Some Reflections on Reading Madame Bovary

A central theme in Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary, is that of reality versus illusion. In this story, Emma Bovary attempts to escape the mundane of normal life to fulfill her fantasies. By enjoying romantic novels, traveling from place to place, indulging in luxuries, and having affairs, she attempts to live the life that she imagines

I found it mediocre in prose n rather verbose sprinkled with scenes n situations that lead to nowhere n do not serve the purpose of the main story but still the novel held my interest due to its intriguing heroine Emma Bovary. To me she is one more character who teaches us how not to live life, how chasing illusory goals can lead to self sabotage n ultimate ruin of the self. During the course of novel Emma tries to escape her mundane life by chasing one affair after another with the hope that they will provide her the excitement which her marriage to a rather dull n dispassionate doctor (i.e. dull n dispassionate to her mind) could never provide. Ironically none of her lovers are sincere or courageous enough to stand by her n it’s her husband who is looking after her both in caring n financially till the very end. Emma’s chase proved to be futile. Her affairs gave her no more happiness than her marriage ‘cos ultimately happiness lies inside a person…if  one is not happy within no amount of external gratification in the form of affairs or consumption can lead one to happiness…contentment is true happiness. If one is empty within then he/she always lives under the impression that the next affair or the next big car will give them the happiness they are chasing but such chase leads to nothing but utter futility n ruin. If one is bored with the self no other person can provide fulfillment ‘cos the ultimate fulfillment lies within the self…at first Emma thinks marriage to doctor Charles will provide her freedom from the boredom of country life…but as soon as she’s married she starts feeling the same old boredom, which she attributes to dullness in her husband. It doesn’t even occur to her that possibly the reason for her boredom could be she herself…I mean I didn’t get any vibes in the book that she was extraordinarily bright or intelligent but she always feels superior to her so called dull husband. She embarks on a journey to several affairs n buying spree for herself n her lovers to seek the excitement n passion that has eluded her so far. But she fails to find it no matter what she tries. In reality she has a very good n caring husband, its only that she can never appreciate the fact…people like Emma are never happy ‘cos they always want what they don’t have n always detest what they do have. Instead of being grateful for the wonderful things n people in their life they continuously find faults with them, when the truth is that they themselves don’t know what they want.

Emma Bovary along with Peter Keating is my favorite character who teaches me how not to live life. I love fiction n derive lotsa lessons from it to improve my own thoughts n life n to me fiction is more powerful in teaching us life lessons than self help books…it’s one thing to read one should not chase false gods n be content n happy with the things that one is blessed with but its quite another to see this being illustrated through the life of a book character…in Emma Bovary we can see parts of ourselves (even the author of Madame Bovary—Flaubert once said ‘Emma Bovary cest moi…meaning I’m Emma Bovary) n learn what might happen if we were to let that part of ourselves grow unrestrained.


October 18, 2009. Tags: , , , . Books, Reading, Reflections/Musings.

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