Madame Bovary Summary

In the novel Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, a reader can find a love story and a story of lost illusions. Madame Bovary is a new type of realistic, socio-psychological novel. It became a prominent phenomenon in the development of world literature. The psychology of a writer is most evident in his ability to convey with the words barely perceptible emotional impulses and passionate movements of the characters. The main feature of Gustave Flaubert’s writing style is a deep analysis of heroes, the study of their souls and their feelings. His characters live in their own world, but each of them is endowed with their contradictory feelings. Flaubert gives special poetic features to his heroes, but he never separates them from the harsh truth of life. That is why his novel is still relevant nowadays and his characters can be seen today, and the reader may even find pieces of them in himself.

Madame Bovary Summary

The plot of the novel is quite simple: a woman marries a mediocre man and gradually disillusions with him, her boring life. She is disappointed with her lover, has credit from the crafty merchant. Emma has no courage to confess her sins to her husband, so she commits suicide, drinks arsenic. But in the course of work on the novel the author significantly complicated his novel by enriching it with problems, which worried him a lot and filled the inner life heroes with rich emotions, thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The main conflict in the novel escalated in the opposition between real-life and beautiful dreams.

Madame Bovary Characters

    The main character, Emma Bovary, is the image of a woman that is in search of something romantic and tragic, but at the same time, she is lost in herself and in life. She is unable to distinguish reality from her imaginary world. In my opinion, the environment, in which Emma lives, influences her in the first place. Flaubert in his work wanted to reveal all the evils of society and education. Raised in an unnatural environment, isolated from real life, Emma was brought up on romantic novels, far from reality. She lives a life that is taken from the books she reads, which are only about love, lovers, sweethearts, heartaches, tears, and kisses. The lives of the characters of her books become the very life of Emma ​​because she does not know what the real-life is. Over time, Emma deepens into the world of dreams, that any events of her real life are perceived by her in an unnatural way. For example, Emma took the death of her mother as a pretext for external changes. As a result, she is very pleased that she “reached at a first attempt the rare ideal of pale lives, never attained by mediocre hearts” (Flaubert). Hence is the source of her ‘theatrical vulgarity’ – not knowing the life and growing up in the romantic novel, Emma pays more attention to outward expressions than to the expression of the inner world of a person, the expression of the essence. And her whole future life is reduced to one thing – to reach this external form, to collocate with the characters of her favorite novelettes. To my mind, the romantic education, which Emma got in the monastery, separated from real life, is to blame, because later it throws her in delusion. From the first days of her married life, she realizes that her ideals have nothing to do with her husband and her real-life in marriage. This, in my opinion, is the tragedy of the existence of Madame Bovary.

Who is Madame Bovary?

Disappointed in her husband, Emma rushes into the arms of Rodolphe Boulanger, in whom she sees her ideal love. She rejoices that she has a lover, not noticing the difference between the concepts of love and having a lover. It seems to her that she is able to become truly happy only with a good-looking man in a black velvet coat with long tails, soft boots, a sharp hat, and lace cuffs. Emma Bovary accepts a betrayal of her lover very tragic. She mistakenly sees the salvation in surrendering to another man. Having experienced disappointment in family life, she meets the same in loving affairs. All her life turned into a solid lie. The break of the heroine’s illusions leads to her complete moral decline and to a miserable death.

Madame Bovary Analysis

   To my mind, the author gives his character also some positive qualities. Emma has ideals to which she aspires. She is the only one of the characters who is not satisfied with her boring provincial life and cannot put up with it, as in which she is just cramped; she suffocates living side by side with mediocre people and her narrow-minded husband. She wants to break out of that musty life that surrounds her. Emma is ready to do anything for love. Emma is definitely a very smart woman. She knows how to lie, how to keep her second secret life with her lovers and other her affairs away from her husband.

But all Emma’s ideals are originally perverted, because she is raised on a distorted understanding of life, on unnatural examples from novels. Failure to see and to understand this problem is Emma’s tragedy, but it is not her fault. This tragedy can be transferred to the whole society, described Flaubert – low, with vulgar ideals, with the pursuit of outward prosperity, luxury, and the constant lies and ignorance, unwillingness to look into the eyes of the real life.

Somehow at the end of the novel, Emma Bovary commits suicide. But it is not the death because of unrequited love; it is not a desperate protest against the hated world. The reason for her suicide is very simple and banal – seeing the futility of attempts to get money for Lheureux, the heroine sees the only one way to escape from poverty and shame – to take poison. The surrounding provincial world ruins the heroine of Flaubert.

Who Wrote Madame Bovary?

Moreover, in my opinion, the novel there seems to have two authors – Gustave Flaubert and Emma Bovary, who sometimes can persuade readers to their cause. They both put the reader face to face with the most brutal truth of life. There are no illusions about the nature of the bourgeois world; no good deception should be there. It makes the reader see the real-life in all its nakedness and ugliness.

There is another character in the novel that is of great interest to me. It is Charles Bovary. He is Emma’s husband, a very simple and ordinary person. He is a doctor, but like everything else, is not very good at his craft. In fact, he does not have enough skills to be called a doctor. When a local pharmacist Ome convinces Charles to operate a patient’s foot, it leads to that a more qualified doctor amputates that very leg. All in all, Charles passionately loves his wife Emma and believes that she is perfect and ideal. He never suspects her or controls her. But Emma commits very cruelly. She destroys the life of Charles and Bertha and suffers together with them. Although Charles, as a real man, the man of a word and a will, the man whom Emma cheated, constantly lied and robbed – still remains with her and supports when she is on her deathbed.

Madame Bovary Themes

In his work Flaubert followed the principle of objectivity: there are no copyright replicas, reflections, open comments deeds of heroes. Flaubert is an outstanding master of style and psychological analysis. He enriched novelistic machinery with new means of artistic representation of human nature.

Realism in French literature confirmed as the leading direction in the works of Flaubert. Realism still exists, but is different: here comes the change from global generalization to the research of private, domestic, intimate problems, the characters are more typical and conventional. France, that earlier was described just from the points of a period of three revolutions, the barricade fighting in the streets of Paris, the time of the rise of the great human spirit, is left in the past. Now it appears as a capitalistic, mercantile, commercial and industrial country. Importantly, Flaubert, like his contemporaries understands that people who were slaves remained slaves, despite the heroism and the loss of many lives during the years of revolutions and struggle. Thus in the works of Flaubert, and especially in Madame Bovary, emerges the principle of fatalism. To his mind, happiness is deception and trying to find it the whole life only causes distress.

To make a conclusion, the novel Madame Bovary was of great success and definitely is relevant nowadays. In the fast-moving and developing world, the problem of revealing of false values and the dominance of dreams over reality are still of great importance. The tendency to replace real-life with illusions still exists due to the hundreds of romantic novels, TV series, films, and Internet.  

Madame Bovary Movie

Madame Bovary has had the following film adaptations (taken from Wikipedia):

Unholy Love (1932), directed by Albert Ray
Madame Bovary (1934), directed by Jean Renoir and starring Max Dearly and Valentine Tessier
Madame Bovary (1937), directed by Gerhard Lamprecht and starring Pola Negri, Aribert Wäscher and Ferdinand Marian
Madame Bovary (1949), directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Jennifer Jones, James Mason, Van Heflin, Louis Jourdan and Gene Lockhart
Madame Bovary (1964), a BBC TV film written by Giles Cooper
Madame Bovary (1969), directed by Hans Schott-Schobinger and starring Edwige Fenech
Madame Bovary (1975), a BBC TV film that used the same script as the 1964 film
Save and Protect (1989), directed by Alexandr Sokurov
Madame Bovary (1991), directed by Claude Chabrol, and starring Isabelle Huppert in 1991. Jon Fortgang, writing for Film4, praised the film as “sumptuous period piece and pertinent tragic drama”.[18]
Maya Memsaab (1993), a Hindi-language film, directed by Ketan Mehta and starring Deepa Sahi
Madame Bovary (2014), directed by Sophie Barthes and starring Mia Wasikowska, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Paul Giamatti, and Ezra Miller

-Why was Madame Bovary banned?
– Gustave Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” was banned on sexual grounds. Also, the novel is about a cheating wife that was not accepted by a patriarchal society of 1857.
– What is the story of Madame Bovary?
– Trapped in a loveless marriage and desperate for excitement, a doctor’s wife (full of illusions and dreams) seeks love and fulfillment outside the bonds of matrimony.
-How did Madame Bovary die?
-Madame Bovary planned everything beforehand as wanted everything to look dramatic. She poisoned herself with arsenic because she felt betrayed and realized she could not have her dream of being with her lover Rodolphe.

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