An Education in Escape: Madame Bovary and Reading Essay

758 Words Sep 26th, 1999 4 Pages
An Education in Escape: Madame Bovary and Reading

A theme throughout Flaubert's Madame Bovary is escape versus confinement. In the novel Emma Bovary attempts again and again to escape the ordinariness of her life by reading novels, having affairs, day dreaming, moving from town to town, and buying luxuries items. It is Emma's early education described for an entire chapter by Flaubert that awakens in Emma a struggle against what she perceives as confinement. Emma's education at the convent is perhaps the most significant development of the dichotomy in the novel between confinement and escape. The convent is Emma's earliest confinement, and it is the few solicitations from the outside world that intrigue Emma, the books
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No longer are the images of precise people or event but instead they become more fuzzy and chaotic. The escape technique that she used to conjure up images of heroines in castles seems to lead inevitably to chaos and disintegration. And there were sultans with long pipes swooning on the arbors on the arms of dancing girls; there were Giaours, Turkish sabers and fezzes; and above all there were wan landscapes of fantastic countries: palm trees and pines were often combined in one picture with tigers on the right a lion on the left.
(Flaubert 33.) Emma's dreams by this point are chaotic with both palms and pines mixed together with lions and tigers. These dreams continue and change themselves into a death wish as swans transform themselves into dying swans, and singing into funeral music. But Emma although bored with her fantasy refuses to admit it and she starts to revolt against the confines of the convent until the Mother
Superior was glad to see her go. The chapter about Emma Bovary's education at the convent is significant not only because it provides the basis for Emma's character, but also because the progression of images in this chapter is indicative of the entirety of the novel. The images progress from confinement to escape to chaos and disintegration. In Madame Bovary Emma changes from a women content with her marriage, to a women who escapes from the ordinariness of her everyday life through affairs and novels, to a women whose

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