Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thoughts: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary is about a woman who feels dissatisfied with her life. She dreams about finding romance just like in her favorite novels, but she ends up marrying a country doctor—a boring, ignorant man who puts her on a pedestal. Still on her search for the romance she so longs for, she becomes entangled in an adulterous web of lies.

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.

Rating: 5/5


Stephanie M. Hasty said...

i have to totally agree. i read the book about 12 years ago, aged, read and watched _Little Children_ then aged some more...picked it up again and thought...wow, i didn't see a lot of powerful themes etc. in this book. and, frankly, i feel sorry for emma.

Amanda said...

I admit I hated this book with a passion. I hated Emma in particular and just kept thinking the whole time "get on w/it and kill yourself already so we can end this stupid book!" I do wonder if I just had a really bad translation because everyone else seems to get something out of it. Then again, I really hated Anna Karenina too, so maybe i just don't have patience for that sort of woman.

Zibilee said...

I have been wanting to read this book for a very long time, but like a lot of the classics, a lot of the plot points have been spoiled for me, which makes me less inclined to pick it up. I know that shouldn't stop me, but sometimes it does. I am glad to hear that this book struck a deep chord in you and that you ended up loving it. I am going to have to try to read it soon!

Jennifer O. said...

As someone who identified strongly with Emma at the beginning ( a person who grew up getting most of her ideas of love and life from books, and all the wrong kinds of books, too)I saw this book as a cautionary tale for myself. I even named my little girl Emma, to remind myself to stay grounded here on earth and not those silly little daydreams that are just not realistic.

There's nothing wrong with wanting more, Emma just didn't go about it the right way, and of course, there was the time period.

This and Anna K. are my two top favorite books.

Kristi said...

I've heard so much about this book and I haven't decided whether I want to read it. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

I like that quote. I love how the classics usually have great insights into humanity that apply to our modern day as well.

LifetimeReader said...

What a beautiful post. I think that having dreams and waiting for Life to begin is such a normal thing for a young person. As one ages, one has to realize that life HAS begun--even if it is a little less exciting than we had hoped for. Emma seems unable to grow into that role.

(And let me say: you are 19?! I had not expected that since you talk about books in such a mature way. Maybe my assumptions are skewed by my own incredible immaturity at 19.)

Trisha said...

This is yet another of those books which has been left untended on the shelves for far too long. I feel like I say this all the time, but damned if it isn't true.

Allie said...

I do love this one. It is so passionate and angsty. It really gets a hold of you. I love that in a book.

And like you, I'm also a dreamer. I have a hubby, but I used to be like that, always waiting and dreaming for wonderful things to happen.

I'm glad that the quote clicked for you. Throughout reading the titles from my own project, I have come to realize that each book changes me, whether I realize it right away or not.

Misha said...

I read this book 2 years ago but I still can't decide whether I loved it or hated it. But it did evoke some strong emotions.
I think it's time I read it once again.

Rebecca Reid said...

I really loved this book too. I get to reread it very soon for my book club. I hope to enjoy it just as much, and as you say, I probably will! I love rereading favorite books!


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