Madame Bovary Emma Bovary, scorned, pitiful, and unsatisfied searches for happiness though wealth and sundry lovers, as the main character in Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary. Emma is not the first character to be presented, but Charles Bovary, Emma’s husband opens the piece. The beginning has a major symbol which foreshadows Charles’s attitude throughout the story. As a child, he walks into a new classroom with a horrifyingly grotesque hat upon his head and the other pupil’s tease him about it. They keep knocking the hat off his head, and when Charles is told to remove his hat, he ignores the tradition of throwing it and making the dust go haywire. This incident gives the audience an inside track in the young Charles’ head. Basically, Charles is a passive, submissive person.
This personality turns Emma into the embracing arms of two lovers. By marrying the wrong man, Emma acts upon what she believes is proper instead of doing what she wants to do. She is not true to her emotions and because of this she lives very unhappily. As Emma proves in this book, people should follow their heart and not worry so much about doing the “right thing.” Emma says, “one must to some extent, bow to the opinion of the world, and except it’s moral code,” which is exactly what she did her whole life. Ironically, she says this and later pays for it for doing what others expected of her, instead of doing what she wanted. In desperation to get away from the zombie-like husband, she flees to Rodolphe Boulanger – a man with enough aggressiveness for a fleet of women. One man watches her and exclaims, “she is tired of him, no doubt, she’s gaping after love like a carp after water on a kitchen-table.” But, as Emma is scorned by each affair, she falls upon her human pillow, Charles.
She continually tries to prove her innocence; so, she keeps her love from him and his idolatry. Some supporting incidents include the time when she hit her child, Berthe, and then told her husband that the kid cut her cheek. Another example is when Emma is about to have an affair with Leon, she starts acting like a good wife, a good mother-to-be, and she attends church. When Emma finally gives birth, it is to a girl, named Berthe at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
Through out the labor process, Emma was wanting a male descendent. “A man, at least, is free. He can explore passions and countries, surmount obstacles, taste the most exotic pleasures.” Her justification is clearly stating the opposite: “But a woman is continually held back. Inert and flexible at the same time, she has both the susceptibilities of the flesh and legal restrictions against her.” The birth symbolizes a new beginning. Six a.m.
in the morning is the “birth of day”, standard sunrise time, and Sunday is a holy day. Since on the seventh day God rested, he created man to live in his world that was made. Now, Berthe has to live in the isolated, misery-addicted world her mother has created for her; because Emma is so engulfed in herself, she brings her daughter down with her. Emma condemns Berthe from then on to live in her own personal inferno. With her mother’s pitiful, pathetic, easy-way-out death, Berthe will escape Emma’s grasp upon her non-existent, not-yet-formed childhood.
Her death freed her husband from his agony of loving her; she freed Leon Dupuis to marry a Mademoiselle; and Rodolphe to fulfill his need for many lovers. Written in the nineteenth century, Gustave Flaubert uses the theme of freedom of one’s self and romance to highlight this era.