The Tragedy of Madame Bovary
Madame Bovary is both a product of and a commentary on life in 19th century France. Gustav Flaubert’s wrote the novel in a realistic style, which was then the major movement in art and literature. This technique, which allowed him to honestly portray the nature of provincial life, was the perfect medium to showcase his opinion of the bourgeoisie and their preoccupations. He used mostly his main character, Emma Bovary, to show that the corrupt values of the middle class could only lead to tragedy and ruin. At the beginning of the story, Emma is a young, educated country girl with an idealistic heart and a passion for reading. She is a romantic soul, and assumes the world will live up to the heights she has witnessed in her novels. Emma believes that great happiness is the normal state of most people and throughout the novel cannot reconcile her own life with her expectation. After her marriage to Charles, she slowly becomes more and more dissatisfied with her situation. “Before she had married she though she was in love. But the happiness that should have resulted from this love had not come; she must have deceived herself, she thought.” (Flaubert 33) Emma repeatedly feels stifled by the predictability of her life. Initially she blames her discontent on living in Tostes, and convinces Charles to sell his house and move their family to Yonville. She insists, even though the move causes a setback in Charles’ career, who laments that he would leave Tostes just “when he was beginning to take root.” (Flauber 64). When this change ultimately also disappoints Emma, as her life doesn’t change in any meaningful way, she chases excitement in her two love affairs and through her materialistic purchases. Emma fails to realize that the romantic ideals she has read about are unattainable, or at least unsustainable, in the real world. She craves the fantasy, the perfect happy ending, and loses herself in vague daydreams and...
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