Emma, Christianity, and Adultery
In Madame Bovary, Emma is depicted as a slave to her desires, namely, to the desire for what she calls love. The origin of these desires appears to stem from her childhood habit of reading romantic novels while she lived in the convent. Because of her idealized picture of what romantic love is supposed to be, she searched desperately for this in real life, but to no avail. It appears that Emma’s suffering is due to her disillusion with reality and her own naivete about the nature of relationships with other people. However, time after time, Emma looks into the face of morality in the respect of her religion. After she does so, rather than reconcile with her faith and repent her adulterous sins, Emma
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In her mind she had developed an image of an earthly love that would help her achieve transcendence. From the beautiful things she learned in the convent, she thought to achieve happiness she had to love others as she loved herself, to sacrifice for love, and to have love end all suffering. Christianity does teach these things, but above all one must Love God. Emma, however, instead sought salvation and transcendence in mortal men because she thought she would find Love there. Not once in her unsuccessful pursuit for Love did she consider devoting her life to God. At times she tried to fulfill her duty as “loving” housewife and mother, and once she told Léon how she would have liked to be a nursing Sister in a hospital. But these reversions evidently were not due to any duty she felt to God, but because it was the duty expected of her from society. Emma said to Rodolphe, “ ‘ One must, to some extent bow to the opinion of the world and accept its morality’” (104). Although Emma failed to realize that transcendent love would come from Love for God, and this could have been the reason why she was unhappy, she still acted according to Christian teachings in many respects.
Christianity says that fulfillment will come later, and thus one is always unsatisfied. Christians are discouraged from being satisfied with worldly possessions like money because better things will come after death. Thus