Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary masterfully explores the mid-19th century cultural scene, coloring the subject with his opinion. Through the book Flaubert lends insight into life in at the time, and imparts his opinions on the social world. He accomplishes these goals using the Bovary’s. Flaubert reevaluates characters through conflict, absence, juxtaposition, and selective thought examination to vilify the Bovary’s. Whether through necessity, or by purposeful ignorance characters rise and fall in their prominence, allowing Flaubert to lead the reader towards his opinion. A matter of debate exists regarding his purpose in this matter, and many critics have extrapolated that Madame Bovary is a critique on the bourgeoisie values.
In Madame Bovary, characters rise in prominence as they meet conflict. Stories consist of conflict, in one form or another. A situation that creates conflict brings the characters involved to the forefront. As Madame Lefrancois watches Hippolyte suffer, she grows resentful. A background character in the novel up to this point, she now becomes front and center when she refuses treatment from two of the most notable doctors in the region proclaiming, “Don’t listen to him, my lad” (126). Her rise to this status is rapid as the sequence of events concerning Hippolyte’s leg unfolds, and her fall happens almost as rapidly. She uses her time in the spotlight to criticize the decisions and directions of Charles. For a brief moment Madame Lefrancois was the forefront of attention, as the conflict necessitated, but when it dissipated she quickly departed from the reader’s mind.
Flaubert ignores characters until they assist him in disparaging the Bovary’s. The reader would almost forget that Madame Bovary had a child, but for the reminders which Flaubert provides. He limits Berthe’s role in the novel to a few tense encounters with her mother. “’Will you leave me alone?’ [Emma] said, pushing [Berthe] with her elbow” (81). Emma causes injury to her child and then lies to Charles about the events that preceded it. Berthe subsists to cast Emma in a bad light. As Emma says goodbye to Leon, Flaubert brings Berthe into the scene. Emma allows Leon his wish to say goodbye, but the quickly orders the maid to “’Take her away” (84). In this manner Berthe reveals Emma’s shortcomings in love, character, and parenthood by allowing Emma to pass her off to the maid, Felicite.
The entire situation surrounding Hippolyte’s leg sets Charles up for public humiliation to further discredit him in the eyes of the reader. It seems too good an opportunity for him to pass up, and yet far too complicated an endeavor for him to complete. Homais warns Emma of the possible repercussions; “An article gets about; it is talked of; it ends by making a snowball” (122). Emma interprets this to mean that Charles will become a rich, well-known doctor. The reader quickly learns this outcome will not occur. Hippolyte is only mentioned once in the chapters proceeding...