Madame Bovary

A brief post; I’m getting lazy. Plus I have a heap of incomplete assignments and research papers and unread books that I should be getting back to.

Notes from my journal:


Currently reading Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I have yet to read anything remotely ‘scandalous’ (by the standards of this day and age, anyhow), but its reputation is such that I keep expecting to find something DIRTY.

M. Bovary is so far from obscene. On the contrary, I’m finding it an eloquent and poignantly written book. Flaubert’s prose, which I first encountered in his short story, A Simple Heart, is ever so charming. Despite the realism and the ‘banality’ with which he presents provincial life, the world of the Bovaries is so far removed from mine that I can’t help but think it picturesque and romantic.


It is interesting to examine Emma Bovary not only as a nineteenth century woman, but also as a reader. She is quite selfish, seeking only emotional satisfaction in the novels that she reads. Also, it’s interesting how Flaubert’s thoughts on writing, and the politics/religious tensions of his time, are preserved within M. Bovary – e.g. Homais conversation w/ priest.


pg 85 – 88: Leon. At one point, Flaubert describes him as Emma’s mistress, rather than the other way around. What a contrast between E/R and E/L. In any case, Emma is a despicable character. She’s the sort who drags all those around her down into misery, simply because of her own naivety. That’s what essentially bars her from happiness, isn’t it? Her deluded sense of the world (pg 271).

» F for Flaubert: this book was read as a part of the A to Z challenge


6 thoughts on “Madame Bovary

  1. I read Madame Bovary several years ago and remember very little about it except some lovely lines that I committed to memory and the fact that I really liked it. I am reading Anna Karenina now, and actually wish I remembered more about Madame Bovary so I could draw comparisons – I am sure there are many to make.

  2. I loved how non-scandalous this book is! I think that is what I love most about classics: it can have subject matter about adultery or sex and not be about that. i.e., I like it best when books are not “in your face” as some modern novels are.

    1. Book Snob – hmmmmm I don’t know. When I was reading M. Bovary, Anna’s story kept coming to mind, but apart from the superficial similarities (i.e. that they are both essentially adulteresses, and commit suicide) I’m not sure that there are that many things the two protagonists have in common. For one thing, Anna and Vronsky are genuinely in love – as opposed to Emma/Rodolphe (R uses E) and Emma/Leon (E uses L). Also, he affairs in Madame Bovary spring up from Emma’s discontent, which is really a result of her self-delusion and naivety, whereas Anna Karenina is intelligent, perceptive and – dare I say – ‘wise’.

      Rebecca – Yes, definitely. But I think M. Bovary must have been extremely scandalous to some people back in the 19th century. Like now. I actually haven’t read that book yet because the plot (or what I’ve heard of it) is just distasteful to me.

      1. Really, you read Anna Karenina as intelligent, perceptive and wise? I would have to completely disagree with you! I think she misreads people and situations all the time, and this is the source of a lot of her misery. In fact, I would argue that she likes to find things to be miserable about!

        I recently had a long chat with a friend of mine who recently read AK, whose opinions align more with your own, and I think that this is what makes it such a classic book: that people can read it and the characters in so many different ways.

        1. Okay, Booksnob, maybe not wise, but IMO she is certainly more perceptive than Emma (by which I mean that she responds with more depth to the circumstances around her than M. Bovary) and far less naive. I agree that Anna misreads people and situations, and she is also deluded to an extent, but not in the same way that Emma is.

          Hmm, maybe I need to re-read AK! But the long-lasting impression I got from it was that Anna’s discontent arose from external factors that were mostly outside her control (the constraints of society) whereas Emma’s were more internal, and stemmed from her own distorted views of romance.

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