Essay Preview: Madame Bovary
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Emma longs for romanticism and grandeur, while the other two women are realistically simple in their desires. Charles finds Emmas imaginative nature slightly overwhelming, mysterious–and highly alluring.
During her honeymoon, Emma is disappointed to be in a simple town rather than a romantic chalet in Switzerland. Emma thinks Charles is dull. She cannot understand his simple happiness, and she begins to resent his complacent behavior. Unknowing of Emmas despondency, Charles continues to love his new wife, and he believes he has truly found happiness.
The Marquis dAndervilliers, a patient of Charles, invites the couple to a ball at his mansion. Emma grows obsessed with the concept of the ball and with the luxury and wealth that she will witness. She imagines that the Marquis lives a perfect, ideal existence, and she dreams of living a similar life.
The ball lives up to Emmas expectations. She is amazed by the Marquiss wealth and by the opulence and luxury of the ball. While she is ecstatic to be a part of this luxurious event, Emma is embarrassed by Charles. In her eyes, her husband is clumsy and unsophisticated in comparison with the noblemen and cultured women who attend the event. At one point, Emma sees a servant open a window to cool the ballroom, and she catches a glimpse of peasants watching the ball. In seeing the peasants, Emma is reminded of the farm and the reality of her unsophisticated upbringing and current life. Later, Emma dances with the viscount and imagines the alternate parallel lives she might have led–filled with luxury, passion, and the fineness of expensive things. As Emma and Charles travel home, the viscount passes them, dropping a cigar box, which Emma keeps to remember the night and remind her of how happy she felt. After returning from the high of the ball, Emma grows despondent, depressed, and angry, now that she is back in Tostes with Charles and her dreary life.
Emma has grown obsessed with the concept of the luxurious life she believes she was meant to have. She begins to spend much of her time fantasizing about a better life. She reads innumerable ladies magazines and obsesses over the viscounts cigar box. She also treats Charles with anger and contempt, because she largely blames him for the limits on her life. Emma obsesses so greatly over her unhappiness that she becomes physically ill.
Since Emma is very concerned about herself, her daily routine is painstakingly described. Since the routine is so simple compared to the viscounts, it is easy to see why Emma persuades herself that she should be thoroughly bored. Moreover, as Flaubert gives more and more attention to Emmas boredom, the novel generates a sense of realism. In this respect, the reader is free from the bounds of Emmas idealistic perspective, able to look sadly upon Emmas deteriorating mental condition.
The basic conflict in Emmas life is that she is entirely unsatisfied with her life and motivated to lead a better life, but she cannot create the ideal perfection she imagines. Emmas definition of happiness is, after all, inaccessible. She has always imagined