One of the acknowledged masterpieces of 19th century realism, Madame Bovary is revered by writers and readers around the world, a mandatory stop on any pilgrimage through modern literature. Flaubert's legendary style, his intense care over the selection of words and the shaping of sentences,... read more
A young woman of modest means is stuck in a social-climber type of situation with Love. First she aspires to be loved and taken away (which really points out the limited choices for women at the time), and she is courted by a a Doctor who becomes smitten, and marries her. His love is pure and... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
A young woman of modest means is stuck in a social-climber type of situation with Love. First she aspires to be loved and taken away (which really points out the limited choices for women at the time), and she is courted by a a Doctor who becomes smitten, and marries her. His love is pure and complete and to her , boring. She craves the life and to be loved like women in the books she has read, or the way she imagines the more wealthy live. She longs to be loved with passion and romance and intrigue. There are at least two guys to oblige. One, not much wealthier, but more imaginative and passionate--they have intrigue and secrecy, etc. Then, a nobleman playboy who sees she is ripe for the plucking, and who utterly seduced her and enjoys and uses her, playing on and inflaming her need for the illusory world of wealth and passion and intrigue. After a while he tires of her . . .In a way this is the classic social climber situation, but she is trying to climb up Love (instead of simply wealth), instead of being honest and true to where she is, she mucks it all up. It seems if she had a trusted woman friend, or if she were honest with her husband, or put away her 1st world problems, she 'd be a lot less miserable.
““Did not love, like Indian plants, require prepared soil and special temperatures?””
““Love, <Emma> felt, ought to come at once, with great thunderclaps and flashes of lightning; it was like a storm bursting upon life from the sky, uprooting it, overwhelming the will and sweeping the heart into the abyss. It did not occur to her that the rain forms puddles on a flat roof when drainpipes are clogged, and she would have continued to feel secure if she had not suddenly discovered a crack in the wall.””
“"She was in love with Léon, and she sought solitude because it allowed her to revel in thoughts of him at leisure. His actual presence disturbed the voluptuous pleasure of her reveries.””
“"Poor woman! She’s gasping for love like a carp gasping for water on a kitchen table. A few sweet words and she’d adore me, I’m sure of it!"”
““But whilst she wrote it was another man she saw, a phantom fashioned out of her most ardent memories, of her finest reading, her strongest lusts, and at last he became so real, so tangible, that she palpitated wondering, without, however, the power to imagine him clearly, so lost was he, like a god, beneath the abundance of his attributes.””
“"But the disparaging of those we love always alienates us from them to some extent. We must not touch our idols; the gilt sticks to our fingers."”
“But the denigration of those we love always detaches us from them in some degree. Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers.”
“a poet's heart in an angel's form...Every smile hid a yawn of boredom, every joy a curse, all pleasure satiety, and the sweetest kisses left upon your lips only the unattainable desire for a greater delight”
“The whitish light of the window-panes was softly wavering. The pieces of furniture seemed more frozen in their places, about to lose themselves in the shadow as in an ocean of darkness. The fire was out, the clock went on ticking, and Emma vaguely wondered at this calm of all things while within herself there was such a tumult.”This passage from Part Two, Chapter VI, describes Emma Bovary’s overriding frustration—that the outside world doesn’t match up with her inner world.
“Rodolphe had heard such stuff so many times that her words meant very little to him. Emma was just like any other mistress; and the charm of novelty, falling down slowly like a dress, exposed only the eternal monotony of passion, always the same forms and the same language. He did not distinguish, this man of such great expertise, the differences of sentiment beneath the sameness of their expressions. Because he had heard such-like phrases murmured to him from the lips of the licentious or the venal, he hardly believed in hers; you must, he thought, beware of turgid speeches masking commonplace passions; as though the soul’s abundance does not sometimes spill over in the most decrepit metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of their needs, their ideas, their afflictions, and since human speech is like a cracked cauldron on which we knock out tunes for dancing-bears, when we wish to conjure pity from the stars.”Madame Bovary’s subtle commentary on the inadequacy of language becomes explicit in this passage from Part Two, Chapter IX.
“And besides, should Rodolphe hesitate to come to her assistance, she would know well enough how one single glance would reawaken their lost love. So she set out towards La Huchette, unaware that she was hastening to offer what had so angered her a while ago, not in the least conscious of her prostitution.”This passage comes from Part Three, Chapter VII.
“She hoped for a son; he would be strong and dark; she would call him George; and this idea of having a male child was like an expected revenge for all her impotence in the past. A man, at least, is free; he can explore all passions and all countries, overcome obstacles, taste of the most distant pleasures. But a woman is always hampered. Being inert as well as pliable, she has against her the weakness of the flesh and the inequity of the law. Like the veil held to her hat by a ribbon, her will flutters in every breeze; she is always drawn by some desire, restrained by some rule of conduct.”There are two voices in this passage from Part Two, Chapter III; one belongs to Emma, the other to the narrator.
“But it was above all at mealtimes that she could bear it no longer, in that little room on the ground floor, with the smoking stove, the creaking door, the oozing walls, the damp floor-tiles; all the bitterness of life seemed to be served to her on her plate, and, with the steam from the boiled beef, there rose from the depths of her soul other exhalations as it were of disgust. Charles was a slow eater; she would nibble a few hazel-nuts, or else, leaning on her elbow, would amuse herself making marks on the oilcloth with the point of her table-knife.”This passage, from Part One, Chapter IX, illustrates Flaubert’s combination of realism and emotional subjectivity.
“Because lips libertine and venal had murmured such words to him, he believed but little in the candour of hers; exaggerated speeches hiding mediocre affections must be discounted; as if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars.”
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