The majority of Gustave Flaubert's 1857 classic novel, Madame Bovary , tells of the marriage and two adulterous affairs of one lady, Madame Emma Bovary. Emma, believing she is in love, agrees to marry the widower doctor who heals her father's broken leg. This doctor, Charles Bovary, Jr., is completely in love with Emma. However, Emma finds she must have been mistaken in her love, for the "happiness that should have followed this love" (44) has not come. Emma is misguided in her beliefs on the meaning of love and happiness. It is also apparent that she considers herself more important than anyone connected with her, including her husband, her daughter, and her two lovers. Emma's misguided views and selfishness clearly deny her the happiness to which she feels she is entitled.
Madame Bovary begins revealing how she is denied happiness not long after she and Charles are married. A controlling thought resounds in Madame Bovary's mind: " 'Good heavens! why did I marry?' " (58). Emma refuses the happiness Charles offers, despite--or perhaps in spite--of his deep devotion to his wife, and wills herself to separate from her husband. She wonders "if by some other chance combination it would not have been possible to meet another man; and she tried to imagine what would have been these unrealized events, this different life, this unknown husband" (58). Madame Bovary, her loving husband's lack of qualities in mind, instead wants for a "handsome, witty, distinguished, attractive" (58) lover. Assuming this is the version of lover to whom her childhood friends are now married, Emma is also consumed with jealousy.
At the ball at Vaubyessard, Emma ridicules Charles when h...
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...al touches; and finally upon the soles of the feet, so swift of yore, when she was running to satisfy her desires, and that would now walk no more" (419).
Madame Bovary selfishly leaves her husband and daughter to suffer in the poverty that she has caused. She has never loved the two people whom she should have loved most--the two people who did love her most. Happiness will be prevented when selfishness and misguided views are present. Instead of longing for things that one cannot have and emotions that are simply unattainable, one should glory in the love of the family and friends one has, and enjoy whatever objects one may attain. Only then may one find the true happiness that one's soul longs after.
Flaubert, Gustave. The World's Great Classics: Madame Bovary . Translated from French by Eleanor Marx-Aveling. New York: Grolier Incorporated, n. d.
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