Gustave Flaubert and Madame Bovary: ComparisonsWe would like to think that everything in life is capable, or beyond thebrink of reaching perfection.
It would be an absolute dream to look upon eachday with a positive outlook. We try to establish our lives to the point wherethis perfection may come true at times, although, it most likely never lasts. There’s no real perfect life by definition, but instead, the desire anduncontrollable longing to reach this dream. In the novel Madame Bovary, it’s easy to relate to the characters aswell as the author of this book. One can notice that they both share a fairlysimilar view on life, and that their experiences actually tie in with each other.
Emma Bovary dreamed of a life beyond that of perfection as well. Sherealizes that she leads an ordinary and average life, but simply does not wantto abide by it. In the novel, Emma meets a pitiful doctor named Charles Bovary. The first time they meet, Charles falls instantly in love with her. They beginto see more and more of each other until Charles asks Emma’s father for her handin marriage. They end up getting married and everything goes fine, just like anormal couple, for awhile.
They did things with each other, went out, and wereextremely happy. Although, this love and passion for life shortly ended whenEmma’s true feelings began to come about. We soon come to realize that thestory is of a woman whose dreams of romantic love, largely nourished by novels,find no fulfillment when she is married to a boorish country doctor (Thorlby272). This is completely true because Emma really does get caught up in herreading. She wonders why she can’t have a flawless love as well as a flawlesslife, just as the characters do in the novels she reads. Once Emma becomes fed up and realizes that he is a sad creature(Flaubert 78), she begins her little quest to find the right man through a bingeof affairs and broken hearts.
The author of Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, was born in Rouen France(Kunitz 280). He grew up in a rather wealthy and prosperous family as a resultof his father being a successful doctor (Kunitz 280). This could easily relateto the fact that Charles Bovary was a doctor too. During Flaubert’s younger years, he was alone most of the time. Hedidn’t have any friends and normally spent his days in solitude.
This gave himtime to focus on his literature (Flaubert i). Since Flaubert’s academics andknowledge of literature were released at such an early age, it is explainable tosee how his profound talent was released (Flaubert i). He began to write playsat around the age of ten. These were in-depth, romantic plays that adults wouldlearn to appreciate (Kunitz 280). At that time Flaubert focused his attentionon the study of History and the writings of numerous romantics as well (Kunitz280).
Flaubert was later sent to an intermediate school in Paris to furtherstrengthen his academic standings (Kunitz 280). Upon completion of that, heenrolled into law school but found no interest in it (Thorlby 250). Thisallowed him to do some drifting, while taking the time to realize thatliterature would be his destiny (Kunitz 281). Although all of this schooling and work helped Flaubert become anextremely talented writer, he thought writing to be one of the most difficultthings (De Man xi). He wrote very slowly in fact, while reflecting on hispainful life experiences.
It took over five years to perfect his most famousnovel, Madame Bovary (Thorlby 272). Although some people, as well as I, believe that Flaubert based thecharacter of Emma Bovary on himself, he was very unhappy with the subject of thebook upon finishing (Thorlby 272). Maybe Flaubert figured her character to betoo provocative and heartless. Otherwise, he might have simply reflected uponthe theme, and thought it to be uninteresting.
In 1856, the novel Madame Bovary was actually condemned as beingpornographic. This was a result of Flaubert’s eminently honest and descriptivethemes. He, along his publisher were charged with offending public morality andwent to trial, but were soon acquitted (Magill 616). This publicity obviouslyhelped bring the book out into the public while establishing popularity andpraise. Sure, Flaubert was probably disappointed when this negative publicityabout Madame Bovary.
But, he realized that criticism could be ignored and hisobjective is to understand humanity, not to explain or reform it (Magill 616). By reading Madame Bovary, it’s easy to notice that Flaubert is aperfectionist. In fact, he sometimes rewrites his books 3-4 times to establishperfection. When he finished Madame Bovary, he said, C’est Moi, meaning inFrench, that’s me (Kunitz 281). This could symbolize the incrediblecomparison between Flaubert and the character Emma Bovary. Although Flaubert detested the thought of being famous, his work titledhim France’s most renowned writer (Magill 617).
According to Sainte-Beuve,Flaubert’s scenes were pictures which, if they were painted with a brush asthey are written, would be worthy of hanging in a gallery beside the best genrepainting (Kunitz 281). In 1846 Flaubert met the poet Louis Colet, who became his mistress. Although he admired her, he couldn’t find the ideal love (Kunitz 280). Thiscould symbolize the comparison between Flaubert and Emma as well. Along withLouis Colet, Flaubert had a few more adulterous relationships too. But, whenhis work became too important, Flaubert gave up everything to devote himself tohis writing.
He even broke off his affair with Mme. Colet because got in theway (Thorlby 272). Flaubert soon became a pessimist and basically had a cheerless view oflife (Magill 617). He became the victim of nervous apprehension and depression(Kunitz 282).
Flaubert frequently felt with drawled from society and longed tocommit suicide (Kunitz 282). It’s plain to observe that Flaubert was anidealist that dreamed, just as the characters in his novel did. Theseperpetual conflicts, writes Troyat, who has been listing some of the paradoxesin Flaubert’s life, made him a profoundly unhappy man (Kunitz 282). Emma would sit on the grass into which she would dig the tip of herparasol with brief thrusts and would ask herself, My God, why did I get married(Flaubert 108)? Flaubert was the same way, deliberating whether marriage wasone of the biggest mistakes to have been made or not.
Madame Bovary, writes Ade Pontmartin in the correspond and, is the pathological glorification of thesenses and of the imagination in a disappointed democracy. It proves once andfor all that realism means literary democracy (De Man ix). Emma and Flaubertare very ordinary middle-class people, with banal expectations of life and anurge to dominate their surroundings. Their personalities are remarkable onlyfor an unusual defiance of natural feelings (Flaubert 152). People even saythat the myth surrounding the figure of Emma Bovary is so powerful, that one hasto remind oneself that she is fiction and not an actual person (De Man vii).
By reading this book, and accurately analyzing the author’s significantevents, one can plainly conclude that Flaubert actually did tie in those eventswith the theme of Madame Bovary. Madame Bovary is a creation of one’sconscience which can only be explained through the eyes of another. It’s aboutlove, hate, and destiny, while holding every true emotion in the context as well. Something in the destiny of the heroine and of the main supporting characters,as well as in the destiny of the book itself, surrounds it with the aura ofimmortality that belongs only to truly major creations (De Man vii).
And it isfair to say that Madame Bovary is a true creation, at least one in the eyes ofGustave Flaubert. Nick Groth hour 32-29-96WORKS CITEDDe Man, Paul, ed. Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary:Backgrounds and Sources, Essays in Criticisms. NewYork: W. W. Norton and Co.
, 1965Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. New York, NewYork, 1964Kunitz, Stanley J. , Vineta Colby, eds.
European Literature(Authors) 1800-1900: A Biographical Dictionaryof European Literature. New York: The H. W. WilsonCo.
, 1967Magill, Frank N. , ed. Critical Survey of Long Fiction: ForeignLanguage Series. vol.
2; New Jersey: Salem PressInc. , 1984Magill, Frank N. , ed. Cyclopedia of World Authors.
NewJersey: Salem Press Inc. , 1958Thorlby, Anthony, ed. The Penguin Companion to EuropeanLiterature. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1969Social Issues