Madame Bovary- Gustave Flaubert: Four page paper on themes, symbols, and motifs found in Madame Bovary.

Essay by Zmac18University, Bachelor'sA+, November 2006

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Dried Bouquets

When Emma came home with Charles, she noticed his dead wife's wedding bouquet in the bedroom and wondered what would happen to her own bouquet when she died. Later, when they moved to Yonville, she burned her own bouquet as a gesture of defiance against her unhappy marriage.

The dried bouquet stands for hopes that ended in disappointment, and for the new promise of a wedding day turned sour and old. Emma's burning of her bouquet foreshadows the way her desires will consume her youth and, eventually, her life.

The Lathe

Binet's habit of making useless napkin rings on his lathe is a symbol with several meanings.

First, it represents the useless, nonproductive, character of middle-class tastes. Second, it represents something more ominous: the tediousness of the life that Emma feels she is trapped in. In the scene in which she contemplates throwing herself out the window, Emma hears the sound of the lathe "calling" her to suicide.

Finally, the lathe represents the craftsman continuously making a simple, uniform work of art.


The quantity of food consumed in Madame Bovary could feed an army for a week! From Emma's wedding feast to the Bovarys' daily dinner, Flaubert's characters are frequently eating, and the way they eat reveals their important characteristics. Charles' horrible table manners, amplified through Emma's disgust, reveal him to be barbaric and lacking in sophistication. When Emma is shown sucking her fingers and licking out the bottom of a glass, we see a animal-like sensuality and a lust for physical satisfaction in her that all her pretensions to courtesy cannot conceal. Finally, when Emma goes to the ball, the exquisite table manners of the nobles and the fine foods they consume signify the refinement and sophistication of their class. In each of these cases,