Madame Bovary Essay, Research Paper
When Gustave Flaubert wrote Madame Bovary, the Romantic Movement was in full swing. This enabled writers to be more concerned with feelings and emotions rather than form and artistic qualities. Flaubert considered some of the novels written to be good, but others (e.g., romance novels) he viewed to be poor. Flaubert’s satirical view towards romantic novels is shown throughout this work of fiction. The title character cannot distinguish reality from fantasy. The relationships that Emma partakes in are doomed because of her desire to live in a fantasy world. The reader sees her inability to behave in a decent manner between her relationships with Charles, Leon, Rodolphe, and even her daughter, Berthe.
When Emma plans her wedding to Charles, the readers learn: “Emma would have preferred to be married at midnight by torchlight” (p. 22). Instead, she settles for a traditional wedding. Charles adores Emma: “He was happy, without a care in the world…” (p. 28). Charles realized that he “possessed, for life, this pretty wife whom he adored” (p. 29). Emma, on the other hand, feels differently. Through the narrator, the readers learn her inner thoughts:
Before her marriage she had believed herself to be in love; but since the happiness which should have resulted from this love had not come to her, she felt that she must have been mistaken. And she tried to find out exactly what was meant in life by the words ‘bliss’, ‘passion,’ and ‘rapture,’ which had seemed so beautiful to her in books (pp. 29, 30).
Charles will never be able to live up to Emma’s high expectations or the dashing, charming, intellectual characteristics the men possesses in her novels.
Emma’s relationship with Leon has two stages. During the first stage, there is no adulterous affair. This is due to her misguided feelings of love: “Love, she felt ought to come all at once, with great thunderclaps and flashes of lightning; it was like a storm bursting upon life from the sky, uprooting it, overwhelming the will and sweeping the heart into the abyss (p. 87). This passage illustrates Flaubert’s opinion that romance novels have clouded her mind and shaped her expectations of how love must enter her life. If love does not occur in this manner, then it cannot be called love.
Shortly after Leon departs for Paris, Emma meets Rodolphe. When he sees her for the first time he thinks to himself: “And she’s bored! She wishes she could live in town and dance the polka every night. Poor woman! She’s gasping for love like a carp gasping for water on a kitchen table. A few sweet words and she’d adore me, I’m sure of it! She’d be affectionate, charming…. Yes, but how could I get rid of her later?” (p. 113). Emma has dreamed of hearing these words her entire life. After they have started their affair, Flaubert illustrates the humor of romance novels by Emma saying: ‘I have a lover! I have a lover!’ and the thought gave her a delicious thrill, as though she were beginning a second puberty. At last she was going to possess the joys of love, that fever of happiness she had despaired of ever knowing. She was entering a marvelous realm in which everything would be passion, ecstasy and rapture…” (p. 140). Rodolphe begins to “treat her coarsely, without consideration” (p. 165). Ironically, this is the same way that Emma treats Charles. Eventually, Emma begs Rodolphe to take her away. He agrees because “he lost his head” (p. 167). On the day they were to leave, Emma receives a letter explaining why he was not running away with her. This letter causes her to become ill. “Sometime her heart would pain her, then it would be her chest…” (p. 182). Only after she forces Rodolphe from her mind, does she finally regain her health.
Emma attends a theatre performance with Charles and re-encounters Leon. Emma and Leon’s love rekindles itself, and they begin the second stage of their affair. Despite their love affair and declarations of love for one another, these two were happier in a fantasy world instead of reality. They both had unrealistic expectations about how love should be. Eventually, this leads them searching for a way out of their relationship. “She was satiated with him as he was tired of her” (p. 251).
As a final point, Emma relationship with Berthe’s, her daughter, was doomed simply because Berthe was born a girl. “A man, at least, is free; he can explore the whole range of the passions…” (p. 76). Throughout the novel, Berthe’s existence is rarely mentioned, except when she is portrayed as a nuisance to her mother: “ ‘Leave me alone!’ Emma repeated angrily. The look on her face frightened the child and she began to shriek. ‘I told you to leave me alone!’ said Emma, shoving her away with her elbow” (p. 100). The fantasy world in which Emma constantly lives in prevents her from loving her daughter the way that a mother should.
Emma goes through life being selfish, obsessive, and unloving. In her search for passion, love and sensuality, she destroys the lives of her husband, Charles, and her daughter, Berthe. Sadly, Emma honestly believes she would find passion, bliss, and the love spoken about in the romantic novels she read. If she stopped searching for her fantasy life, and accepted her reality life with Charles and Berthe then she could have found happiness within those two relationships.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert