March 19, 2013
Characterization in Madame Bovary: Homais
In literature, there are various (and many) ways of introducing a character. The simplest way, as Lodge proposes this “most important single component of the novel,” is by providing a biographic summary or a physical description of a character. (Lodge, 67) The name Homais derives from the word ‘homai,’ more than often traced and linked to Bhagavad Gita (A Hindu Scripture), and whose translation predominantly refers to the notion of ego, self, and selfishness. Needless to say, in the narrative’s discourse such traits become inseparable from Homais’s character sooner rather than later, and the question becomes—why was Flaubert inclined in pursuing this redundant peculiarity? As biographic summary is concerned, considering a character’s name often becomes a primal concern for both the author as well for the reader when attempting to reduce a character to technical terms. “In a novel, names are never neutral” Lodge would argue adding that “they always signify, if it is only ordinariness.” (Ibid. 37) Rimmon-Kenan, attempting to define what she terms “reinforcement by analogy,” subcategorizes names into four ways by which they (may) parallel character-traits—Visual, Acoustic, Articulatory, and Morphogical (Rimmon-Kenan, 70). And as it appears, Flaubert’s meticulous rhetoric takes full advantage of such tonal fluctuation. Namely, this variation in tone manifest itself climactically in Homais’s speech (both dialogue and monologue), for Homais is the character almost entirely perceived and characterized by what he says. “’Homais seemed shocked. She walked down three steps and whispered into his ear: “Didn’t you know! He’s goping to be taken over this week. Lheureux is foreclosing him. He drove him into bankruptcy.’ ‘What a dreadful catastrophe’ exclaimed the apothecary, who always had the proper expression for any conceivable circumstance.” (Flaubert, 126) The above’s...
Cited: Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. New York: Signet Classics, 1964. Print.
Lodge, David. The Art of Fiction. London: Penguin Books, 1992. Print.
Rimmon Kenan, Shlomith. Narrative Fiction. London and New York: 1983, 2002. Print
Heath, Stephen. Flaubert: Madame Bovary. London: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Print.
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