Book Club

♡ Madame Bovary ♡


Gustave Flaubert, author of realist novels in which, by investigating the bourgeois society of the time, he makes its reality and context human, was born in Rouen on 12 December 1821 and died in Croisset on 8 May 1880.

Flaubert, Madame Bovary

The division into sequences. The chapters of Madame Bovary revolve around three fundamental nuclei:
Chapters: 1-9 Description of Charles; his mother’s decision to marry him a forty-five-year-old widow; visit to the Rouault house; death of his wife; wedding with Emma; flashbacks on Emma’s childhood; first events of married life, transfer to Yonville; waiting for a baby.

Chapters: 1-15 Arrival at the Leon d’Or inn and meeting with Léon; Berthe’s birth; casual encounters with Léon; Emma’s belief that she has fallen in love with Léon; departure of Léon and despair of Emma; meeting with Rodolphe Boulanger; Rodolphe’s declaration of love; beginning of the relationship; Emma’s fear of being discovered; attempt to reconnect with her husband; resumption of the relationship with Rodolphe; Rodolphe’s farewell letter to Emma; Emma’s depression; return of Léon.
III. Chapters: 1-11 Resumption of attendance; piano lessons and hotel meetings with Léon on Thursdays; Léon’s subjection to .Emma’s whims; Léon’s decision to leave Emma so that the relationship would not compromise his career; excessive spending by Emma; the beginning of the financial crisis and Emma’s attempts to stem it; Emma poisons herself and dies; Emma’s funeral; Charles’s discovery of Léon’s letters and Rodolphe’s messages; Charles’s death with a lock of Emma’s hair in his fingers.

Summary Madame Bovary

Charles Bovary, the wife he had married to his mother’s obligation died, decides to join Emma Rouault, whom he met during one of her visits as a doctor at her father’s farm. In love with his wife, he fills her with all her attention, he never contradicts her and for this reason he is despised by Emma of her who, a sentimental and dreamy woman, cannot bear the monotonous life that Charles offers her in Yonville. Emma tries to escape the boredom and mediocrity of married life by weaving platonic relationships with Léon or passionate relationships with Rodolphe first and Léon after. Indifferent towards her husband and her daughter Berthe, Emma spares no expense for her meetings with her lover to the point of causing complete financial disruption for the entire family. Only when she, abandoned by Léon and exhausted by the debts imposed on her by the haberdasher Lheureux, will she also see her furniture foreclosed on, will she decide to kill herself with poison. On the death of his beloved wife, Charles discovers Léon’s letters and Rodolphe’s messages and dies of grief, leaving Berthe with her aunt, in poverty.

Summary: Emma through the eyes of her future husband

This chapter describes the phase in which the doctor Charles Bovary met the young daughter of the farmer Rouault whose leg was treated by the doctor. From this moment on, Charles continued to frequent the home of the man he had treated assiduously. Initially the man is not interested in Emma, the young daughter of Rouault, but later he began to think that a marriage with the young girl with light skin, hair and penetrating dark eyes, was in a certain way convenient especially for beauty. and the young age of the girl. The young woman’s father also began to think that this marriage could be beneficial to him.
Emma also gladly accepted Charles’s love and decided to marry him.

Emma’s Romantic Dreams

Emma, after marrying the doctor Charles Bovary, finds herself having to face moments of real boredom. In her rosy and unrealizable dreams she imagines living a high bourgeois life on the basis of the novels that she always read as a young man, in which magnificent lifestyles are described. Life in the company of her doctor husband is monotonous and mediocre, not characterized by everything she had dreamed of, therefore Emma begins to live in total debauchery and beyond her real possibilities, having extramarital affairs with other men.

The weather

A. The events narrated are placed in a specific historical time, the 19th century;
B. The stories told last about a few years;
C. The chronological order is not respected: in the first part, there is a flashback on Emma’s childhood.
Q. Space is given to the dialogue parts, but the narration mostly unfolds through the events seen in relation to Emma’s thoughts and emotions, with particular attention to her verisimilitude.


A. The space in which the events unfold is real, between the citadels of France such as Tostes, Yonville l’Abbaye and Rouen. The setting is both internal (Bovary house, Rouault house, hotel) and external (day of rallies, theater, dances … ..)
B. The space is described by the narrator who in some way becomes Emma’s spokesperson, while not identifying himself.

Madame Bovary characters

A. Madame Bovary’s characters are described in an objective, realistic way by the author who makes them speak;
B. The main characters are:
Emma Bovary, a beautiful and charming woman, a lover of elegance, refinement, reading and music, she lives in a world of fantasy that makes her despise the mediocre normality of Charles. She disillusioned with the reality of marriage, she believes she is fulfilling in extramarital affairs, but having become daring and excessive, she dies suffocated by debt.
Charles Bovary is a monotonous, uneducated man, ready to approve of any of Emma’s claims. He is a man without ambitions, so happy with the apparent tranquility that he does not realize that he is the victim of a deception. When he sees Rodolphe, after his wife’s death, he would like to be like him because that’s what she Emma loved.
Léon is a handsome and cultured young man, whose romantic and dreamy sensibility meets that of Emma. They share passion and readings until their relationship is seen by the young notary practitioner, compromising for his career.
Rodolphe is a landowner, used to dating women including Emma whom he flatters with kind words and engulfs him in a mad passion. It reveals her purposes when she abandons Emma ready to leave her husband for him or when she refuses financial help.

Narrative and stylistic techniques

A. The narrator is Flaubert, but he is not omniscient and presents the facts as Emma sees them;
B. The focus is internal: Flaubert narrates as if it were Emma, giving voice to her point of view or as if it were Charles, but maintains objectivity in the narrative;
C. To represent the words and thoughts of the characters he uses direct speech and reports Emma’s reflections and feelings.
D. The style arises from the author’s attempt to adapt the language to the characters and their social class.

Themes and Messages

Contrast between illusion and reality; between dreamed life and frustrating normality; adultery as an alternative means of achieving illusory happiness, cultivated through reading. Contrast between the sensitivity of some and the flat mediocrity of the social class to which they belong. Unhappy fate for those who do not adapt to the environment in which they live.

Towards the context

A. The text Madame Bovary belongs to the genre of novels;
B. Flaubert’s novel is a realist novel in descriptive ways that still suffers from the sentimental romantic tendency.


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