Her spleen seems to spring from an almost metaphysic lassitude with life. Emma is never satisfied, and for her, as Flaubert puts it, no pleasure was good enough, there was always something missing. If Emma cannot kiss her lovers without wishing for a greater delight, it is obvious that she cannot cling to anything real, but only to the ideal dreams. She desperately tries to find a responsible for her own unhappiness, without realizing that the tragedy comes from within herself, from her discontent with the real world:
But on whom could she pin the responsibility for her unhappiness? Where was the extraordinary catastrophe which had turned her life upside down? She raised her head and looked about her, as though seeking the cause of all her suffering." (Flaubert, 155)
Significantly, Emma is incapable of finding any delight in her lover for example, and prefers to spend her time in a voluptuous meditation on love, rather than actually living the feeling. As such, Emma is unable to respond to reality in a conscious way. She only responds to her own fantasies, to the fabricated emotions. Thus, it can be argued, that from a psychological point-of-view, Emma is emotionally immature. She can only respond to romance the way she has read in the books she should, when hearing the steps of her lover for example or in any other vague moment:
But she was eaten up with desires, with rage, with hate. That dress with the narrow folds hid a distracted fear, of whose torment those chaste lips said nothing. She was in love with Leon, and sought solitude that she might with the more ease delight in his image. The sight of his form troubled the voluptuousness of this mediation. Emma thrilled at the sound of his step; then in his presence the emotion subsided, and afterwards there remained to her only an immense astonishment that ended in sorrow."(Flaubert, 100)
Reality itself is a problem for Madame Bovary, as it does not conform to her ideal view of life.
As we have seen, Emma reacts in the same way to all the situations, she is fascinated by luxury because she feels aesthetic pleasure, she is fascinated by love because it wards off the ordinary reality, and because it can give her a new glow...
Also, she is fascinated even by religion in the very same way, and thrilled by the sublime idea of purity, that makes her want to become a saint: "She saw amid the illusions of her hope a state of purity floating above the earth mingling with heaven, to which she aspired. She wanted to become a saint. She bought chaplets and wore amulets; she wished to have in her room, by the side of her bed, a reliquary set in emeralds that she might kiss it every evening."(Flaubert, 122)
It is hard to pinpoint the exact cause of Emma's behavior and impossibility to adapt to reality, however, it is quite plain that her immaturity is, to a great extent, the result of her condition as a woman in the nineteenth century society. The provincial and patriarchal society in which Emma lives takes away all the freedom that a woman might enjoy. She can not act or think for herself, and she is limited to the pleasures of imagination. Her role as a mother and a wife in society is already fixed for her, and she has almost no choice but to be what society tells her to be.
Thus, Emma can be said to have reacted to the restraining environment in which she lived. If her behavior and thinking are to a certain extent immature and irresponsible, this is certainly the result of the society in which she lived. Her character of course, influenced and even triggered her tragic destiny, but had she been able to enjoy more freedom she might have developed in a different way. However, Emma is certainly an idealist, dissatisfied with the common life, and living in a chimerical world, not unlike that of the Spanish hidalgo Don Quixote.
Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary: Life in a Country Town. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Thornton, Lawrence. The Fairest of Them All: Modes of Vision in Madame Bovary," in PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association. Vol. 93. No.…
Charles' mother is a kind of reverse image of Emma -- she believes that all fantasy is wrong, but even though Flaubert cannot sympathize with her ideas entirely, there is truth to the idea that Emma needs some sort of work and occupation. Emma is kept like an ornament, and as she is bored, she has time to fantasize and feel frustrated with the pointlessness and limits of her
There is a feminine side to his masculinity, that is, and this passage shows that Emma has an equal share in this dichotomy. Hours after she is back at home, after Charles has left her alone in the house to attend to something, Emma shuts herself in her room to contemplate her experience and her joy. It is here that the realization of her own feminine power, and the active
In service to this "religion," she is expected to offer her entire self. Ultimately, although unintentionally, she quite literally gives her life in this servitude. In The Awakening, religion also plays an important role in the female self-concept. Adele for example specifically refers to the Bible when attempting to convince Edna of the merits of self-sacrifice for husband and children. However, it is also true that Adele has no concept
Denied marriage, the only other societal option is suicide. Society is the agent of her demise, not Lilly: "her life is not unpleasant until a chain of events destroys her with the thoroughness and indifference of a meat grinder." Goetz, Thomas H. "Flaubert, Gustave." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. [1 Oct 2006] http://www.aolsvc.worldbook.aol.com/wb/Article?id=ar200180. Biographical overview, provides insight into Flaubert's role as a uniquely realistic writer, thus stressing Emma's economic and moral
The whole of the sequence leads one to believe that Charles is so daft that he would put his own life, not only his reputation on the line if Emma believed that it should be so. Charles from this point forward in the work becomes a piteous example of a spineless fool, and Emma likes him even less for it and therefore becomes even more distant. When Emma begins her
Madame Bovary The male who conquers and protects his territory, the representative a whole social class: the bourgeoisie, the predator and the opportunist, this is how the pharmacist of Yonville, Homais, one of the most despicable characters in Flaubert's novel, Mme Bovary, can be described in short. As the best suited character for a battle between classes, Homais triumphs over everything. With Homais, Flaubert succeeded to create the essence of what his