The Origin of Emma and Nora, From Henrik Ibsens "A doll's house" and Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary"

Essay by Sean DavisCollege, Undergraduate December 1996

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Gustave Flaubert and Henrik Ibsen are both known as great writers and

harsh social critics. In fact when Flauberts masterpiece Madame Bovary was

released, he was arrested on the grounds that his novel was morally and

religiously offensive to the public, despite the fact that it was a bestseller. Also

Henrik Ibsens "A Doll's House" was such a slap in the face to many Europeans

that it was banned in some countries and revised in Germany so that it had a

happy ending. Some people in Norway even attributed the rising divorce rate to

this play! What is it that drove both of these authors to be such harsh social

critics? What exactly were their views? And what drove these two authors to

create two of their most famous characters: Nora, from "A Dolls House", and

Emma from Madame Bovary? An insight into the background of these authors

reveals that both Nora and Emma are reflections of social and political viewpoints

of their authors, and are at least partially based on people that the authors knew.

First of all, it is important to know the socio-economic status and

background of the two authors. It is also good to at least have an idea about the

society in which they lived. Then it is possible to see why they had certain

viewpoints and how these viewpoints had an effect on the personalities and

actions of their characters.

Gustave Flaubert was born on December 12, 1821 in Rouen, France to a

wealthy surgeon. As a boy he was well aware of the incompetence in the medical

profession, and the middle class "lip service" which he portrayed through Homais

in Madame Bovary. In his college years, Flaubert began to despise the middle

class even more as he became enthralled...