This is the story of Madam Bovary who approaches life with a novelistic, imaginative and idealistic approach. This Character from her conduct reflect her own personality more and the fact her being a wife seems less associated with her vision of life. Emma, as her name was, was used to living in imaginary world either trying to create fantasy filled perfect life or stays longing for it. This never ending search lead to her to shape a unreal world around her and when eventually she faced the real life left her disappointed.
The unimpressive character of her husband and his disinterest in Emma’s personality having an admiration of her physical beauty only, made her deject life and happiness completely. She wanted to romanticize every day of her life and once married her dreams stayed unfulfilled and left her desires burning inside her heart. Emma seems to have an obvious character flaw that is her over romanticism leading her life to be discontent. She tried to love her husband but her emotions directed by her vision of an adventurous life ended her even more unhappy. She from her living pattern had the tendency to get bored with the monotony of life and had always looked for change.
Charm and comfort of a wealthy life attracts her she was obsessed by the idea of having luxuries and facilities. She blamed her husband for discomfort and simple life. The modern day psychologists suggests that the reason behind these behaviors of characters in literature is to depict how the nature of any one is shaped by its heredity and psychological transformation is an evolutionary process, as a result the authors realizing this human psychic narrate the whole effect from their perspective to make people notice and solve few social problems (David P. Barash, Nanelle R. Barash, 2005).
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She feels her middle class, simple husband and modest home being responsible for her unhappiness and fails to understand that her unsatisfied nature causes her unease and memoirs of her initial life at farm and convent could never make her forget her past life.
Emma's incompetence at being a wife according to the bourgeois habitus allows her to expand her competence as a woman by following the hexis of her female body. (Roland A. Champagne, 2002)
Themes of the Madam Bovary
Gustave Flaubert has attempted to use the theme of fate with several ambiguous interpretations of romanticism, greed, mockery and deception within the novel.
The flaws possessed by different characters have been highlighted. Madam Bovary, as it appears, could be considered the most unlikable personification of a character but as we look at the behavior and conduct of each character we find that each of them contributes their share of encouragement that leads Emma to forget everything and follow her instincts. Its an established fact that ‘Fate’ is considered to the cause of greatest misfortunes a human faces, but when a woman due to her immaturity, lack of insight in life, inability to think critically and analyze situations end up destroying not only her own life but the life of her entire family, blaming fate seems quite an irrational explanation.
When a man as experienced and cultured as her lover who deceived her just when she was about to elope with him tries to stand fate as responsible for him using her it’s not acceptable.
Her husband, Mr. Charles was nothing but a naïve. He was no doubts a dull and useless man when it was the time to study and try to learn the skills he wasted his time and missed classes consequently he proved to be a bad doctor and filled his own and his family’s life with misery. He was not living life merely passing time and seemed to have no interest in any thing.
He is unintelligent so much so that despite of his mother and neighbors knowing that his wife is involved in extra-marital affairs, he couldn’t sense that, not even for a second. He failed to provide Emma not the kind of life she wanted but even couldn’t make her trust his love by making her feeling proud of him. This gulf of interest her husband possessed about everything in his life made Emma positive about her quest for a free life where she dreams to have everything she longs.
Despite some idle cant about high ideals, what clearly attracts her is the artifice of this urban milieu, the ornate trappings and material excess. (Peter Gay, 1999)
Romanticism of this lady contributed great for her own unhappiness. She had the tendency of looking at everything with a novelistic approach. A wish to make things perfect completely denying the realities of life and accepting them to normalize her life like every other human being tends to do. She has extremisms in her approach, when she wanted to pray she tried to become a complete devout, when she wanted to love she made it to the limits including her death was also a result of her uncontrolled attitude towards life. In the translated version of Madam Bovary:
How false or perverted values debase and dehumanize those who hold such values. Emma Bovary idealizes romance, believing flirtation, trysts, secret letters, and gala balls are the the pith, the very soul, of love. She also prizes things–money, chic fashions, sumptuous surroundings, the tinkle of crystal. The dinner-dance she attends in Rouen is a microcosm of the haut monde in which she wants to live. (Eleanor Marx-Aveling)
When a person is not responsible it’s too easy to take advantage of this attitude and its gets quite simple to deceive him. When Charles wife found such an attitude in her husband she availed the opportunity and tried to deceive him in every possible way.
Deception lead a relationship to disastrous ends, her adultery for so long had been hidden by her husband, she with perfect mastery concealed her actions and not for once her husband even thought about his wife’s unfaithfulness. He didn’t try to keep a check on her not because very husband should suspect his wife but because a person is suppose to take care of those him or her loves, to protect them and be aware of their happiness.
Greed is an evil force that makes men do anything in his power to satisfy it. The characters around Madam Bovary like Lheureux, who this sharp mind and understanding identified her nature and use her weakness to maximize his wealth. He had a liking for Charles property and he made it easy for Madam Bovary to take loans from him. He encouraged her to make purchases and continued accumulating this debt till the day when he could claim everything she had, thus leaving her frustrated and incapable to pay her debt with the guilt of causing her herself destruction.
Emma had the false believe of associating happiness with wealth. She had a belief that money could buy happiness, she was extremely materialistic. Her exposure of balls and rich people made her illusionary life more idealized. She wants everything around her to be perfect. She used to spend lavishly over useless things just to possess all expensive stuff. She had an obsession of stuffing her house with all the articles that were priced high. She used to spend too much on her lovers, who later turned her down when she needed them. Materialistic approach could not help inner emptiness.
Emma’s self-centeredness and quixotic perception of reality cause her to ignore her child, deceive her husband, surrender to promiscuity and go so deeply in debt that she offers her body in payment. (Michael J. Cummings, 2004)
Early in the story there is a ball at a grand house -- an episode that awakes in Emma a dangerous taste for the high life. (Clive James, 2004)
The mockery of her lovers who used her for their pleasure was destructive. Despite knowing the fact that she had a weak character they approached her. The insincerity of those lovers was never obvious for Emma, for she had a habit of living in her own imaginary world where everything had to be the way she wanted. She treated real life as being a spectator never enjoy the taste of reality and accept it to let happiness touch her soul.
The lovers, they made her fool by using her while making her believe their love and when she needed them, they ran. She was an obvious stupid but in her conduct was not insincere. She was so fond of beauty, luxury, fantasized life and romance that she made herself vulnerable to the mockery of rich and cunning men around her. One of her lover, in his trial to seduce her said:
Does not this conspiracy of the world revolt you? Is there a single sentiment it does not condemn? The noblest instincts, the purest sympathies are persecuted, slandered; and if at length two poor souls do meet, all is so organized that they cannot blend together. Yet they will make the attempt; they will flutter their wings; they will call upon each other. Oh! No matter. Sooner or later, in six months, ten years, they will come together; will love; for fate has decreed it, and the yare born one for the other. (Gustave Flaubert, 1856)
Fate no doubt dictates what happens in life but human beings being superiors to all the other creatures just because they posses mind have the capability to survive in even the worst circumstances caused by fate. Realistic approach towards things in life make people fight with great calamities. Women should have enough education so that they may understand themselves and the society, identify their potentials and exploit their possibilities. Given any of the consequences, man is capable enough to fight his fate and make impossibilities vanish from his life.
Flaubert was tried on charges of immorality stemming from the publication of the novel; successfully defended him self arguing that the death of Emma shows the novel's upholding of morality and illustrates the consequences of sin. (Dr. Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, 2001)
The story ends with Emma committing suicide. Her illusionary vision of life, yearn for pleasure and comfort, need for dramatic romance made her blind to the welfare of her family, vulnerable to mockery of those who used her just for their pleasure and incapable of understanding the love of her husband who despite of having flaws in his character loved her sincerely. Discovery of her betrayal took her husbands life and left their daughter suffers alone in the whole world with a childhood started as a labor.
About the book reviewers write:
Consolation and a sense of proportion, a revulsion against chaos, a taste for life. The fictional suffering neutralized the suffering I was experiencing in real life. (Mario Vargas Llosa,1975)
Perhaps we identify with Emma because we too feel emptiness at the center of things -- an emptiness we try to fill with books, with fantasies, with sex, with things. Her yearning is nothing more or less than the human condition in the modern world. (Erica Jong, 1997)
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