Madame Bovary Read-Along Hosted by ebookclassics & Cedar Station
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Charles Bovary: in Charles we see a character who is conventional, steadfast, responsible, yet with an uninteresting, mundane aspect to his nature, that is readily apparent. After a short rebellion, while studying for his medical examinations, he passes with a fairly good grade and begins his life as a doctor. After an arranged marriage (by his controlling mother) with a much older widow, he finds himself attracted to Emma Rouault, the daughter of one of his patients. When his wife dies, he marries Emma quickly and, while treating her with a dog-like devotion, he does not see deeply enough within her character to truly understand her. His life is lived in blacks and white and shades of grey; no colour is perceived and this is to his detriment.
Emma Bovary: how do I describe Emma? Is she spoiled? Is she temperamental? Is she sentimental? Perhaps she is all these, but her character traits play out through a soul that seems wounded or perhaps, damaged. Sent to a convent as a young girl to be educated, Emma complies with the rules to a point, but it is evident that she has a natural rebellious streak and the nuns are relieved when she finally returns to the home of her father. Within the convent she has managed to acquire and adopt a steady diet of romantic, sentimental novels, from which, given her isolated circumstances, she develops a warped understanding of the manner in which life should be lived. A poetic, dramatic, imaginative fantasy life permeates most of her waking moments and when Charles appears, she fits him into her illusions, hoping he will fill the emptiness inside her. As a reader, while you can understand the difficulty of her isolation, her complete self-absorption is startling and, as a character, she is not at all sympathetic.
|The Bovary’s Wedding Day|
After learning about Charles’ childhood, I felt that his character was made up both by circumstances and an inherent ……. well, I’m not sure if I can say “goodness”. There is a lack of action about him, his inertness perhaps being mistaken for a deeper integrity than he deserves. I was somewhat disappointed that, because of his first wife’s shrewish character, he allowed himself to become unreasonably infatuated with Emma. One can only wonder if he will have gotten what he deserves.
Emma’s time in the nunnery appears to have had little affect on her character. She did not learn patience or temperance or sacrifice. The explanation as to how she acquired all her romance books seemed a little weak to me, but the affect of their sentimentality is apparent. I’m not sure that we can blame all of Emma’s character on the romances though; Emma does not appear to want to face reality if it does not correspond with her inner fantasy life. I anticipate tragic results.
Illustration by Charles Léandre (1931)
source Wikimedia Commons
So far, the picture on the right speaks volumes about Emma: no matter what is happening, no matter if there is upset or happiness or entertainment or silence, Emma Bovary is bored, bored, bored!