Madame Bovary was a book written in most part about desires, dream worlds, expensive luxuries, adultery and betrayal. Emma Roualt, a convent-educated farm girl with a head full of romantic fantasies and ideals, is willing to do anything to get off her father’s farm. During her time at the convent school she learned from romance novels (novels that were considered blasphemy during this time period) how she dreamed her life should be, she also acquired several talents while attending convent school; she learned how to play the piano beautifully, she learned about different countries and the lifestyle in various countries that were quite different from where she was born and raised.
Madame Emma Bovary was a woman who neither would nor could ever be satisfied with her life, Emma was a woman who would stop at nothing to get what or who she wanted, despite the fact she was a married woman with a young daughter. Emma had many desires that would eventually lead to her death.
Emma Bovary, wasn’t able to enjoy what others would consider a normal adulthood, her goal was to have all the luxuries her heart desired even if it was at the expense of her husband Charles Bovary, a hard working doctor, who wasn’t a materialistic person but was willing to do anything to keep his wife happy, even at the expense of his own happiness.
Charles Bovary, born and raised an only child, was a common boring person to Emma, who had no aspirations outside of the small town where he lived and begin a practice, Charles only desire outside of helping heal the sick and needy, was to make his wife Emma the happiest woman alive. Charles idealized Emma; after all she was a younger woman than his first wife who was much older than Charles.
After the death of Charles first wife he married Emma Roualt, a beautiful, attractive woman who had cared for her elderly father for several years after the death of her mother.
Emma’s father was a patient of Charles’ her father was a hard working farm man who wanted his daughter to have the best in life, but wasn’t able to afford to give her much more than a loving home and maintain their household, which was not enough to satisfy Emma.
An invitation only ball; becomes a Life Changing Event
Shortly after being married the newlyweds are invited to a ball, not just any small town ball, but a ball that would introduce Emma to the life of desires. Emma wore a beautiful “fancy” dress to the ball, while at the ball; she is introduced to dancing, upper class people who were wearing the finest of jewelry, gowns and suits. After attending the ball, Emma’s fantasy world begins to manifest to the point she becomes depressed.
Her depression worsens after this life-changing event, and the young couple moves to a slightly larger town, Yonville-l’Abbaye, with the intent of making Emma feel better. In the midst of moving Emma finds out she is pregnant.
Would Emma’s perception on life had been different had she not attended the ball? Would Emma eventually found happiness with Charles? Would Emma learn to be a common house wife had she not attended the ball?
Emma Bovary was a woman who neither would nor could ever be satisfied with her life, although the couple attending the ball did have a dramatic impact on their marriage, Emma would have still not have been happy with Charles. Emma was a determined woman, she had different dreams and goals from her husband Charles, whether they were realistic or not.
The Adulterous Affairs & Society’s Impact
The first sight of illicit behavior was after the move to Yonville, where Emma gains comfort from a friendship with Léon Dupuis, a clerk in Yonville. Léon lives with the family of Monsieur Homais, the town pharmacist. Monsieur Homais also quickly befriends the Bovary’s for his own reasons.
Léon is young, charismatic and has goals and ambitions of living in Paris, just as Emma wishes, the two of them eventually fall in love, but neither of them take their love to the level of adultery just yet. Léon moves away to Paris to study for law school, which leads Emma back to depression and bored of Charles even more.
Emma was prisoner to society, in that she didn’t see life realistically enough to not fall prey to the sins of luxury. The local merchant in Yonville extends credit to Emma and shows her expensive clothing and jewelry that he purchases from other countries, towns and cities. The thought of having items from other countries makes Emma’s dream world even more of reality than she ever imagined. When Emma wore her luxurious clothing, she felt as though she was that much closer to her dream’s, being accessible to so many of the finer things in life, made her succumb to society even more. In some ways society was an influence towards Emma’s illicit behavior, in that being able to gain merchandise with just a signature was more deadly than poison. Emma felt compelled to continue her style of living to the point of incurring large debts. In today’s society people are imprisoned to the same type behavior as Emma, seeing the “perfect” lifestyle on television causes them to want more and more which leads to exceeded limits on credit cards, loans, expensive automobiles, large homes that are above their means.
Society has its way of being a stronger influence on people than ever imagined, which is the same way’s in which Emma was so easily persuaded to live.
Emma quickly heals of her depression after Léon leaves by meeting another bachelor, Rodolphe Boulanger. Rodolphe is a lady’s man who easily convinces Emma to become his mistress and submits to adultery. Emma quickly fell in love with Rodolphe and begins buying him expensive gifts, going to expensive hotels and running her debts even higher. Emma thought she had found her real life fictional romance novel love; she would do whatever it takes to stay in the dream of finer clothing, jewelry, a handsome lover that she could in her mind find happiness with.
Just as Emma became bored with Charles, Rodolphe became bored with Emma and left her by sending her a note, and too much of a coward to tell her in person he no longer wanted her, only to lead Emma back down the road of depression.
Shortly after the heartbreak from Rodolphe, Emma becomes victim again by following the advice of Homias, who suggests Charles takes Emma to the Opera in Rouen, a city not far from Yonville. Although, to some the opera may sound exciting, to Emma it proves to be a fateful trip, it leads her back to another adulterous affair with Léon, who has moved back from Paris, and is no longer afraid of Emma nor is he no longer shy. He is ready to pursue a lustrous relationship with Emma. At this time Emma has become so crafty she convinces the clueless Charles to let her stay two more nights in Rouen with Léon. Naive Charles leaves his wife in the arms of another man.
Emma’s desperation grows her outlandish schemes to beg, borrow, or steal money drive Léon away.
Emma is one, who in today’s world would be diagnosed with a severe mental illness other than depression, she would be considered a social-path, a person who has no respect of anyone and would go to great lengths to get whatever they want, no matter the cost. She would also be diagnosed as being Narcissistic, in that she desired things she wasn't able to afford, excessive spending, borrowing money with no means of being able to pay back, lavish lifestyle, expensive shopping sprees that if the money wasn't available would steal to have whatever they wanted as long as it satisfied the person even if for a short time.
Emma the Victim
After her adulterous affairs, the excessive debt, the lavishing lifestyle Emma is still the victim of her own treacherous schemes. Her debt to the local merchant causes her to go to great lengths to keep her line of credit, the merchant advances her even more credit as he learns of her father in-laws death and thinks he may be given even more money with the thought of Emma and Charles inheritance of his father’s will. This was to his dismay; Emma’s debts continue to climb only to find out her father in-laws will was penurious.
Emma is compelled at this point to continue her lavish lifestyle to the extreme of collecting debts from Charles patients, without Charles knowing of course. The people of the village look up to Emma and her style of living and dressing, which succumbs her even more to society.
Society played an intricate role in Emma’s destruction, be that as it may she did concede to adulterous affairs she was still a woman who felt life owed her something. For example, Emma seriously believed in her fictitious romance novels, her romance novels took her to places she dreamed of, in her eyes she was living the lifestyle she had always read about. Same goes for today, when a person especially Hollywood stars or public figures are idolized by society, the feel a debt to themselves to continue their lifestyle even after the fame and glory of their careers, some of them end up bankrupt by trying to follow through to appease society. Which is exactly what happened to Emma, it’s sad to say but hundreds of years ago society was a contributing factor to a lot of deaths throughout the years.
The Death of Emma
The Bovary’s are in so much debt at this point, the money lender has added even more interest on their debt and has also sold their account to another money lender who adds more money to their already excessive debt.
Abandoning all pride, she humiliates herself in one last effort to get the money she needs, then, with the realization that poverty and disgrace are now her destiny; she resorts to a drastic escape from the disappointment of her life. She would rather kill herself than let Charles know the extent of their debt.
Emma ends up taking arsenic so that she doesn’t have to continue to break her husband’s heart, she ends up leaving a daughter who never had the chance of getting to know her as well as a husband who adored her and would have given anything to make her happy, even at the expense of losing his practice and everything he worked so hard to build.
Throughout, the long road of destruction for Emma she showed several feelings and behavior, i.e., embarrassment, humiliation, resentment, anger, depression, viciousness, desperation, committing adultery, egotism, lacking parenting skills, uncompassionate, fantasies, hopelessness, heartache, resentment, envy, and in the end regret.
Emma throughout her adulthood really endured a lot of self-inflicted harm upon herself; she spent her adulthood chasing after unrealistic dreams. As a victim of society, she was never able to relax and enjoy life without the fear of getting caught with one thing or another. She didn’t allow herself to attempt at being a good mother to her only daughter, Berthe. Out of all the love she gave out to the wrong people she never gave any love to the ones who loved her the most, her daughter and her husband.
It wasn’t until she was dying of a gruesome death that she realized and told Charles how good of a man he was. Charles knew of one of her affairs and refused to believe anything tarnishing about Emma, even after her death. This book shows how a heartless woman in the beginning ends up being a warm-hearted person on her death bed.
Yes, Charles was a person who you would normally have sympathy for but in this case all my sympathy goes toward her daughter, reason being Charles may have been naïve, but he was there seeing Emma even if she lived a double life, but her daughter wasn’t given the same opportunity.
A mother who has no feelings for their own child from birth and then leaves a child with no way of knowing what a mother’s love was, nor a child who would live a normal child’s life, at the age of nine young Berthe was left parentless and working as a child laborer in a cotton mill.
This was truly a story of the circle of life, Emma went around the circle to end back up with the one man she hated, only to leave her child to endure the same turmoil throughout life.
Flaubert, G., Madame Bovary, Eleanor Marx-Aveling, Feb 25,2006, [EBook #2413]