Real life is beautiful

Real life is beautiful
Why do you disatisfy,Mrs Bovary

Madame Bovary

In 1851 Flaubert embarked upon Madame Bovary, on which he worked until 1856. It was published in 1857 and created a storm; Flaubert in fact was unsuccessfully tried on the charge of contributing to public depravity. In addition to satirizing the provincial bourgeoisie, this work tells of Emma Bovary, who as a girl attends a convent school where she acquires romantic notions of a lover who will live for her alone. She marries a good but simple doctor, Charles Bovary, who adores her but does not understand her romantic fantasies, and she then has two love affairs. When, at the end, she finds her dream world in shreds about her, she prefers death to accepting a world not consonant with her fantasies and commits suicide.
At a more profound level the book is the profession of faith of an author who had outgrown romanticism and knew its premises were false. The man of whom Emma dreamed could not exist; the only man who would tell her what she wished sought only an easy seduction. She was foredoomed from the moment she adopted romantic fantasies in the convent.
Madame Bovary can also be read as Flaubert's view of modern woman, who has been perverted by society to shallow or false ideals and thus cannot follow her own nature to its true fulfillment in real love, which would combine in one transcendent experience the fullest physical experiences with the richest spiritual ones. These concepts, coupled with Emma's death, embody Flaubert's principal themes: sexuality, religion, and annihilation. The book is a masterpiece because of these underlying concerns and Flaubert's analysis, and because of his success in giving them form in his novel.
Madame Bovary displayed a new technique for writing ironic novels which writers were to imitate for many generations. Flaubert's doctrines may be readily summarized. He believed writers must write of the observed, actual facts; his documentation became legendary. To this extent he partook of the scientism of his period. He wished the writer to be, like the scientist, objective, impartial, impersonal, and impassive. But while the scientist generalizes his truths into a law of nature, Flaubert asked the writer to generalize his observations into an ideal, a type, whose dynamic power becomes apparent through the artistry of its presentation. Finally, Flaubert was a convinced Platonist who accepted the Socratic dictum that the True, the Beautiful, and the Good are one. If the writer presented the True through the Beautiful, his work would also be morally good.
The publication of Madame Bovary made Flaubert a celebrity. A floundering school of French writers who called themselves realists (markedly inferior to their later American counterparts) imitated Flaubert's use of careful documentation and a rather commonplace subject and proclaimed him their master. In Paris he came to know most of the important people of his day: members of the imperial court, the Goncourt brothers, George Sand, to whom he became devoted, and later the younger men such as Émile Zola, Alphonse Daudet, and Ivan Turgenev. He withdrew, however, each spring to Croisset, a village near Rouen.
Flaubert's next work, Salammbô (1862), recounted the revolt of the mercenaries against Carthage in the 3d century B.C. In it he gave free rein to his penchant for archeological documentation and his delight in the ancient world. Unfortunately the novel is tedious and repetitious, and few readers have been moved by this mythological account of the fusion of sexuality with religion and their joint culmination in death and annihilation. Flaubert's scrupulously accurate reconstruction of antiquity, however, did influence later historical novels.

Farmington Hills, Mich “Gustave Flaubert." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. 1998. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center.

Main Theme

How false or perverted values debase and dehumanize those who hold such values. Emma Bovary idealizes romance, believing flirtation, trysts, secret letters, and gala balls are the the pith, the very soul, of love. She also prizes things–money, chic fashions, sumptuous surroundings, the tinkle of crystal. The dinner-dance she attends in Rouen is a microcosm of the haut monde in which she wants to live.

Emma’s self-centeredness and quixotic perception of reality cause her to ignore her child, deceive her husband, surrender to promiscuity and go so deeply in debt that she offers her body in payment. Emma’s distorted vision of the real world also blinds her to the intentions of those who use her. For example, she fails to realize that Rodolphe is treating her as a sex object rather than a cherished lover. Other characters who also cling to false values are Homais, the pompous apothecary; Lheureux, the greedy merchant; and Heloise, the deceitful first wife of Bovary. Dr. Charles Bovary’s perception of reality is also distorted. He believes that to live means merely to exist. Consequently, he lacks curiosity, passion, spirit. He is so numb to the world around him that he is blind to the obvious faults of Emma, Homais, Lheureux, and others; he is, in this respect, Panglossian. He is not without redeeming qualities, however, including honesty and loyalty.

Cummings, Michael J. A Study Guide 2004

Other Themes

Deception: Emma continually deceives her husband while committing adultery.

Greed: Unscrupulous Lheureux runs the Bovarys into debt to satisfy his lust for money.

Naiveté: Dr. Bovary never suspects his wife of infidelity even though his neighbors become well aware of Emma's extramarital activity.

Prodigality and Materialism: Emma spends lavishly, believing that money can buy happiness.

Cummings, Michael J. A Study Guide 2004


The book, loosely based on the life story of a schoolfriend who had become a doctor, was written at the urging of friends, who were trying (unsuccessfully) to "cure" Flaubert of his deep-dyed Romanticism by assigning him the dreariest subject they could think of, and challenging him to make it interesting without allowing anything out-of-the-way to occur. Although Flaubert had little liking for the styles of Balzac or Zola, the novel is now seen as a prime example of Realism, a fact which contributed to the trial for obscenity (which was a politically-motivated attack by the government on the liberal newspaper in which it was being serialised, La Revue de Paris). Flaubert, as the author of the story, does not comment directly on the moral character of Emma Bovary and abstains from explicitly condemning her adultery. This decision caused some to accuse Flaubert of glorifying adultery and creating a scandal.
The Realist movement used verisimilitude through a focus on character development. Realism was a reaction against Romanticism. Emma may be said to be the embodiment of a romantic; in her mental and emotional process, she has no relation to the realities of her world. She inevitably becomes dissatisfied since her larger-than-life fantasies are impossible to realize. Flaubert declared that much of what is in the novel is in his own life by saying, "Madame Bovary, c'est moi" ("Madame Bovary is me").
Madame Bovary, on the whole, is a commentary on the entire self-satisfied, deluded, bourgeois culture of Flaubert's time period. His contempt for the bourgeoisie is expressed through his characters: Emma and Charles Bovary lost in romantic delusions; absurd and harmful scientific characters, a self-serving money lender, lovers seeking excitement finding only the banality of marriage in their adulterous affairs. All are seeking escape in empty church rituals, unrealistic romantic novels, or delusions of one sort or another.

Social Background

The villagers who surround Emma provide us with a context for historically understanding Emma’s social position. The wet nurse whom Emma visits, for example, lives in a small hut with the children she nurses. When she sees Emma, she begs her for little necessities—a bit of coffee, some soap, some brandy. Although Emma remains unhappy because she can’t socialize with the aristocracy in Paris, her visit to the wet nurse reminds us that she is comparatively well-off. The village innkeeper, meanwhile, is a down-to-earth woman whose only concerns are whether the meal will be served on time and whether the drunkards who frequent the inn will destroy the billiards table. Although she does lack imagination, she also represents something that Emma is not: a woman who accepts and enjoys her lot in life.

“Study Guide” Sparknotes: Barnes &Noble 2006


As a suitor, Rodolphe differs from Leon in terms of experience, and his seduction of Emma succeeds on the strength of his time-honed cunning. While both suitors are fundamentally motivated by erotic desire, Leon is shy, sentimentally romantic, and sexually innocent. In contrast, Rodolphe is aggressive, calculatingly pragmatic, and sexually cynical. Whereas Leon regards Emma as a potential partner in a love of equal terms and views her marriage as an obstacle to that bond, Rodolphe views Emma as sexual prey and her marriage as a convenient excuse for seduction without worry of commitment. Rodolphe infers immediately that Emma yearns to escape the yoke of her marriage and desires a lover. He sets about becoming that lover with ruthless precision.

The context of the fair provides sharp ironic contrast to Rodolphe’s skillful seduction of the sentimental Emma. Flaubert cuts back and forth between the scene of the seduction and the speech on morality delivered by the bureaucratic official at the fair. In every instance, the official’s pompous words emphasize the insincere passion Rodolphe displays toward Emma. When he tells her he loves her, for example, the official presents a local farmer the award for first prize in manure. As the scene continues, Flaubert heightens the pace by including shorter and shorter segments from each speech, until we hear single sentences intercut with each other.

When Flaubert employs high lyricism to describe Emma as she strides across fields at midnight to rendezvous with her lover, she suddenly becomes a sympathetic character. Emma believes herself to be in love, and her pretensions toward high society recede. It’s hard to tell, however, whether her sentimental feelings of love are real or a mere function of Rodolphe’s manipulations and higher social status. Emma appears to be ignited with real passion, but we know from her earlier attempts at religious and maternal love that she is rarely serious for long. We also know that Rodolphe is an experienced lover who tosses women aside as soon as he grows bored. This foreshadowing indicates to us that Emma is doomed in this affair, and we sympathize with her approaching disappointment rather than her present elation.

“Study Guide” Sparknotes: Barnes &Noble 2006

Where is she going?

Where is she going?
Heaven or Hell

Despair on both her affair and her finance

The essential superficiality of Emma’s connection with Leon compounds the disaster of her financial indiscretions. Once her affair with Leon loses its early glow, Emma loses all sense of proportion and propriety, oscillating between extremes of self-indulgence, self-pity, depression, and guilt. Emma and Leon try to make one another into romantic ideals but fail to connect with each other as real individuals. As these ideals crumble around their actual personalities, they become increasingly disgusted with one another. Emma reacts by seeking pleasure at all costs and in more egregious ways. Her initial desire to be a cosmopolitan aristocrat gives way to a carnal, voracious desire for pleasure, evident in her escapades with vulgar men at unsavory parties. Poor Charles continues to facilitate his wife’s infidelity, funding the trips she takes to Rouen on the pretext of taking piano lessons. The blind beggar Emma sometimes encounters between Yonville and Rouen is one of the most terrifying figures in the novel. He is a symbol of Emma’s moral wretchedness, and his morbid presence also signals her approaching death.

Emma’s financial ruin parallels her moral ruin. Once she obtains the power of attorney over Charles’s finances, her destructive qualities spiral further out of control. Emma’s attempt to transcend the values of her middle-class existence fails as much out of her own free will as the circumstances in which she lives. Even Flaubert, who initially describes Emma as a victim of circumstance, has begun to judge her unfavorably. Emma’s moral corruption, however, remains dependent on the will of the men around her.

“Study Guide” Sparknotes: Barnes &Noble 2006

Why Madame Bovary Is Not a Feminist Icon

.....Emma Bovary was in some respects the prototypical “Desperate Housewife,” a manic depressive spendthrift with eating and panic disorders who makes her life into a novel to escape the emptiness of her existence in rural France.
But like many great books, the message that I took from Madame Bovary resonates even more powerfully today than when Flaubert introduced it in the mid-19th century to a public alternately titillated and shocked by its sexual innuendo.
For me, that message is that there is no lonelier a woman than one who demeans her sex but uses it to get special favors.Let me try to explain what I mean before the Feminism Police break down my door. Which they may do anyway since I, like Flaubert, might be tarred with that ultimate male pejorative -- misogynist. ......

Mullen Shaun “Why Madame Bovary Is Not a Feminist Icon” I Power Blogger April 07, 2008

Madame Bovary: Still Alive

It's not my prerogative to analyze Flaubert and his idea of women wrapped in their monotonous lives being in need of active, feminist, ambitious struggle. Looking at Emma Bovary - a character of the 19th century - from the 21st century, I can say that even if Emma Bovary suffered only from social conventions, modern Bovary (who actually can do things Emma couldn't) still suffers.
Why? Because Madame Bovary is not just a portrait of all depressed women who didn't have any rights. Nobody knew the amount of rights a woman needed in the 19th century. I mean there was no example to compare with and think: "Oh, my God! Something is wrong with my life, I need to go and fight for my rights now." It was not the lack of freedom that made women suffer, and it's not feminism and emancipation that saved women. Emma Bovary didn't need freedom or a right to vote.
Basically what she needed was the right upbringing. She was drowning in her father's love, she was spending whole days reading novels and drawing pictures. She was just a spoiled girl, ...
It's funny, but it seems to me that feminism appeared just because some spoiled girl didn't know what to do or maybe she just had some serious sexual problems.
I can make such a conclusion here and now in the 21st century because I was always drawing a parallel between Bovary and some women I know. There is something interesting that I've noticed about them (us).
Even though women won their rights and now we can do anything we want, some of us still rebel. Some of these rebellious girls are spoiled, some of them have nothing to do, and some have both of the just-mentioned problems. ...

Ozar, Anna. "Madame Bovary: still alive." Moscow News 4311.7 (Feb 22, 2008): 22(1).


Disproving "Madame Bovary: Still Alive"

It seems a female brain is not able to calm down - as soon as it gets a bit of free time it starts to analyze and boil. In the end, a happily married, healthy, beautiful mother of three children decides to run away to New Zealand because she somehow realizes nobody understands her refined desires.

Emma is a product of a period of the 19th century in France. In that time, women still did not have freedom, no matter in career or family. Emma wishes to see this world but have no chance, so she put her wish on her children, hoping give birth to a boy so that he can go travelling the world. This expectation is not a fault. Fantasy happens in every person. Since everyone has a dream when he or she was a child, no matter whether it comes true or not, it proved that we have an integrated childhood. Emma is unaware of her immoral affairs, even see these as happiness. In spite of being spoiled by her father and husband, her lacking of education is also a big reason leads her to that way.

However, the author regards all female as Emma. After liberating, women have enough space to do what we want. Family is not the only thing in women's lives. Acquiring higher education let women have opportunities to come true dreams rather than relying on husbands. The woman who went to New Zealand leaving away her 3 children and husband cannot be seen as the same status as Emma. She just pursues her Personal Legend.

While the author blames on women, he or she has never thought of men. How many men have abandoned his family and embrace other mistresses? Weren't men spoiled by their parents and do the things Emma did? It is not men's privilege that have love affair or abandon his family. Why not see things fairly?

If the writer is a woman, I commiserate that she cannot understand herself and her fellows. If the writer is a man, I look down on his words that unfair to women. He never put himself on women's status to see problems. Commenting while out of situation cannot survey correctly. He is a failing man and a failing writer.