Emma Bovary and the 19th Century Traditions Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Bovaryism came to mean a dream that is as self-serving to the reality it aims to replace and therefore the face of reality becomes diminished.

What does the term bovaryism mean when it is thought about? A few years after the publication of Gustave Flaubert's works known as Madame Bovary the term Bovaryism was adopted by the French language (Paper Guidelines). The 19th century novel's heroine defines herself through common cliches that the world looks at to this day. Bored housewife syndrome, romantic fantasy delusions, and adultery are just a few of those cliches (Paper Guidelines). Bovaryism came to mean a dream that is as self-serving to the reality it aims to replace and therefore the face of reality becomes diminished (Paper Guidelines).

The concept of ennui comes into play. Ennui in short simply means the idea of boredom which is seen constantly throughout the Madame Bovary work. In fact it was defines her characters and her actions. It is seen by the way she is with her marriage first of all (Flaubert, 2006). Emma marries a man known has Charles. She thought with him she would have the life she want in regards to excitement, love, and adventure (Flaubert 2006). However she gets the complete opposite. She gets a bored life in the country that's make her feel restless. In fact the description given in the work itself goes, "Before her marriage she had thought she had love within her grasp.; but since the happiness which she had expected this love to bring her hadn't come, she supposed she must have been mistaken. And Emma tried to imagine just what was meant, in life, by the words " bliss," "passion," and "rapture"-words that had seemed so beautiful to her in books." (Flaubert 2006-page 1056) What happens as a result of this boredom with marriage?

It leads to Emma to go on a series of "adulterous" relationships. She finds romance in the form of a man known as Leon who is also bored with country life just like the way she is. However before she actually commits to an affair she draws away from him and he leaves for Paris (Flaubert 2006). She then fall into the hands of a man known as Rodolphe whom she does have an affair with (Flaubert 2006). The more her husband acts like a useless human being she more she seems to give off this desperation of wanting excitement and the desire of an escape from a boring existence (Flaubert 2006). Rodolphe eventually leaves her as well and she actually meets Leon again with whom she now officially has an affair with. This one quote can probably sum up the relationship between Emma and Charles and just how much the ennui has impacted her (Flaubert 2006). It goes, "Still, if Charles had made the slightest effort, if he had had the slightest inkling, if his glance had a single time divined her thought, it seems to her that her heart would have been relieved of its fullness as quickly and easily as a tree drops its ripe fruit at the touch of a hand. But even as they were brought closer together by the details of daily life, she was separated from him by a growing sense of inward development." (Flaubert 2006-page 1060).

No wonder why she would want the sense o adventure and escape from boredom. However this boredom allows Emma to kind of develop an independence usually not seen in women during this time period since her husband seems to be not a male that is dominant (Flaubert 2006). Take the following as an example. The following goes, "Emma knew how to run her house. She let Charles's patients know how much they owed him, writing them nicely phrased letters that didn't send like bills. When a neighbor came to Sunday dinner she always managed to think up some attractive dish. She would arrange greengages in a pyramid on a bed of vine leaves, she served her jellies not in their jars but neatly turned on the plate; she spoke of buying finger bowls for dessert. All of this redounded greatly to Bovary's credit." (Flaubert 2006-page 1061).

Can one then say without this excess boredom Emma would not have her independence that she seems to have? What kind of character would she be then? If she was completely content would she be subjected to be the type of woman that was normal for the time period? One who did not know how to run the house and take the risk of having fun and being an adulterous? How would the story have played out if she was not the type of character that she was?

After the birth of her daughter Emma and Leon go on a walk together. This is the first moment when Leon expresses the same boredom that Emma is feeling (Flaubert 2006). The quote that he says directly is, "God! What a boring existence!" (Flaubert 2006-page 1093) the walk that follows is described as, "He felt that he was much too pitied for having to live in this village, with Homais for a friend and Maitre Guillaumin for a master. The latter, completely taken up with business, wore gold-framed spectacles, red side whiskers and a white tie; fine feelings were a closed book to him, though the stiff British manner he affected had impressed the clerk at first….But she was so slow-moving, so boring to listen to, so common-looking and limited in conversation, that it never occurred to him-though she was thirty and he twenty, and they slept in adjoining rooms and he spoke to her every day- that anyone who could look on her as a woman, that she had any attributes of her sex except the dress she wore." (Flaubert 2006-page 1093) The woman Leon is referring to in this quote is known as Madame Homais. By the looks of it seems to be that she put Leon in the same position that Emma is in when it comes to Charles. Leon has his feelings for Emma revealed.

The lies that encompass the novel add fuel to the fire and also show just how bored Emma really is. It is just lie after lie that she has to feed to her husband in order to hid the truth of the affairs. Her life in the novel is nothing except for one lie after the other that has to be fed and fed. Rodolphe is the one character that is the exact same way as her in regards to that aspect. He gives so many lies in regards to the love he has for her. However think about this for a second. It is the lying that in the end that makes it hard for the words that the two are sharing with one another to come true. There goes the Bovaryism. The face of reality for the love they have for one another is now being diminished from the lies that are being fed. Maybe just the fact of being a woman during this time era would have been enough to drive anyone of them bored. In fact when Emma does gets pregnant she hopes that her baby will in fact be a boy since she believes that a woman cannot lead a life in a way (Flaubert 2006). The exact quote goes, "She wanted a son. He would be strong and dark; she would call him Georges; and this idea of having a male child was like a promise of compensation for all of her past frustrations. A man is free at least-free to range the passions and the world, to surmount obstacles, to taste the rarest pleasures. Whereas a woman is continuously thwarted." (Flaubert 2006-page 1089).

However this idea seems to be contradicted when one thinks of her husband Charles. Charles is just the thorn in Emma's mind when he comes to any type of powerlessness see has with changing the situation. Since he is such a lazy man he is prevented from moving up the chain in regards to becoming a top doctor and therefore earning money and higher social status that would satisfy Emma. Therefore Emma is stock in the slow and boring life of country. While Rodolphe has the financial means that would allow him to take Emma and himself away to anywhere he leaves her and she does not possess the capability to leave on her own since she is a woman. One sees the same thing in a way when it comes to Leon. Leon, as a man, can just simply whisk himself away to the city due to being discontent with country life. Emma however, once again as a woman, has to stay behind and is incapable of moving on to her bigger and better dreams that she supposedly has. She has to stay handcuffed to her daughter and her husband.

However, while it might not be the most moral idea to reach…

Sources Used in Document:



Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. 8th ed. Vol. 2. New York: WW Nortan, 2006. Print.


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