Olivia Keen
February 26, 2009
English 2025
Section 5
Analysis of Madame Bovary
Gustave Flaubert’s nineteenth century masterpiece Madame Bovary is often described as one of the best novels ever written. The novel tells the story of a young girl caught between a fantasy life influenced by an infinite list of books and fiction, and her own simple life. Throughout the novel, the title character Emma struggles with her own happiness and fulfillment, and the consequences of having many affairs without her husband’s knowledge. Emma is a very selfish character and constantly tries to blame her unhappiness on her husband. Emma tries to live her life in the most romantic way possible and hurts many people in doing so.
“But the more Emma grew aware of her love, the more she repressed it, in order to hide and lesson it. She wanted Leon to suspect it, and she envisioned dangers, catastrophes, that would have revealed it. What held her back was no doubt laziness or fright, and also modesty. She thought that she had rejected him too strongly, that there was no more time, that all was lost. Then pride and the joy of telling herself ‘I am virtuous’ and of looking at herself in the mirror while assuming poses of resignation consoled her a little for the sacrifice she believed herself to be making…What exasperated her was that Charles did not seem to suspect her suffering. His conviction that he was making her happy seemed an imbecilic insult to her, and his smugness about it sheer ingratitude” (Flaubert 102). This quote happens in the novel after Emma meets Leon for the first time. Emma wants to pursue a relationship with Leon but is still struggling with the idea of betraying her husband. This quote begins to show the bitterness Emma feels towards Charles. Charles’s complete ignorance of Emma’s suffering causes her even more pain. Over time Charles becomes the object of Emma’s resentment.
The line “she envisioned dangers, catastrophes, that would have revealed it” shows that Emma fully understands the consequences of her actions and she chooses to pursue the affairs anyway. Flaubert’s use of the word “sacrifice” when describing Emma’s actions only portrays how selfish the character really is. To Emma, not fulfilling her dreams of romanticism could only be described as a sacrifice in her world.
This novel would not be the same if it were not for Flaubert’s meticulous use of language. Flaubert mixes great details with straightforward irony. The line “Then pride and the joy of telling herself ‘I am virtuous’ and of looking at herself in the mirror while assuming poses of resignation consoled her” shows the great use of language as it is used to describe Emma’s selfishly pronounced feelings. Flaubert had a gift of describing Emma so that the reader feels as if he is seeing into Emma’s mind.
Through the use of an omnipresent third person narrator we are able to see in detail many characters. The narrator seems to devote most of the storytelling to Emma. Throughout the novel the reader can feel Emma’s pain and also see why she makes the choices she makes. Because the narrator describes Emma in such detail, it is very easy for the reader to see Emma as a very unsympathetic character.
Emma is not very virtuous and consistently acts in selfish ways. She uses every excuse to act in romantic ways. Even Emma’s suicide invariably creates a scene of romanticism and dramatizes her most morbid action. The suicide also continues to prove her selfishness as she leaves her husband and daughter behind.

Works Cited
Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. New York: New American Library, 1964.

e Bovary

Madam 9.5 of 10 on the basis of 2927 Review.