Madame Bovary Essay, Research Paper
The Victorian era was a time of both beauty and elegance. Many wonderful novels were written during the period including Jane Erye by Charlotte Bronte and her sister Emily s famous work, Wuthering Heights. But in contrast there are novels that express Anti-Victorian sentiments as well. One example is Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. To examine why this novel uses Anti-Victorian views in it s plot we must first understand what the Victorian Era was about.
Victorians were complicated people with somewhat similar views on life as many people today. They were concerned about manners, morals, and money. To be proper was everything. Men wanted to be thought of as Gentlemen and ladies wanted to be Lady-Like , meaning they were to respect their husbands, and never show any indecency towards men or each other. Appearance was everything to these people. The better you looked (i.e. how expensive your clothes were) the better you were treated during the Victorian Era. The plot of most Victorian novels centered on struggles of a main character to find self knowledge . People s relationships to society was more important then anything else.
Quite possibly the most obvious example of Anti-Victorian sentiment in the Novel is Emma lack of Victorian ideals. She engages in two affairs while she is married to her husband. The first with Rodolphe, a man that seduces her yet never truly loves her and the second with Leon, who she truly loved but for the wrong reasons. This was not a very Victorian thing to do. First of all because it does not show loyalty to her husband. It is a great disrespect to his name. Second women wanted to be thought of as very proper and respectable, and sleeping with every man that claims to love you would not make you very proper in the eyes of others. Loyalty was very important to the Victorians. A woman never divorced her husband regardless of how their relationship was going, it just wasn t the proper thing to do. Yet Emma very quickly decides that her husband is just too simple for her, because in her eyes she deserves someone much better, and tells Leon that she will leave her husband and run away with him so they can start a new life together. We know how Anti-Victorian Emma is when we hear the first words out of her mouth, O God, O God, why did I get married? She is so quick to toss her bouquet on the fire like it was just another ugly piece of wood.
Emma is a very weak person. She thinks she knows what she wants and then turns around the next day wanting something completely different. She longs to be something she is not and can never be happy with what she is. This in my eyes is very Anti-Victorian. Most people back then had their own social class they ranked in. People were content to live out their lives in their social class, not every really worrying about making it to the next step up. The lower class knew they had more important things to worry about then their wealth, such as their love for their family (example: Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights loved Catherine and was content with living out the rest of his life with her, regardless of how much money they had). Every one knew their place in society. But Emma is definetly not the same way. Her whole life was based on her wishes about being better then she was. Nothing was every good enough for her. Nothing would ever truly make her feel good about her life or who she was. Even the birth of a child did not make her life any happier. She quickly lost interest in her daughter Birthe, and went back to focusing on her needs for more, more, more.
Emma never truly shows stability in her appearance. She is rude, tense, and very outwardly nervous in front of others. This would automatically lower her status in society in Victorian times. As I said before appearance was very important to the Victorians and this is another very good example of why Emma is very Anti-Victorian .
Not only does the main character Emma have Anti-Victorian sentiments, but the men in the novel do also. Victorian gentlemen are according to The Idea of A University one s who would never inflict pain on another, he would never take advantage of another person for personal gain, nor would he turn down another in times of need. It is very obvious that her lovers fail in all these categories. In Emma s time of need, when she has no money and begs for help, Leon and Rodolphe, practically slam the door in her face. Sure they would have her if they needed sexual pleasure, but if it came down to helping her, they are quick to turn the other cheek. They are not gentlemen and therefore not Victorian. It is Rodolphe s betrayal of Emma in turning down her request for money that ultimately helps lead to her suicide.
The only character in the novel with any admirable traits is Charles Bovary. Although he is very unaware of his wife s adulteress acts he truly does love her. She is the most important thing in his life, along with his daughter. In that aspect he does show some Victorian traits. He is loyal to his family, even to the bitter end. There is enough Anti-Victorian sentiments in the novel Madame Bovary to write a another book just to list them all. Some are obvious and others are a bit more obscure. That is why Madame Bovary is one of the best Anti-Victorian novels ever written. If only Emma could realize that there is one thing that goes beyond any social class. Any one can have it and it can be the most important thing in your life. True Love.