Madame Bovary

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Madame Bovary book cover

Madame Bovary is a novel by Gustave Flaubert that raised a scandal when it was published in 1857 and is now seen to stand at the beginning of the modern novel. After publishing a few controversial excerpts in a periodical, he first had to win a trial in order to publish the novel.



The exterior plot of the story makes it seem simple. However, the true art of the novel shines in its details and hidden patterns. The basic plot goes as follows: It is set in a provincial village, far from Paris. A doctor, Charles Bovary, marries a beautiful farm girl, Emma. She rapidly grows bored with him and takes a rich landowner as a lover.

When he rejects her, she takes up with a law clerk. Her husband knows nothing of her romances. Nor does he know that Emma has ruined him financially with her waste, bad management, and self-indulgence. Emma commits suicide, leaving the loyal Charles distraught. He finds her letters and soon dies, leaving their child an orphan.


The novel is a prime example of Realism, a trait which contributed largely to its controversy. Flaubert, as the author of the story, does not comment directly on the moral character of Emma Bovary and abstains from explicitly condemning Emma's adultery. Due to this decision some accused Flaubert of glorifying adultery, creating a scandal (a rather groundless charge considering Emma's perpetual disappointment and grim fate).

Realism aims for verisimilitude through a focus on character development. The movement was a reaction to the idealism of Romanticism, a mode of thought which rules Emma's actions. She becomes increasingly dissatisfied since her larger than life fantasies are, by definition, unrealizable. However, the notion that Flaubert is criticizing Romanticism through the persecution of Emma is complicated by his remark, "Emma Bovary, c'est moi".

Related topics

External links

es:Madame Bovary fr:Madame Bovary ja:ボヴァリー夫人 sv:Madame Bovary (roman)


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