Review of Madame Bovary and its symbolism

Essay by jpeivpHigh School, 12th gradeA+, October 2004

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Madame Bovary is considered Gustave Flaubert's masterpiece and the most influential French novel of the nineteenth century. Often described as a satire on romantic beliefs and the rural bourgeois, Madame Bovary relates the story of Emma Bovary, a bored housewife whose dreams of romantic love (primarily gathered from popular romanticized novels) are unfulfilled through her marriage to a simple country doctor. She attempts to realize her fantasies through love affairs with a local landowner and a law clerk, and later through extravagant purchases. Unable to pay her debts and unwilling to bear her disgrace or to tolerate or conform to bourgeois values, she commits suicide.

Flaubert was born in Rouen, where his father was chief surgeon at the city hospital, the Hotel Dieu, and his mother was a well-known and respected woman from a provincial bourgeois family. Flaubert lived with his parents, brother Achille (who also became a prominent doctor), and a sister Caroline in an apartment at the hospital.

Many critics acknowledge the dual influence of the bourgeois and medical environments on the author (Bourget 121). As a youth, he attended school at the College Royal de Rouen, traveled with his family throughout France, and spent summer vacations in Trouville. It was in Trouville were Flaubert first met Elisa Schlesinger, a married woman whom he developed a lifelong infatuation for. Although Flaubert was interested in literature and began to write at an early age, he obeyed his parents wishes and went to law school in Paris. In 1844, he experienced the first attack of what is believed to be epilepsy, and as a result he abandoned his career in law and devoted himself to writing. Both, his father and his sister died in 1846, and Flaubert, his mother, and his infant niece moved into a house in...