Madame Bovary Essay

Madame Bovary Essay

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Madame Bovary is a novel by author Gustave Flaubert in which one woman’s provincial bourgeois life becomes an expansive commentary on class, gender, and social roles in nineteenth-century France. Emma Bovary is the novel’s eponymous antiheroine who uses deviant behavior and willful acts of indiscretion to reject a lifestyle imposed upon her by an oppressive patriarchal society. Madame Bovary’s struggle to circumvent and overthrow social roles reflects both a cultural and an existential critique of gender and class boundaries, and her unwillingness to tolerate the banalities of domestic life in a predetermined caste culminates in several distinct means of defiance. Emma Bovary exploits traditional cultural values such as marriage, consumerism, masculinity, and social mobility to create a satire of the flawed and repressive institution of which she is both a product and a prisoner.
For Emma, entering into a marriage with the very ordinary country doctor Charles Bovary marks the beginning of an unsatisfactory, restrictive, joyless domestic life. Emma and Charles exist in a world of intergenerational social stratification where a man’s background, occupation, and wealth are the determinants for his children’s place in the inflexible social hierarchy. The respective children of a “former assistant army surgeon” and working class rural farmer, Charles and Emma face the constraints of conventional middle-class morality and the expectation of a domestic life defined by mundane occupations and petty banalities (Flaubert 6). Emma Bovary’s frustration with a loveless marriage, nonexistent career opportunities, and low socioeconomic standing leads to a propensity for sentimental romanticism and the creation of an impractical, imaginative fa...


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...ssatisfaction with the human condition.
Madame Bovary is a novel in which the personal, provincial, and emotional landscape of human relationships form a critique of humanity that supersedes individuals with their society as a whole. Though Emma Bovary belongs to a specific moment in time and space the struggles which she faces and overcomes are universal. The actions of Emma Bovary are representative of underrepresented, dissatisfied, and deprived peoples who must find ways to overcome oppressive social conventions and dismantle them in the process. Through the narrative format of Madame Bovary Flaubert explores the complexity of human physical, emotional, and psychological desires and satirizes the inhumanity of modern materialistic cultures.



Works Cited

Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. Trans. Geoffrey Wall. London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1992. N. pag. Print.

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