Exploring Literature HomeGustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary

An article by Valerie Mamicheva


Gustave Flaubert wrote "Madame Bovary" in 1856 year and called it one of his best works, as he mentioned in "Salammbo"(1863) and "L'education sentimentale" ("Sentimental education" (1870). It is really so, we can say.

"Madame Bovary" represents a story of a woman suffering from her character, from her sensibility. The story of Emma Bovary is mournful and moral, we can make many opinions about it. You can say that Emma Bovary ruined herself, her husband, her daughter Berthe and her father, pure Roualt, because of her great desire of splendor, comfort and amusements. But - from the other side, maybe, the cause is in the impossibility of her dreaming, in her passion, that couldn't find an application. How much suffered this brave little woman, how much grief, perturbations and horrid pain she survived! Sometimes, reading the novel, it seems to us that no one in the whole world suffered so much! But she was broken, too! What a foolish and unexpected end of her life was, the life of this charming woman, that never had a real love and peace! Even dying, she suffered from the pain. But more - she made a lot of people suffer, too. 

Emma couldn't bear this life, this pain and she commited suicide - she drank arsenic. 

Let us think about the reasons of this step. Emma was ravaged, she wasted all the money she received from Charles for his hard work.  She waste everything on different things: clothes, books and so on. But hardly it can be called the real reason of her suicide; maybe, it was the last impulse for it. Her despondency and disappointment, that sad feebleness and insanity she felt, when seeking the money at the end of the novel, shocked us. Unceremoniously repudiated by Rodolphe, forgotten by Leon, offended by maotre Guillaumin, she, full of horror, disgust and shame, went to the medicine storeroom of maotre Homais and drank arsenic. It was so hard for her! The life itself hurt her, why would she live? But, You'll say - if a ravage can be a real reason to die?! Of course, for every man - no! For every man, but not for Madame Bovary. That is the matter, she's not the same! In her wild and charming character we mention such features as sensibility, aspiration to a perfection, passionate desire of love, dignity and confidence! Madame Bovary attracts us with her internal world, full of charming secrets and mysteries, and with her external beauty. Reading the novel, we find out the new exciting features of her character. Sometimes, we just fall in love with her, but sometimes she repulses us, we hate her because of her enmity for the husband, daughter and some other people. She's flippant, but at the same time she can debate wisely, she has a common sense. Though, her opinions change as her mood and love changes. Madame Bovary is a contradiction itself. 

Emma is sensible and poor; do You remember the scene of getting a letter from Rodolphe? She loved him for a long time, she admired him and at the last moment, when she gave it up and decided to run away with Rodolphe, Emma got that fatal letter, she understood everything. He left her; he used her and then left forever. He doesn't need her. "Love don't live here anymore". She was taken ill for a long time, nobody knew the real reason of her illness. Suffering herself, she made her father, her Charles and Berthe suffer, too. Yes, she's heartless! But, at that time, we're sorry for her, we feel all this regret with her. Of course, we like Madame Bovary. 

She died. What had happened to other heroes of the novel: her poor father survived the death of her mother, he's ready to survive his daughter's death. Charles, broken with this unexpected grief, advices maotre Roualt to be strong. And what had happened to Charles? After Emma's death he didn't live for a long time, he died, too. At the last pages of the novel he found Emma's love letters to Rodolphe and his answers. But he forgave her, he forgave everything. He calls it whatever you want but not a treason. He loves her even now. People see him walking 'round his lonely house, he cries from his great misfortune, he's much alike a wild beast in his hatred for a life. 

After his death their daughter Berthe stayed only alone in a whole world. Emma's death hardly touched maotre Homais's heart; as usual, he benefits by her death - he's going to write an article about it for a local newspaper. He's really mercenary man. Rodolphe didn't worry much about his lover's death, too, because she has annoyed him long ago. Before Charles died he met Rodolphe accidently. Rodolphe didn't let Charles understand about his love liaison with Emma, but Charles already knows everything, he forgives Rodolphe. And Rodolphe's shocked, but he feels only disgust to this poor little man, he despises Charles. 

That is the end of the novel - the mournful outcome of Bovery's tragedy.

 — Valerie Mamicheva
July, 2001

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