Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Thoughts: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Okay, I have to be honest here. I’m a bit of a dreamer. Just like Emma Bovary, I dream about romance, and wonder if I’ll ever find it. I completely understand her feelings of restlessness. In fact, if I have to sum up Emma Bovary in one word, I’d use the term antsy. She’s antsy about life, and, through Emma, Flaubert captured in words feelings that have always eluded me.
I’m nineteen years old, and I can’t wait for my life to start. I’m antsy because everyday feels the same, and I keep wondering when something exciting—something romantic, something right out of the books I love so much—will happen to me. Emma Bovary felt that way, and I completely understand her.
However, I did feel sorry for Charles Bovary, the cuckolded husband. Yes, he was a bit slow and so not a romantic hero, but he really loved Emma. In the first chapter of the book, a young Charles enters a schoolroom for the first time, and ends up becoming the class laughingstock. I felt that the first chapter set the tone for the entire novel, where Charles constantly becomes a fool because he’s blinded by his love for his wife.
When I finished the book, I thought I completely hated it. The ending left me with a sick feeling in my stomach, because it told me pretty clearly that there’s no justice in this world, that the most annoying people on earth could possibly triumph over the saintly. After thinking about it, though, I realized I actually like it, maybe even love it. Madame Bovary told me something about myself, something I didn’t know before. See the Cliff Fadiman quote on my left sidebar? When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than there was before. Well, Madame Bovary is the first book that led me to truly understand that quote.