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Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary

Ronny

Well-Known Member
I have my copy, I should be starting tomorrow, as soo n as I finish my current book. Funny I didn't see this thread until today but I just watched Little Children this week and they had a scene in the movie that was book group discussion about Madame Bovary.
 

sparkchaser

Administrator and Stuntman
Staff member
Picked up an old hardcover version today. $3. Has that old book smell. :p

I'll start it tonight or tomorrow.
 

beer good

Well-Known Member
I have my copy, I should be starting tomorrow, as soo n as I finish my current book. Funny I didn't see this thread until today but I just watched Little Children this week and they had a scene in the movie that was book group discussion about Madame Bovary.

That's actually a pretty interesting conversation (anyone know if it's in Tom Perotta's novel, too?):
Sarah Pierce: I think I understand your feelings about this book. I used to have some problems with it, myself. When I read it in grad school, Madam Bovary just seemed like a fool. She marries the wrong man; makes one foolish mistake after another; but when I read it this time, I just fell in love with her. She's trapped! She has a choice: she can either accept a life of misery or she can struggle against it. And she chooses to struggle.
Mary Ann: Some struggle. Hop into bed with every guy who says hello.
Sarah Pierce: She fails in the end, but there's something beautiful and even heroic in her rebellion. My professors would kill me for even thinking this, but in her own strange way, Emma Bovary is a feminist.
Mary Ann: Oh, that's nice. So now cheating on your husband makes you a feminist?
Sarah Pierce: No, no, it's not the cheating. It's the hunger. The hunger for an alternative, and the refusal to accept a life of unhappiness.
Mary Ann: Maybe I didn't understand the book!
So far - I'm about a third in - I think that's a pretty good analysis. I'm struck by the lack of vilification and moral posturing going on in the novel; nobody's really the bad guy here. Charles is an unambitious fool, but a pretty nice guy nonetheless who's pictured as truly devoted to his wife. Emma isn't so much selfish as she's hung up on the idea that there's got to be more to life than this - she's flawed and naive, but not necessarily wrong.

We'll see if I'll end up revising that.
 

Libra

Active Member
It comes down to one of our threads. "How happy is happy enough"
Charles was very happy falling in love and marrying Emma, and a routine life. Emma on the other hand wanted more out of her life and thinking that marrying Charles would get her away from her fathers farm. We can say what ever we want but things aren't much different today. How many women get married and after said wtf did I do?You are probably going to say"divorce" but as statistics have it there is always cheating before the divorce. I am not saying it is morally right I am just saying that is how life is.
I can understand the "hunger for the alternative", the only thing I condemn her for is the way she treated her child.(I have notes on this book I will be posting more):)
 

Ronny

Well-Known Member
That's actually a pretty interesting conversation (anyone know if it's in Tom Perotta's novel, too?):

So far - I'm about a third in - I think that's a pretty good analysis. I'm struck by the lack of vilification and moral posturing going on in the novel; nobody's really the bad guy here. Charles is an unambitious fool, but a pretty nice guy nonetheless who's pictured as truly devoted to his wife. Emma isn't so much selfish as she's hung up on the idea that there's got to be more to life than this - she's flawed and naive, but not necessarily wrong.

We'll see if I'll end up revising that.
Yes, that conversation is in the book and the book has a few additional passages about Madame Bovary, too. It goes into a bit more discussion about Sarah's first reading of the book in school and her feelings then.

I seem to like reading about the book Madame Bovary much more than I am enjoying reading the book it's self.:eek:
 

Robert

Active Member
I’m only two chapters in, but I don’t see Charles as unambitious. What I see is an absolutely average boy with a gentle disposition brought up harshly by his father and dominated by his mother. He struggled in school which indicates that he average intelligence at best and he has an average place in society. He’s not even a real doctor; he’s an Officer of Health.

He marries a dominate women because of his dominate mother and when he meets a women that he believes will bring him happiness, he can’t see her because he’s married.
<O:p
I think his mother was a good women spoiled by a lousy husband. She really has Charles’ best interest at heart and I’m sure that she really believed that his marriage to Heloise was in Charles’ best interest.
<O:p
I feel both sad for Charles because of his current situation and hopeful for him because the death of Heloise should make him the master of his own destiny.

On to chapter 3...
 

saliotthomas

New Member
I like the beer good a analysis,the all unhappyness isn't the fault an one specific caractere,it's just bad chemistry.Like very often in life,much of the dramatic situation are seldom an act of will.
This non judgemental view of Mme Bovary can be found in Anna Karenina,all of the caracteres acting their own life as best they can.People are very rarely evil on their own,they need the catalyst of others to trigger them into better or worst.
 
This non judgemental view of Mme Bovary can be found in Anna Karenina,all of the caracteres acting their own life as best they can.People are very rarely evil on their own,they need the catalyst of others to trigger them into better or worst.

I like your comparison to Anna Karenina! I read it long long time ago, when I was probably too young for it then, so I don't remember much...

But I wonder: How many more women like Karenina and Bovary exist in literature? Can anybody add more names to this list?
 

saliotthomas

New Member
I like your comparison to Anna Karenina! I read it long long time ago, when I was probably too young for it then, so I don't remember much...

But I wonder: How many more women like Karenina and Bovary exist in literature? Can anybody add more names to this list?

Thank you very much Waveguide:)
 
I payed attention that the book starts with Charles and ends with Bovary-daughter.

Though Emma is the main protagonist, she does not start and does not end the story. It seems that the world managed without her in the beginning, and goes on when she dies.

I also spotted an irony in the following conversation:
Part II, Chapter 6 - Conversation between Emma and Abbe Bournisien:

...As soon as he caught sight of Madame Bovary, “Excuse me,” he said; “I did not recognise you.”
[........]
“How are you?” he added.

“Not well,” replied Emma; “I am ill.”

“Well, and so am I,” answered the priest. “These first warm days weaken one most remarkably, don’t they? But, after all, we are born to suffer, as St. Paul says. But what does Monsieur Bovary think of it?”

“He!” she said with a gesture of contempt.

“What!” replied the good fellow, quite astonished, doesn’t he prescribe something for you?”

“Ah!” said Emma, “it is no earthly remedy I need.”

But the cure from time to time looked into the church, where the kneeling boys were shouldering one another, and tumbling over like packs of cards.
[.....]
“Yes,” said he , when he returned to Emma, unfolding his large cotton handkerchief, one corner of which he put between his teeth, “farmers are much to be pitied.”

“Others, too,” she replied.

“Assuredly. Town-labourers, for example.”

“It is not they—”

“Pardon! I’ve there known poor mothers of families, virtuous women, I assure you, real saints, who wanted even bread.”

“But those,” replied Emma, and the corners of her mouth twitched as she spoke, “those, Monsieur le Cure, who have bread and have no—”

“Fire in the winter,” said the priest.

“Oh, what does that matter?”

“What! What does it matter? It seems to me that when one has firing and food—for, after all—”

“My God! my God!” she sighed.

“It is indigestion, no doubt? You must get home, Madame Bovary; drink a little tea, that will strengthen you, or else a glass of fresh water with a little moist sugar.”

“Why?” And she looked like one awaking from a dream.

“Well, you see, you were putting your hand to your forehead. I thought you felt faint.” Then, bethinking himself, “But you were asking me something? What was it? I really don’t remember.”

“I? Nothing! nothing!” repeated Emma.

I actually can see Flaubert behind this priest, smiling to himself, when writing these lines.

Eventually, it seems that he portrays Emma like a hurican, who comes and goes, who is very egoistic and thinks herself as the most important creature in the world, - but nobody understands her, poor thing :) The life goes on with or without her and there are troubles more serious than her broken hart :cool:
 

Ronny

Well-Known Member
One of the things that stuck with me about Emma's unhappiness with her marriage was the part where she compares the romances she read/talked/heard about at her convent school with the reality of wedding Charles. It seems she was believed life would be full of the excitement and drama of those romance and adventure stories and songs and her marriage would result in the passion of those love stories but when they get married there is no magic moment or feeling and then she finds herself just as bored with Charles as she had been with her father.
 

Robert

Active Member
One of the things that stuck with me about Emma's unhappiness with her marriage was the part where she compares the romances she read/talked/heard about at her convent school with the reality of wedding Charles. It seems she was believed life would be full of the excitement and drama of those romance and adventure stories and songs and her marriage would result in the passion of those love stories but when they get married there is no magic moment or feeling and then she finds herself just as bored with Charles as she had been with her father.

I think you're exactly right, Ronny. Charles' complete lack of charm, humor and wit paired with Emma's image of romance does't make for a happy marriage.
 

Darren

Active Member
Hey, check this out. Some library in Sharon, Connecticut is also having Madame Bovary as its reading group choice for April 2008. :D

I just picked up my copy from the local Borders store today - I know I'm late!

I dropped an email to that library inviting them along to the discussion here if they were interested.
 
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