a thought for us. Thoughts on Part II This section starts off with a little more promise. Emma and Charles are moving to Yonville, a little town in a valley by a meandering river.
Four gray walls and four gray towers, overlook a space of flowers, and the silent isle imbowers, the Lady of Shalott. I remember the descriptions of Emma looking at the world through her window, and I think, Yes! Up to this point, Emma has been exactly like the enchanted Lady of Shalott, looking out at the world as if from a mirror, cut off from real life.
Perhaps from her window in Yonville, she will see Sir Lancelot riding by The town provides some interest for the reader in any case. We are introduced to a colorful set of inhabitants. Leon Dupuis. Lheureux; the Rouen-Yonville stage-coach driver Hivert; a sanctimonious clergyman called M. Bournisien and a free-thinking but rather pedantic pharmacist called Homais.
An immediate battle of words between the clergyman and the pharmacist livens up the story nicely. I welcome these new characters, no matter how sanctimonious or pedantic. But while introducing several interesting and comic characters, Flaubert is simultaneously playing with our expectations. If you turned right at the end, you arrived at the cemetary. Is he Sir Lancelot?
In any case, within the space of a few pages, he seems to have cheered Emma up considerably. The pages go by without much happening, and the side door remains unused. Oh, wait, something is happening. A bunch of characters are going on a day trip! How exciting! In Part II, the character list may have expanded but life in Yonville Yawnville hasn't really become more interesting.
Emma is increasingly bored and exasperated by her gentle husband Charles and by her narrow life in the town. Alas, the passage ends with the church bells tolling in peaceful lamentation. Poor me. He leaves without having once made use of that tempting side entrance. What has Emma to look forward to now? Oh right, an Agricultural Show… But in the meantime, Emma has realised that Leon might have been her best chance at love and she missed it. Really, it goes from bad to worse.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert | ujawylij.tk: Books
But perhaps shedding a little tear too. Emma has bought herself a prie-dieu, a gothic kneeler. Perhaps something will happen today Why yes! From her window Emma spies a fine Sir Lancelot in yellow gloves. Or is it Mr Bingley? A single man with twenty thousand a year renting a house in the area, he must surely be in want of a His name is not Bingley but Boulanger, Rodolphe Boulanger.
He sounds as romantic as a red-nosed baker. Yes, I was right. This IS a comic novel! Is Flaubert mocking his main character? Yes, he seems to be mocking everyone in the course of this Agricultural Show episode, juxtaposing contrasting scenes to great comic effect. While the local Deputy engages his large audience at a slow pace on the subject of cereal production, Rodolphe engages his tiny audience at a fast pace on the subject of serial seduction. The deputy is planning a venture involving manufacturing linen, Rodolphe is planning a venture involving bed linen!
Is Flaubert trying to turn Homais, the supreme unbeliever, into a Messiah who will make the lame walk and the blind see? In the predictably disappointing aftermath of the miracle procedure, Flaubert gives us some great dialogues between the priest and the pharmacist. These are definitely my favourite parts. Meantime, Emma dialogues with her conscience on the subject of her affair with Rodolphe. Flaubert is amusing himself again.
And even as Emma enters crisis mode, Flaubert makes Homais create a comic diversion. And then he gives Charles serious money troubles just to bring us back into serious mode again.
In the next section, Flaubert cooly announces that Emma wants to become a saint! Elle voulut devenir une sainte. Am I the only one who notices this constant lurching between the serious and the farcical? The two are stock comic characters. But romance prevails in spite of the comedy; Emma, like Lucia in the garden scene, meets her old love Leon at the opera. This more mature Leon turns out to be as calculating in his modest way as Rodolphe was, and he manages to get Charles to agree to Emma staying on an extra day in Rouen by herself.
Not just any cab of course. It has to be a cab that has blinds that can be pulled down completely. Flaubert sends the cabby and his two passengers on a crazy journey around and around the city so that people in the streets see the cab go by again and again and are amazed at the apparitions and reapparaitions of a shuttered vehicle in broad daylight. No, the scene has to open with Homais castigating his apprentice for daring to unlock his medicine cabinet - where he has a bottle of arsenic locked away. The story moves on through many more chapters as Emma and Leon find possibilities for more rendezvous, sometimes described in ridiculous terms, sometimes in sublime ones: for Leon, Emma is the heroine of every novel and drama.
She is the unnamed She of every love poem. This is heady stuff! Each time the story strikes such a serious note, Homais is called in to do another comic turn. The man who used to spout Latin at every opportunity suddenly starts peppering his conversation with slang terms to great effect: nous ferons sauter ensemble les monacos.
Flaubert is serious at last. Emma is left with nothing but debts and broken dreams - described in the most beautiful language needless to say. And even when things worsen, he still manages to make me laugh. He declares that in cases of poisoning, the most important thing is to carry out a test. Follow the scientific method. Everything will be fine if you follow the scientific method and carry out tests. At the very worst moment after the famous doctors have arrived and given up on curing the poison victim, Homais feels obliged to entertain them at his house, sending out for pigeons and lamb chops, the best cream and eggs, and warning his wife to take out the wineglasses with the stems.
And while the entire town, me included, are waiting for news of the victim, Flaubert allows Homais to continue his farce. Homais and the priest sit by the deathbed arguing about religion until they both fall asleep, when they are shown to be indistinguishable from one another: two fat men nodding in their chairs, their chins resting on their chests. When they wake up, their differences re-emerge: one sprinkles the room with holy water, the other with chlorine and the story ends on that note.
But Homais would no doubt prove me wrong. Using suitably scientific methods, he would prove that the majority of readers consider it a tragedy. So be it. View all 75 comments. Splendid, Accessible Prose in Lydia Davis' Translation of Madame Bovary Most realize that the novel's basic substance or theme: an adulteress supreme and her poor cuckold hubby.
Madame Bovary dreams of literary, romantic adventures with young studs and stands out as possibly the most self-centered anti-heroine in the Western canon. Yet, it could be that some who haven't read it have no idea of the "ending" ending which I won't give away here. Likely one reason this masterful novel is so affe Splendid, Accessible Prose in Lydia Davis' Translation of Madame Bovary Most realize that the novel's basic substance or theme: an adulteress supreme and her poor cuckold hubby.
Likely one reason this masterful novel is so affecting is that most of us know that we could have taken a bite of the luscious apple, that if we had made that one wrong turn in life and given in to sensual desire however fleeting , we too would have carried ourselves and our loved ones hurtling down a road that leads always to tragedy for someone in our life.
If you haven't read this, I recommend this translation, in which Lydia Davis' prose is sublime, e. Little did she know that up on the roof of the house, the rain will form a pool if the gutters are blocked, and there she would have stayed feeling safe inside, until one day she suddenly discovered the crack right down the wall. The novel was ground-breaking in several ways, not the least of which is the well and range of human emotions that ebb and flow through the reader while marveling at Flaubert's astounding attention to detail. Clunky translations of this novel in the past took away from the experience of the sadness, anger, disgust, contempt and pity that this translation so aesthetically accentuates.
I highly recommend this translation if you haven't read this. Why are all the "great classics" lead by famed female heroines all too often about personal freedom thru means of sexual compromise leading to abject misery and ultimate demise? I realize it's an accurate depiction of culture and times, however why are Bovary and Moll Flanders the memorable matriarchs of classic literature? See my commentary on the Awakening for similar frustrations. Why aren't there more works about strong women making a difference in their own lives if not those of their famil Why are all the "great classics" lead by famed female heroines all too often about personal freedom thru means of sexual compromise leading to abject misery and ultimate demise?
Why aren't there more works about strong women making a difference in their own lives if not those of their families and communities? Why aren't we having young women read a work or 2 portraying a strong female who doesn't end up having an affair, committing suicided, or otherwise screwing up her own life and the lives of others as she sinks to the bottom where she inevitably belonged?
View all 29 comments. Her too-lofty dreams, her too-narrow house. We meet and greet different sorts of people; we greet and read different sorts of books. Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Jane Eyre. With her modest dreams and dignified living, it was easy to accept and love her. She was far from perfect but there was hardly a thing I would have changed about her. A fictional character of literature exemplifying the virtuous side of real life but she was not alone.
There were some other characters surround Her too-lofty dreams, her too-narrow house. There were some other characters surrounding Jane who certainly struck a chord with me but the music thus created was not a soothing melody. In one such story this year, I met Emma. Yet this man taught her nothing, knew nothing, wished for nothing. He thought she was happy; and she resented him for that settled calm, that ponderous serenity, that very happiness which she herself brought him.
The Bored and Beautiful, Madame Bovary. We all probably know her. That reckless young woman who jots down a list of inordinate whims which could culminate into a glorious Happily Ever After when time comes. Emma while single had imagination and anticipation; Ms. Bovary while married had perversity and passion. Those pleasures when turned inside out, sometimes take the shape of eternal sufferings too.
The difference possibly lies in the vacuum created out of being in love and the idea of being in love. Both can be fatal but I would like to believe that the latter is something that is bound to make a person delusional about oneself and everyone around. Emma tried to form a derisory bridge from her idea too, in a hope to reach an unknown destination she usually read in her books but eventually she suffered too.
Where could she have learned this depravity, so deep and so dissembled that it was almost incorporeal? Why, from this society only. A society which thrives upon displaying its pretentious happiness and insists on concealing the perpetual sadness. A society which constantly invent ways of piling up the debt upon another person while wearing the sham of welfare. Love goes to hell in such cases. She was the beloved of every novel, the heroine of every drama, the vague she of every volume of poetry.
The irony. View all 62 comments. Perhaps she would have liked to confide in someone about all these things. But how does one express an uneasiness so intangible, one that changes shape like a cloud, that changes direction like the wind? She lacked the words, the occasion, the courage.
Some blame it on novels packed with sentimentalist kitsch; some point out her too-lofty dreams, her too-narrow house, so that the higher she raised the bar of happiness the harder it got to climb; some direct their anger at her reckless financial Perhaps she would have liked to confide in someone about all these things. Some blame it on novels packed with sentimentalist kitsch; some point out her too-lofty dreams, her too-narrow house, so that the higher she raised the bar of happiness the harder it got to climb; some direct their anger at her reckless financial transactions that put her family in bankruptcy; some are disappointed at the lack of her sense of duty towards her husband and the small child; some dub her a coward view spoiler [for committing suicide when her secrets were about to get out, renouncing the chutzpah that had propelled her to devise rash schemes hide spoiler ].
In short, everyone thinks her as silly, stupid, selfish, vacuous, impulsive, unrealistic, et cetera, even an evil woman, [insert more abuse], bent on destroying herself and her family, echoing, in a way, Madame Tuvache's assertion that such women ought to be whipped. Many of us think Emma had no good excuse to set herself on a path to self-destruction, to which Flaubert might have replied: "None of you can see past your ideological filters.
Her name, and the title of the novel, define her as a person who is expected to behave in certain ways, fitting her station and function. She loses what individual identity she had. She herself has had vague conventional expectations of marriage, and Flaubert wonderfully describes her sexual disappointment, her reluctance to let go of the idea that she is experiencing post-wedding bliss. He also describes her fairytale, women's magazine attempts to make her house and clothes conform to an idea she has of decorum and elegance.
What makes it impossible for her to inhabit her house or her marriage is her romantic sense that there is something more, some more intense experience, some wider horizon if she could only find it. Her desires are formed by her reading and her education. In the convent where she was educated her dreamy spiritual ecstasies are succeeded by dreamy visions of happiness derived from novels, good and bad. She is like that other archetypal reading hero, Don Quixote, in that her reading habits corrupt her vision of the world and her conduct of her life.
They are both Romantics. Don Quixote desires to make provincial La Mancha into a battlefield of giants, demons and ladies in distress. Emma Bovary desires to be happy in lovely clothes in swift carriages, dancing at balls, being admired. According to Freud, daydreams are related to children's play, in which the toys and objects they arrange are, like 'castles in the air', symbols of what they desire in their lives.
Freud's interest in this essay is not, he explicitly says, in the great authors of epics and tragedies whose material springs from the myths and history of their world. He is interested precisely in the writers of consoling fantasy tales, minor fictions in which the reader can bathe in narcissistic fantasies of being perfectly brave and beautiful, beloved and successful. Folk tales, Freud says, are the daydreams of a culture. In her mock accounts of the heroines of what she calls the 'mind-and-millinery' novel she describes its heroine as surrounded by men who 'play a very subordinate part by her side.
They see her at a ball and are dazzled; at a flower-show, and they are fascinated; on a riding-excursion and they are witched by her noble horsemanship; at church and they are awed by the sweet solemnity of her demeanour. She is the ideal woman in feelings faculties and flounces. In fact her lovers tire of her and desert her, and it is she who is subordinate. Freud also makes the point that the hero or heroine of the daydream is in a narcissistic solitary world. Emma Bovary's romantic desires are little scenes in which she plays the heroine.
Her moment of ecstasy after she has been seduced by Rodolphe is when she is able to tell herself in a mirror, 'J'ai un amant. J'ai un amant. Flaubert is very precise about the lethal vagueness of her fantasies, as they sap the reality from her world, and simultaneously lay her open to the financial depredations of Lheureux, who sells her the concrete toys - the riding whip and cigar-case - to act out her daydreams. And to destroy the lives of her husband and child. It is not a nice story. So why is it one of the greatest novels of all time? To answer that, it is necessary to look at the history of its writing, and Flaubert's ideas about what he was trying to achieve.
His father hoped that Gustave would also be a doctor but the son seems always to have known that he wanted to write. He lived most of his life in Normandy, though he travelled often to Paris and in travelled with his friend Maxime du Camp in Egypt, the Near East and the Mediterranean. He contracted syphilis on this journey, and was also subject to severe epileptic fits. He never married, and lived close to his mother.
He had a long, unsatisfactory affair with Louise Colet, eleven years older than he was, and also a writer, who saved his splendid letters. He had himself a Romantic interest in the distant and strange, both in space and in time. In Flaubert finished writing La Tentation de Saint Antoine, inspired by a painting by Brueghel he had seen in Genoa in , which depicted the ascetic saint in the desert beset by demons and fleshly temptations. He did a great deal of research on fourth century beliefs, pagan, Christian and heretical, and staged his tale as an exotic drama of ideas. In , just before setting out for Egypt with Du Camp, he spent - according to Du Camp - thirty-two hours reading the text aloud to him and his other great friend Louis Bouilhet.
Also according to Du Camp, Bouilhet, when Flaubert finally demanded his opinion of the work, said 'I think you should throw it into the fire and never speak of it again. In he abandoned various other romantic and exotic projects - Une Nuit de Don Juan, Anubis - and embarked on his novel of provincial life. But already at the age of sixteen Flaubert had written a tale based on a news story in the Rouen newspapers.
He called it Passion et Vertu. Its central character is a woman who poisons her husband and children in order to join her lover in America, and commits suicide when the lover rejects her. Flaubert gave his murderess and suicide romantic tastes as motivation, whereas the original woman seems to have been driven more by money and a desire to evade trial and execution.
Flaubert's published letters - especially those to Louise Colet about the writing of Madame Bovary - are some of the most fascinating accounts of the writing process that exist. He tells her he is 'two distinct persons: one who is infatuated with bombast, lyricism, eagle flights, sonorities of phrase and lofty ideas; and another who digs and burrows into the truth as deeply as he can, who likes to treat a humble fact as respectfully as a big one, who would like to make you feel almost physically the things he reproduces. When I think of what it can be, I am dazzled.
Writing this book I am like a man playing the piano with lead balls attached to his knuckles. The supreme importance of style is something to which he returns again and again. He believed he lived in a time when it was not possible to create great types, like Don Quixote or the characters of Shakespeare who 'was not a man, he was a continent; he contained whole crowds of men, entire landscapes. Writers like him do not worry about style: they are powerful in spite of all their faults and because of them.