An Education in Escape: Madame Bovary and Reading
A theme throughout Flaubert's Madame Bovary is escape versus confinement. In the novel Emma Bovary attempts again and again to escape the ordinariness of her life by reading novels, having affairs, day dreaming, moving from town to town, and buying luxuries items. It is Emma's early education described for an entire chapter by Flaubert that awakens in Emma a struggle against what she perceives as confinement. Emma's education at the convent is perhaps the most significant development of the dichotomy in the novel between confinement and escape. The convent is Emma's earliest confinement, and it is the few solicitations from the outside world that intrigue Emma, the books smuggled in to the convent or the sound of a far away cab rolling along boulevards.
The chapter mirrors the structure of the book it starts as we see a satisfied women content with her confinement and conformity at the convent. At first far from being boredom the convent, she enjoyed the company of the nuns, who, to amuse her, would take her into the chapel by way of a long corridor leading from the dining hall. She played very little during the recreation period and knew her catechism well. (Flaubert 30.)Footnote1 The chapter is also filled with images of girls living with in the protective walls of the convent, the girls sing happily together, assemble to study, and pray. But as the chapter progresses images of escape start to dominate. But these are merely visual images and even these images are either religious in nature or of similarly confined people.
She wished she could have lived in some old manor house, like those chatelaines in low wasted gowns who spent their days with their elbows on the stone sill of a gothic window surmounted by trefoil, chin in hand watching a white plumed rider on a black horse galloping them from far across the country. (Flaubert 32.)
As the chapter...
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