Emma, the protagonist of the novel, was a farmer’s daughter. The education she received in the monastery and the influence of the Romantic movement had given her many fantasies about the wealthy aristocratic life. As a result, she was deeply disappointed with her mediocre husband and ordinary marriage, and lived through a gradual moral and financial degeneration. Through the course of what she considers an unworthy life, Emma becomes deeply indebted and her overall dissatisfaction with her own reality leads her to take her own life. This novel portrays one of the most classic female images in the history of literature and reveals the reality behind the French society during the mid-19th century.
Author : Gustave Flaubert
Gustave Flaubert was a French novelist and leading exponent of literary realism in the 19th century. He was very rigid with his works, often repeatedly revising every word and sentence until they looked perfect. Madame Bovary is his most famous work and is considered a literary masterpiece. Since its publication, the novel has been highly praised in the literary world. Czech writer Milan Kundera claims that “ever since Madame Bovary, the art of the novel has been considered equal to the art of poetry.”
Overview | Chapter 1
Hi, welcome to Bookey. Today we’ll unlock the book Madame Bovary, written by the famous 19th-century French author Gustave Flaubert. One of the most influential works in the history of French literature, the novel is considered to have established a new paradigm of literary realism.
However, Madame Bovary was very controversial when it was first published. From 1856 to 1857, the novel was published as a series in the French magazine Revue de Paris. Shortly afterwards, it was under prosecution by the authorities of that time, accused for being an “outrage to public morality and religion”. Gustave Flaubert, an unknown novelist living in seclusion in the countryside at that time, was summoned to the court for trial. In the end, Flaubert was found not guilt, and because of this novel he gained a notable reputation and status in the history of literature.
You might be curious now; what’s this novel about and why did it cause such a wrath? The book was badly received by the public because it portrayed Emma Bovary, a depraved woman, as the main character. Flaubert did a good job portraying Madame Bovary’s path toward depravity and her affairs with multiple lovers. What’s more, Flaubert wrote the whole story with a soothing and objective tone, without any sense of judgement or criticism on Madame Bovary’s life. That’s why the public prosecutors at the time believed that this novel was “the poetics of adultery”. The novel has been criticized for promoting the liberation of sexual desire, which would have a bad influence on young female readers. Many readers also thought this novel was shocking and that it went against their moral standards.
Hearing this, you might be even more curious: What is this story about? How should we understand the literary image of a woman who’s considered immoral by traditional standards? What did Flaubert want to express when portraying Madame Bovary? Why is this novel considered a milestone in the history of world literature?
In this bookey, we will answer these questions one by one and interpret the book from the following three aspects:
Part One: The main plot of the novel;
Part Two: Understand Madame Bovary
Part Three: Gustave Flaubert’s literary achievements