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Dissatisfaction And Mortality Essay

1155 words - 5 pages

In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, the protagonists experience multiple conflicts with society as a whole and with their own place in that society. Emma Bovary and Yevgeny Bazarov, respectively, determine that the solution to their struggles is suicide. By revealing their characters’ reasoning, methods, and legacies, Flaubert and Turgenev seek to expose a fundamental human need for a sense of societal belonging through the resultant act of suicide, should that need go unfulfilled.
The sense of despair that is linked to both Emma’s and Bazarov’s suicides originates from their stark incompatibility with the societies into which they were born. Each protagonist goes through a life long struggle to reshape his or her own niche in the community, in a manner reminiscent of attempting to force a key into a lock that it does not fit. Emma, who was brought up in a rural peasant family, had aspirations for a different place in life beginning as a young girl in a convent school. She kept a collection of “portraits of unidentified aristocratic English beauties” (Flaubert 872). By marrying Charles Bovary (a doctor), Emma raises herself up to the comfortable level of middle class; however, she clearly remains unsatisfied, as she obsesses over magazines from Paris, fills her house with luxury items, and pines for any contact with the upper class. Bazarov also has a more desirable relationship with society in mind. However, unlike Emma, he does not crave for changes in his own lifestyle, but instead he wishes for the majority of society to conform to his ideals. Upon meeting Arkady’s aristocratic father and uncle, Bazarov attempts to persuade them into agreeing with his progressive nihilistic views. He laments the general inability of people to change their way of thinking. He longs to be needed, successful, and famous, whereas Emma merely yearns for acceptance from her social superiors. When each character recognizes the extent of their alienation, they turn to death rather than succumb to societal pressure. After being rejected by everyone she relies upon and becoming fully aware of her debt and its consequences, Emma becomes devastated and impulsive. She doesn’t consider the “cause of her horrible plight – the question of money,” but simply reflects upon the lack of sympathy she has received from the townspeople and her lovers as she makes her way to the apothecary to obtain arsenic (Flaubert 1040). Similarly, Bazarov’s thoughts immediately veer toward death when he is gently rejected by Anna Sergeyevna in the garden. He hints at his impending doom, saying “I’ve lost any importance for you, and you tell me I’m kind… It’s exactly like laying a wreath of flowers at a dead man’s head” (Turgenev 176). Turgenev is showing that the personal praise is insignificant in comparison to what Bazarov perceives as his feeble impact on the world. Then, as he lies dying, the nihilist expresses his disappointment at being unable to...

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