Thursday, August 29, 2013

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Loose Lady Bovary (Wayward Women Week)

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, not to be confused with Madame Butterfly—different Madame, different country, different time—is about an unfaithful French housewife in the early to mid-1800s. Madame Emma Bovary has a beautiful daughter and is married to a doctor but she is bored, bored, bored. Stuck out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do, and irritated by her dull and lonely life, she starts to despise her husband. Just the look of him disgusts her. One scene at dinner reminds me of Kathleen Turner’s repulsion at watching her husband, Michael Douglas, eat dinner in War of the Roses.  Madame Bovary’s skin seems to crawl as she watches Charles innocently enjoy his meal.

He sucked his teeth after eating, and made a horrid gulping noise at every mouthful of soup he swallowed, and he was beginning to put on flesh, his eyes, which were barely enough to begin with, looked as if they would be squeezed up into his forehead by his podgy cheeks.
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1856; reprint, New York & London: The Heritage Press, & The Nonesuch Press, 1950), 63.

There are only two things that seem to alleviate the tediousness of her pathetic existence:  men and money.  Emma finds much needed excitement in a couple affairs behind her unsuspecting husband’s back. Sneaking around to lovers who appreciate her, give her a sense of purpose.  And so does spending her husband’s hard-earned cash.  Emma didn’t need the QVC Channel to buy everything and anything under the sun to fill her home and empty life.  But it’s never enough. Where does it all lead?  In the end something’s got to give, much as it did in Madame Butterfly.

Happy reading,


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