Madame Bovary

Human nature is still the same as it was in the 1800s when Gustave Flaubert wrote this, his debut novel. Charles’ mother’s relationship with her husband and son echoes the  meddling mother syndrome, whilst the affairs of the bored Emma could be transposed to a modern setting.

Flaubert depicts the nineteenth century dilemma of women in prose that he worked on relentlessly. Like Tolstoy in Anna Karenina he acknowledges the precarious position of women (unable to attain their dreams, married to men they despise) but he also chooses death as the outcome. Suffering a horrible death after ingesting arsenic is the only way out for Emma. This brings to mind the violent death of Anna Karenina, jumping under a moving train.

As sensitive artists these great authors understood that the lives of women could be unsatisfactory, but they could not see a solution. The underlying feel in both novels appears to be that even if she is unhappy, a woman is supposed to endure or suffer the consequences.

Beautifully written, Madame Bovary is credited with advancing realism in the Western canon of literature.