Gustave Flaubert And Madame Bovary Comparisons Essay

Gustave Flaubert And Madame Bovary: Comparisons Essay, Research Paper

Gustave Flaubert and Madame Bovary: Comparisons

We would like to think that everything in life is capable, or beyond the

brink of reaching perfection. It would be an absolute dream to look upon each

day with a positive outlook. We try to establish our lives to the point where

this perfection may come true at times, although, it most likely never lasts.

There’s no real perfect life by definition, but instead, the desire and

uncontrollable longing to reach this dream.

In the novel Madame Bovary, it’s easy to relate to the characters as

well as the author of this book. One can notice that they both share a fairly

similar view on life, and that their experiences actually tie in with each other.

Emma Bovary dreamed of a life beyond that of perfection as well. She

realizes that she leads an ordinary and average life, but simply does not want

to abide by it. In the novel, Emma meets a pitiful doctor named Charles Bovary.

The first time they meet, Charles falls instantly in love with her. They begin

to see more and more of each other until Charles asks Emma’s father for her hand

in marriage. They end up getting married and everything goes fine, just like a

normal couple, for awhile. They did things with each other, went out, and were

extremely happy. Although, this love and passion for life shortly ended when

Emma’s true feelings began to come about. We soon come to realize that ?the

story is of a woman whose dreams of romantic love, largely nourished by novels,

find no fulfillment when she is married to a boorish country doctor? (Thorlby


This is completely true because Emma really does get caught up in her

reading. She wonders why she can’t have a flawless love as well as a flawless

life, just as the characters do in the novels she reads.

Once Emma becomes fed up and realizes that he is ?a sad creature?

(Flaubert 78), she begins her little quest to find the right man through a binge

of affairs and broken hearts.

The author of Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, was born in Rouen France

(Kunitz 280). He grew up in a rather wealthy and prosperous family as a result

of his father being a successful doctor (Kunitz 280). This could easily relate

to the fact that Charles Bovary was a doctor too.

During Flaubert’s younger years, he was alone most of the time. He

didn’t have any friends and normally spent his days in solitude. This gave him

time to focus on his literature (Flaubert i). Since Flaubert’s academics and

knowledge of literature were released at such an early age, it is explainable to

see how his profound talent was released (Flaubert i). He began to write plays

at around the age of ten. These were in-depth, romantic plays that adults would

learn to appreciate (Kunitz 280). At that time Flaubert focused his attention

on the study of History and the writings of numerous romantics as well (Kunitz


Flaubert was later sent to an intermediate school in Paris to further

strengthen his academic standings (Kunitz 280). Upon completion of that, he

enrolled into law school but found no interest in it (Thorlby 250). This

allowed him to do some drifting, while taking the time to realize that

literature would be his destiny (Kunitz 281).

Although all of this schooling and work helped Flaubert become an

extremely talented writer, he thought writing to be one of the most difficult

things (De Man xi). He wrote very slowly in fact, while reflecting on his

painful life experiences. It took over five years to perfect his most famous

novel, Madame Bovary (Thorlby 272).

Although some people, as well as I, believe that Flaubert based the

character of Emma Bovary on himself, he was very unhappy with the subject of the

book upon finishing (Thorlby 272). Maybe Flaubert figured her character to be

too provocative and heartless. Otherwise, he might have simply reflected upon

the theme, and thought it to be uninteresting.

In 1856, the novel Madame Bovary was actually condemned as being

pornographic. This was a result of Flaubert’s eminently honest and descriptive

themes. He, along his publisher were charged with offending public morality and

went to trial, but were soon acquitted (Magill 616). This publicity obviously

helped bring the book out into the public while establishing popularity and


Sure, Flaubert was probably disappointed when this negative publicity

about Madame Bovary. But, he realized that criticism could be ignored and his

objective is ?to understand humanity, not to explain or reform it? (Magill 616).

By reading Madame Bovary, it’s easy to notice that Flaubert is a

perfectionist. In fact, he sometimes rewrites his books 3-4 times to establish

perfection. When he finished Madame Bovary, he said, ?C’est Moi,? meaning in

French, ?that’s me? (Kunitz 281). This could symbolize the incredible

comparison between Flaubert and the character Emma Bovary.

Although Flaubert detested the thought of being famous, his work titled

him France’s most renowned writer (Magill 617). According to Sainte-Beuve,

Flaubert’s scenes were ?pictures which, if they were painted with a brush as

they are written, would be worthy of hanging in a gallery beside the best genre

painting? (Kunitz 281).

In 1846 Flaubert met the poet Louis Colet, who became his mistress.

Although he admired her, he couldn’t ?find the ideal love? (Kunitz 280). This

could symbolize the comparison between Flaubert and Emma as well. Along with

Louis Colet, Flaubert had a few more adulterous relationships too. But, when

his work became too important, Flaubert gave up everything to devote himself to

his writing. He even broke off his affair with Mme. Colet because got in the

way (Thorlby 272).

Flaubert soon became a pessimist and basically had a cheerless view of

life (Magill 617). He became the victim of nervous apprehension and depression

(Kunitz 282). Flaubert frequently felt with drawled from society and longed to

commit suicide (Kunitz 282). It’s plain to observe that Flaubert was an

idealist that dreamed, just as the characters in his novel did. ?These

perpetual conflicts,? writes Troyat, who has been listing some of the paradoxes

in Flaubert’s life, ?made him a profoundly unhappy man? (Kunitz 282).

Emma would sit on the grass into which she would dig the tip of her

parasol with brief thrusts and would ask herself, ?My God, why did I get married?

(Flaubert 108)? Flaubert was the same way, deliberating whether marriage was

one of the biggest mistakes to have been made or not. ?Madame Bovary,? writes A

de Pontmartin in the correspond and, ?is the pathological glorification of the

senses and of the imagination in a disappointed democracy.? ?It proves once and

for all that realism means literary democracy? (De Man ix). Emma and Flaubert

are very ordinary middle-class people, with banal expectations of life and an

urge to dominate their surroundings. Their personalities are remarkable only

for an unusual defiance of natural feelings (Flaubert 152). People even say

that the myth surrounding the figure of Emma Bovary is so powerful, that one has

to remind oneself that she is fiction and not an actual person (De Man vii).

By reading this book, and accurately analyzing the author’s significant

events, one can plainly conclude that Flaubert actually did tie in those events

with the theme of Madame Bovary. Madame Bovary is a creation of one’s

conscience which can only be explained through the eyes of another. It’s about

love, hate, and destiny, while holding every true emotion in the context as well.

?Something in the destiny of the heroine and of the main supporting characters,

as well as in the destiny of the book itself, surrounds it with the aura of

immortality that belongs only to truly major creations? (De Man vii). And it is

fair to say that Madame Bovary is a true creation, at least one in the eyes of

Gustave Flaubert.

Nick Groth

hour 3



De Man, Paul, ed. Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary:

Backgrounds and Sources, Essays in Criticisms. New

York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1965

Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. New York, New

York, 1964

Kunitz, Stanley J., Vineta Colby, eds. European Literature

(Authors) 1800-1900: A Biographical Dictionary

of European Literature. New York: The H.W. Wilson

Co., 1967

Magill, Frank N., ed. Critical Survey of Long Fiction: Foreign

Language Series. vol. 2; New Jersey: Salem Press

Inc., 1984

Magill, Frank N., ed. Cyclopedia of World Authors. New

Jersey: Salem Press Inc., 1958

Thorlby, Anthony, ed. The Penguin Companion to European

Literature. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1969


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