BOOK: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
SYNOPSIS: Madame Bovary's plot is pretty simple. Charles, a doctor from a middle class family, marries an ugly but wealthy widow older than himself . However, he falls for a young woman Emma. His wife - what luck he has! - dies. He marries Emma. Emma realizes she was wrong in assuming that she loved him. Thus begin her despairs, which lead her to adultery and falling into debts.
Here's the thing. Emma might be after superficial things, but I don't see why that is in any way at all wrong of her. Emma's sentimental romanticizing might be met with an unsympathetic world, but I don't see why that should be considered the reason of her downfall. Towards the end of the novel, Charles says to Emma, "Weren't you happy? Is it my fault? I did all I could!" This idea that a man has to be capable of making a woman happy and that he is supposed to be the only one who can is absolutely ridiculous. A woman should should be in charge of her own happiness. She must have control of her own life. She must have autonomy. That's all that the novel seems to be saying to me. It was not adultery that ruined Emma. It was the lack of knowledge about financial affairs. It was the lack of autonomy. It was her unfulfilled desires that couldn't be fulfilled only because her own fate wasn't in her own hands.
Emma says at one point, "Ah! if in the freshness of her beauty, before the soiling of marriage and the disillusions of adultery, she could have anchored her life upon some great, strong heart, then virtue, tenderness, voluptuousness, and duty blending, she would never have fallen from so high a happiness. But that happiness, no doubt, was a lie invented for the despair of all desire." Had she known that she didn't *need* to anchor her life to any great, strong heart other than her own she wouldn't have seen happiness as a lie. But the world that she lived in couldn't even let a woman bring happiness to her life her own damn self. So it's futile to expect her to know that no one owed her anything to bring felicity in her life. It was not a man's job. It was her own job. If she had had the reins of her life in her own hands, she would have been able to do something other than being helpless when it came to the things she wanted.
I somewhat expected this daring character to be bold enough to know all of that before I started reading this novel. Nonetheless, I did love it, if only because - no matter what its intent at that time - if you interpret it with an untainted consciousness, you would see that it establishes that adultery wasn't what ruined Emma. Flaubert's writing style helps the most in reaching that conclusion. He simply narrates the story without adding his own judgement to it, thus making Madame Bovary a better reading experience than it otherwise would have been. There's no way I wouldn't recommend this book to every lover of Literature.
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Published by Mahima Kapoor