Women’s Rights Come To a Halt: Madame Bovary
As soon as Eve was created from the rib of Adam, women have been struggling to achieve the same rights as men. As time has gone on, women have been able to make great strides in the way they are compared to men, in particular the Industrial Revolution and realism period lead to great equality strides for women. As the Industrial Revolution, and realism began to emerge in the 19th century, women were starting to develop their own ideas and opinions on how to behave. In Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary, he warned women that if you step outside of your gender roles, only bad things are bound to happen, thus working to stop women’s rights.
Throughout the novel, gender roles are clearly set for both men, and women. Men are seen as more capable, worthy, and just overall better humans compared to women. Women have little to no say in how their lives are ran, which is clearly shown when Emma’s father decides that “’If [Charles] asks for her,’ he said to himself, ‘I’ll give her to [Charles].’” (16) Emma’s father is the one who gets to choose his daughter’s fate, rather than her. Even when wedding arrangements are being made Emma has no say in the matter because “Emma would, on the contrary, have preferred to have a midnight wedding with torches, but old Rouault could not understand such an idea.”(17) Women are depicted as being incapable of making life choices, so they need to be behind a man who is able to be their voice and make decisions for them.
Women have also been put into the position of being a housewife. The role of a woman is to care for her home, husband, and children. When Emma wants to step out of her gender role, she then asks “’Have I not my house to look after, my husband to attend to, a thousand things, in fact, many duties that must be considered first?’” (74) That then brings it to her attention that she must stick to the way society is structured for women. When Madame Bovary decides to follow her gender role she does so by “[taking] interest in the housework, [going] to church regularly, and [looking] after her servant with more severity.” (75) Even the way to dress, and how a homemaker represented herself was determined by society as “’a good housewife does not trouble about her appearance.’” (75) Emma fulfills her role as a woman by imitating the ideal housewife, which is to be religious, and to care about everyone other than herself. There is nothing more imperative than to please your husband, if you wish to play your role in society, in which Emma did so by making sure that “when Charles came home he found his slippers put to warm near the fire. His waistcoat now never wanted lining, not his shirt buttons, and it was write a pleasure to see in the cupboard the nightcaps arranged in piles of the same height.” (75) It was seen that a woman was put on this Earth to please her husband, and children and by not doing so was simply unacceptable. Children are also a big part of a woman’s life, because children can only be produced by a women, and it is their duty to care, and love them. As Emma was trying to convey the perfect woman “she declared she adored children; this was her consolation, her joy, her passion, and she accompanied her caresses with lyrical outburst which would have reminded any one but the Yonville people of Sachette in ‘Notre Dame de Paris’” (75) When Madame Bovary would fulfill her duties as a wife, “the housewives [would admire] her economy, the patients her politeness, the poor her charity.”(76) Proving that when you behave, as how you should you will be recognized as a good person. The way to behave as a woman is clearly defined, and it is stressed how important it is to do what you are told. As the role of a woman became very evident in the time of realism, it was crucial to not stray away from the guidelines put in place by society. Emma Bovary had little regard for how to behave, and it was evident in the way she conducted her...
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