Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary

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Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary

The characters Charles and Emma of Gustave Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary, escape from the drudgery and monotony of their life through fantasy. For Emma, it is a direct manipulation of her world, while for Charles it is disillusionment with the world. Each of these characters lives in complete ignorance of the true personality of the other. Emma ignores Charles's simple love and devotion while Charles is oblivious of Emma's affairs.

Even before she meets her husband, Charles Bovary, Emma escapes from her dull and monotonous country life by reading stacks of books and magazines, as well as occupying herself with the conventions of religion. She becomes engrossed in the romanticism of religion – the radiant candles, the cool holy water, blue bordered religious pictures – even going so far as to make up sins for confession. By the time Charles Bovary enters the drama that is Emma’s life, she has all but convinced herself that she has no more to experience. This is, again, an over dramatization of her life.

Charles Bovary, a kind but unremarkable country doctor, is married to the overbearing and shrewish Heloise when he meets Emma for the first time. He is struck by Emma’s beauty and dismisses the signs of potential disaster: her quick changes of mood from guileless joy to profound boredom and her wandering thoughts. Charles is "never able to imagine her any differently from the way she had been the first time he saw her" (Flaubert 30), a thought that carries through the novel even when Emma is at her worst.

On their wedding day, Emma comments that she "would have preferred to be married at midnight, by torchlight..." (Flaubert 22), a sentiment that illustrates the depth of her imprac...

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...e so obviously evident. Both Emma and Charles are too wrapped up in their own delusions to realize that their lives are falling apart. Emma’s death, however, only serves to deepen his skewed perception of her:

The sweetness of her touch brought his grief to a climax; he felt his whole being collapse in despair at the thought of having to lose her just when she was confessing more love for him than ever before. (Flaubert 275)

In the end, it is Emma who finally realizes that Charles loves her and that her affairs were perhaps unjustified, while Charles spends the remainder of his days carrying false memories of his beloved wife, Emma.

Works Cited

Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. 11th printing. Trans. Lowell Bair. New York: Bantam Books, 1989.

Brombert, Victor. In Madame Bovary. 11th printing. Trans. Lowell Bair. New York: Bantam Books, 1989.
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