Destiny in Madame Bovary

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Destiny in Madame Bovary

Destiny: the seemingly inevitable succession of events.1

Is this definition true, or do we, as people in real life or characters

in novels, control our own destiny? Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary exemplifies

how we hold destiny in our own hands, molding it with the actions we take and

the choices we make. Flaubert uses Emma Bovary, the main character of his novel,

to demonstrate this. Throughout her life, Emma makes many decisions, each one

of them affecting her fate and by analyzing these decisions one could see from

the beginning that Emma is destined to suffer. However, one can also pinpoint

such decisions making events as her marriage, her daughter's birth, her

adulterous relationship with Leon and her taking the poison, as times when, if

she had made a different decision, her life would not have ended as tragically.

When we first meet Emma, the future Madame Bovary, we perceive her as

being a woman who is refined perhaps a bit more than the average peasant girl

living on a farm. We conclude this because she attended a boarding school where

she was taught "dancing, geography, needlework and piano." (p.15) Charles, on

the other hand, gives her more credit than she deserves. He regards her as well

very educated, sophisticated, sensitive and loving, with the last characteristic

being the one she lacks most. Soon after Emma marries Charles we see her

unhappiness, and we are faced with a dilemma, why did she marry him? There are

numerous possible answers to this, but the end conclusion is the same: if she

had not married him it would have been better for both of them. Emma would not

have been so miserable and depressed throughout her life and Charles would have

found someone who would return his love and who would appreciate him. Throughout

the novel Emma never expresses her appreciation for her husband. On the

contrary, she often expresses her loathing for him - "Charles never seemed so

disagreeable to her, his fingers never seemed so blunt, his mind so dull of his

manners so crude--." (p.161)

However, Emma and Charles were married. An uneventful year passed and

Emma reached yet another fork in the road of life - should she have a baby now,
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