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Madame Bovary And Written On The Body

1437 words - 6 pages

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Madame Bovary and Written on the body

Madame Bovary and Written on the body, penned by Gustave Flaubert and Jeanette Winterson respectively, encapsulate the essence of gender while breaking free of the stigma attached to it. The actions of both the protagonists from these works reflect a complete divorce of the influence of their genders from the course of action they took.

The ambiguity of the sex of Winterson's character along with the Volatile nature of Flaubert's Emma twist many facets of gender and society together into solid plots. Both are narratives of the highest order and equally reflect ideas which are considered radical. Both novels place sexual structures and explanations of gender into question, i.e. is the male sex really superior? Are woman really constricted by their femininity? Through the narrative on Emma we get a taste of a woman who goes again societal norms and at times acts more masculine than feminine. Then we have the I-narrator in Winterson's novel that continually transcends boundaries set for sexes because of his/her own unidentified and undefined gender.

Similarly, one would have to notice that Winterson's novel shuns sexes completely. Instead of working within a space where there is a fixed gender, which is further placed into a categorically constructed culture and society in order to pinpoint the wants and needs of an individual, we are left with imagery that shows us a being, which has an identity and subsequently wants and needs things based on that identity. (Sonnenberg 3) Typical to this fact both the characters tip toe around the limitations of the sexes. This is the reason Winterson's character is easy to compare to Emma. The novels' negate the traditional roles of the sexes, in particular they negate the role of women as passive object of exploration by following masculine paradigms, but also in ultimately rejecting such models in favor of reciprocity, they becomes an almost perfect illustration of a refusal of the role of woman and also the refusal of the economic, ideological, and political power of a man. The actions of both characters set them apart from normal behavior (Maynard, Purvis 151).

One has to wonder whether Emma is a victim in the traditional sense or has the author deliberately downplayed the masculinity of the three main male characters i.e. Charles, Leon and Rodolphe. (Porter 263). The character does not follow the norms of one gender. This was the reason that Flaubert's novel was greatly protested. On one hand she is extremely feminine but on the other hand she has extremely masculine markers in her personality. It was Charles Baudelaire who pointed out that Emma's desires masculinized her, and he labeled her a "bizarre androgyne." In reality, in the background of the 19th-century French anticipations about women's conduct, Emma's blatant sexuality and far-reaching aspiration did stand out as alien and...

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