Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary

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For many, the mundanity of real life is disappointing. The realities of the complex and oftentimes boring nature of life can leave people dissatisfied. Gustave Flaubert depicts one such person in his novel Madame Bovary, which details the life of its eponymous protagonist, Emma Bovary. Emma has dreams of an exciting, romantic life, but is quickly disappointed by her marriage to an unambitious man and immovable place in the middle class. Throughout the novel, Emma’s idealistic outlook on life, also called romanticism, is undermined by the stark reality of the realistic situations she finds herself in and by other characters whose beliefs directly clash with hers. One such character is her mother-in-law, Madame Bovary Sr., who dislikes Emma and …show more content…
For example, after Emma’s death, Charles’ mother returns to live with him to care for him. Her feelings about this are explained when, “...they would never part again. She was ingenious and caressing, rejoicing in her heart at gaining once more an affection that had wandered from her for so many years” (Flaubert 240). Madame Bovary Sr.’s relationship with Charles leads her to want to be a part of his life in whatever way she can. She cares for him deeply and shows it by being both physically and figuratively present, hence the word choice of “rejoicing,” which serves to highlight her happiness at their proximity. This close relationship with Charles only occurs because Madame Bovary Sr. makes an effort to be in his life at all times. She recognizes that her son is the most important piece of her life and views him to be the highest of her achievements. This means that Madame Bovary Sr. holds dearest to her that which is most immediate; in this case, the most immediate is Charles. This represents a very realistic point of view on life, because she loves and holds dear to her that which is accessible, unlike Emma who only loves the …show more content…
are vastly different characters, and these differences are the main points of tension between them. They also represent fully realized and personified romanticism and realism (Emma being the romantic, and her mother-in-law being the realist). With them, Flaubert relays a strong message to his audience on the dangers of blind romanticism and unfocused idealism because realism proves triumphant over romanticism, proven through Emma’s unrealized dreams and resentful attitude toward her child. Romanticism cannot survive the bleak truths of the real world. Sometimes, the situations are too mundane and the people, too uninteresting, to suit the romantic frame of mind. Realism, however, with its sharp focus on the immediate reality, allows its believer to be more comfortable with what they have. Romanticism ultimately leads to dissatisfaction, which can only result in one outcome:

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