Gustave Flaubert "A Simple Heart"

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Gustave Flaubert "A Simple Heart"

Gustave Flaubert’s short story, A Simple Heart, is the narrative account of one woman’s painfully unrewarding life as a humble and blindly dedicated servant, Felicite. Throughout the story chronicling her life, she suffers a series of heartbreaking losses, but continues to love unconditionally nonetheless. A Simple Heart brings up themes of death and loss, and unquestioning duty and responsibility. It also calls into question conventional religious belief, through, among other things, Felicite’s warship of the parrot, Lou Lou. Felicite represents each of these themes partly in her own ignorance and simplicity and, as a result, it is seemingly difficult to validate the authenticity of her religious experience and views. However, it is this piety that, in the end, affords her contentment with her own life. And in this sense, everyone’s personal religious experiences are expressly unique and genuine, thus proving their legitimacy.

Orphaned at a young age, Felicite grows up working on farms until a young man named Theodore courts her. After his initial violent attempt to seduce her fails, which he later blames on alcohol, he is successful in garnering her affection. However, instead of marrying her as promised, he chooses a rich old woman who can save him from conscription. Heartbroken, she travels to Pont l’Eveque, where Madame Aubaine hires her as a servant. Here, she will spend the rest of her days, caring for Aubain’s children and keeping house. At the same time, she will suffer tremendous loss while maintaining a caring and innocent heart regardless.

A main theme woven into A Simple Heart is that of loss. Manyh of Felicite’s losses throughout the story are directly connected with death, and therefore death act as the primary vehicle of loss in Felicite’s life. She is orphaned at a very young age by the death of her parents, loses Virginie to illness, her nephew Victor to the sea, Madame Aubaine to...
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