Thursday, January 18, 2007

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert; translation by Allan Russell

"She still was not happy, she never had been. What caused this inadequacy in her life? Why did everything she leaned on instantaneously decay?" - Gustave Flaubert

M. Bovary runs along the same lines as many books claimed by feminism as the "early stages of enlightenment." Kate Chopin's "The Awakening", Emily Brontè's "Wuthering Heights", and Thomas Hardy's "Return of the Native" all all into this category. They are all about artistic women discontent with with "simple" husbands. They all seek passionate love and feel they will find freedom in this, but they inevitablely find just the opposite.

Madame claimed to know and yearn so much for love yet she can't see it in its most basic form. How does M. Bovary presume so much superiority over her husband in the area? Can she not see that his quite but consistent admiration of her is love in its greatest form? He is content with her, and happy at each breath she takes. Why could this not be enough?

M. Bovary is truly blind to her own selfishness. She never realizes that she is the destructive force in her life. Bad luck is not following her around, she is dragging it kicking and screaming. She also seems to feel a great deal of pity for herself, and expects others to as well. Shouldn't people know what she wants from them without her constantly having to ask for it or explain it? (Attention Ladies!) I think this novel is horribly sad because it is so often repeated.

I found Charles' passionate and desolate reactions in the very end to be most ironic.

"For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" Phil 4:11


Christopher said...

You don't think Edna achieves "freedom" in The Awakening?

Anonymous said...

I think Emma had a point; while she did miss Charles' love, she didn't love him back. While she did sin, perhaps with more power over her situation (the power to get a job, move to the city, make money for herself instead of needing to rely on Charles for everything)she would have been content and found a way to love Charles. Its one of the themes of the book: the power she is always denied, except the power she has over her body, which she chooses to use. Nothing excuses her lack of morality (and whining) but one can simpithize to her lack of a future.