Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary

1261 Words6 Pages
In the realist novel Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert criticizes Romanticism through Emma Bovary's perpetual disappointment, which is brought upon by her dreams, expectations, materialistic habits and lust for individual freedom. Flaubert constructs and utilizes Emma’s romantic ideals to convince her that she deserves better than what she has, and this leads her down a path of constant dissatisfaction. He exaggerates Emma's expectations and her confusion between imagination and reality, he reveals Emma's urge to keep up with the latest trends and her "money buys happiness" mentality, and he crafts a society in which Emma feels trapped. By parodying the romantic style and exhibiting how Emma's beliefs and values seem both unreasonable and detrimental, Flaubert criticizes the unrealistic standards of Romanticism. Throughout the novel, Flaubert shows how romantic ideals can lead to high expectations that may never be fulfilled. Many things do not live up to Emma’s expectations, but the focus of her disappointment is her husband Charles. Emma marries Charles, a common bourgeois man, in hopes of experiencing the sensation of love she yearned for as a child. However, she is left utterly disappointed. She frequently comments on his banality, simplicity and general unappealing presence. Once, Flaubert even mentions that Charles “seemed so feeble, a nullity, a creature pathetic in every way." (204) His lack of a romantic personality leaves Emma’s heart and soul unfulfilled. Emma’s perversely high expectations were fabricated from her dreams and desires, and Flaubert based these fantasies off of far-fetched romantic novels she had been reading all her life. These fairy-tale novels all center around passionate heroines, enrapturing Emma’s ... ... middle of paper ... ...e out to reality. Flaubert mocks Romanticism and the unrealistic dreams commonly associated with the literary movement through Emma Bovary's failed expectations, her impression that money buys happiness and her desire to escape convention. Not only does Emma not get to live her fairy-tale life, her attempts to live such a life results in her tragic downfall. Even though she always wishes to live like the rich, her pursuit for happiness only results in grief. At times, we may wish to live like our idols, however our only viable option is to accept our limits and make the best we can of our lives. We should separate dreams from reality and enjoy the lives we have. As Flaubert states, "Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers." (229) Works Cited 1. Flaubert, Gustave. Trans. Geoffery Wall. Madame Bovary. London: Penguin. 1992. Print.
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