When Fantasy Takes Over Reality Essay, Research Paper
June 2, 2000
When Fantasy Takes Over Reality
Emma Bovary, like most people, dreamed of a life full of fantasy, excitement, mystery, and wonder. However, unlike most people, Emma Bovary let her fantasies take over her reality and eventually her happiness which, lead her to live a life full of misery and utter disappointment. Furthermore, her unrealistic perception of living ultimately led to her sad downfall.
When Emma was a young woman living on her father’s farm, she led a somewhat sheltered life. Since her mother had died, Emma had to take on the role of being the “woman of the house.” She cooked, cleaned and helped her father on the farm. None of these things were very glamorous. It seemed as though Emma needed to get out of the situation. She was bored, and she wanted to live the life that she saw on the pages of her books, and Charles seemed to be the person she thought could bring glamour and fantasy into her life. However, in the end, it seemed like no one could bring what Emma saw as happiness into her life.
Emma first discovered the “good life” when she went away to the convent. Since many things were restricted, and life was kind-of dull, Emma discovered the power of books. Books took her to fantastic places, full of mysticism and romance. She soon began to become obsessed with books; they were her only window to the outside. Emma also began to try to find parallels with her life and the world of fantasy. “Even in the midst of her raptures, she had always maintained a propensity foe the concrete; she had loved the church for its flowers, and literature for the power to stir up passion. (34)” After a while, the real world seemed rather boring and lifeless, and she became determined to find and better life, a life like the one in her books. “And she tried to find out exactly what was meant in life by the word ‘bliss,’ ‘passion,’ and ‘rapture,’ which seemed so beautiful to her in books. (30)”
Emma met Charles, who seemed (at the time) the one person who could steer her away from the dull and ordinary, into a life of glamour. She may have thought she was in love with Charles at first, but she was ignorant and believed she was when she really wasn’t. However, Charles was genuinely in love with Emma and loved her more than life itself. It wasn’t soon before Emma started to become disenchanted with Charles and found him boring. She felt as though he didn’t care enough about her to put in any effort to make their life together as romantic and wonderful and possible. This started as early as their honeymoon. “To taste their sweetness, she and her husband would have probably gone off to those countries with romantic names where newlyweds can savor their bliss in such delicious languor! They would have slowly climbed the steep slopes in a post chaise with blue silk curtains, listening to the postilion’s song echoing among the mountains, along with the tinkling of goat bells and the muffled roar of waterfalls?If she only could lean over the balcony of a Swiss chalet, or enclose her melancholy in a Scottish cottage, with a husband wearing a long black velvet cloak, a sugar loaf hat and fancy cuffs! (34, 35)” Anyone who comes up with this scene as their honeymoon and expects to have a honeymoon such as thins is most certainly setting him/herself up for disappointment. Emma seemed quite disappointed with what her honeymoon was like, and saw it as being Charles’ fault. “And yet it seemed to her if Charles had made the slightest effort, if he had been at all perceptive, if his glance had only once penetrated her thoughts, an abundance of feeling would suddenly have been released from her heart, like ripe fruit falling from a tree at the touch of a hand. (35)”
After the honeymoon, Emma’s feelings towards Charles seemed to head in the same direction. She had become more and more disenchanted with him, and marriage in itself. She stayed with Charles even though she knew that he was not her prince charming. “Charles’ conversation was as flat as a sidewalk, and it was traversed by a steady stream of the most commonplace ideas, all wearing their usual and appealing to neither the emotions, the sense of humor, nor the imagination. (35)”
Emma soon realized that Charles couldn’t make her happy, and make all her dreams come true. So she decided that she decided to take matters into her own hands. To life a life of fantasy and glamour she had to look the part. So Emma bought many expensive outfits and furnishings for her home, which she could barely afford, and she kept on buying them even though she knew that her bill was running high. At the time, bills didn’t really matter to Emma; she was much too preoccupied in living the life of her dreams. Emma also started to meet new people. The first person that she became interested in was a man by the name of Leon. He was a handsome, well-educated man who shared the same passion for all things beautiful. They could talk for hours about sunsets, and mountains, as well as literature. Emma became more and more infatuated with him. However, while this was going on, Emma was pregnant with Charles’ baby, which eventually became the greatest victim of this so-called marriage. She wanted the baby to be a boy so it can live a free life and do what he wants, unlike a girl who is restricted from many grand things. To Emma’s disappointment, the baby was a girl, who would be neglected by Emma, and only used when needed.
Emma would soon become bored all over again, because Leon, the one man who understood her would be leaving to go to Paris. However, she soon got over it when she met her soon-to-be lover Rodolphe. He swept Emma off her feet and she fell in love with him. Unlike Charles, Rodolphe was romantic, he wrote her love letters, and they would meet secretly in the garden. It was just like one of those forbidden romances that she would have read in her novels. She loved everything about it; the mystery, the romance, the passion. Emma thought she finally found the life she was looking for. She even wanted run away with Rodolphe and leave behind her husband and child. However, the night before they were suppose to leave, Rodolphe wrote her a letter saying he wouldn’t go and this more than anything else, broke Emma’s heart. “?(Emma) found the letter, and opened it; then, as though there were a terrible conflagration behind her, she began to flee panic-stricken toward her room?she understood nothing and continued to run up the stairs, panting, distraught, reeling, still holding that horrible piece of paper, which rattled between her fingers like a piece of tin. (177)” It seems as though, Emma had never been more distraught in her life as she was then. This glamorous affair, full of fantasy, ended up breaking her heart, and sending her into the arms of yet another man.
Charles tried to console Emma; he hated seeing her even remotely sad, not to mention devastated. To try to make her feel better, he asked her to go to the opera, at first Emma was reluctant to go but Charles convinced her. At the opera, Emma was very surprised and happy to see an old friend of hers. Leon had finished studying in Paris and moved to Rouen. Emma and Leon hit it off once more, their relationship had started up again and eventually turned into a passionate romance. Much like Rodolphe, Leon seduced Emma with his charm and love letters. She convinced Charles to buy her “piano lessons” in Rouen (even though he couldn’t afford it) so that she could go there to visit her lover. Emma fell madly in love with Leon, she loved the whole idea of sneaking out to see him, visiting him in his hotel, and heading bad, it was all so secretive and wonderful to her. “For Emma, there was something intoxicating in the sight of that vast concentration of life, and her heart swelled as though the hundred and twenty thousand souls palpitating there had all sent her a breath of the passions she attributed to them?she was the amorous heroine of all novels and plays, the vague ’she’ of all poetry. (227,229)” Emma’s world of fantasy finally became a reality, but it would all be over soon enough.
Emma and Leon worshiped each other and fell madly in love with one another. They spent as much time together as possible, and soon that would catch up with them. “They knew each other to well to feel that breathless wonder which makes the joy of possession a hundred times more intense. She was as satiated with him as he was tired of her. She was beginning to find in adultery all the dullness of marriage. (251)”
Emma was ruined, what seemed to be the perfect affair, was not so perfect after all. Throughout the majority of her life, Emma tried to find happiness by leading her life the way they did in her books. However, she failed. There was Charles, who was suppose to be the one who brought her into the life of fantasy, but she soon discovered he was boring. Then there was Rodolphe, who was suppose to be her forbidden lover, who she was suppose to run away with and lead an exciting and unpredictable life, but he broke her heart. Leon was suppose to be her true love, whom she would always adore, but she got sick of him as well. When men didn’t fill her heart up with joy, she tried to have things fill her heart with joy, but her lifestyle didn’t permit that, and Emma went into tremendous debt. She must have finally figured out that there she could never stay happy. She also figured that if she couldn’t live the life of her dreams, why live at all, and so she decided to end it.
“A pretty young woman who lives, socially and morally speaking, in a hole, and who is ignorant, foolish, flimsy, unhappy, takes a pair of lovers by whom she is successively deserted; in the midst of the bewilderment of which, giving up her husband and her child, letting everything go, she sinks deeper into duplicity, debt, despair, and arrives on the spot, on the small scene itself of her poor depravities, at a pitiful tragic end. In especial she does these things while remaining absorbed in romantic intention and vision, and she remains absorbed in romantic intention and vision while fairly rolling in the dust.” -Henry James (344)