Madame Bovary By Gustave Flaubert Essay

1554 words - 6 pages

The 19th century woman lived a life shadowed by men. Their lives were dictated by their husband and his choices. Consequently, their lives were suppressed by the limitations of their gender in addition to the boundaries of class. This led to the need for women, in order to obtain some sense of freedom, to pursue a man of higher class and overcome the boundaries between classes. In the novel Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, these characteristics of the 19th century society are all prevalent. Flaubert portrays this suppression of women by men and their societal hierarchy through the illustrious use of symbolism. Madame Bovary is a typical 19th century middle class woman who is bounded by her gender and aspires to transcend the limitations of her class. While still being married, Madame Bovary pursues numerous romantic engagements in order to fulfill her sensual desires and her need to become of the higher class. However, her desires eventually consume her and lead to her ultimate demise. In Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert repeatedly uses windows, the child, and horses to reveal the powerlessness and suppression of women in the 19th century.Through the use of windows, Flaubert characterizes Madame Bovary as a suppressed woman constantly bound by her marriage and status. The windows in Madame Bovary facilitate the dreams and aspirations of the Emma Bovary. Upon meeting Charles for the first time, Emma is shown staring through a window into her garden dreaming of the possibility of marriage and romance. However, after their union, when Emma is disillusioned from the false romance of romance novels, she passes "three windows whose perpetually closed shutters were rattling away on their rusty iron bars" (43). Flaubert's reference to these closed windows during Emma's disillusionment shows her feelings of entrapment with a man who could not satisfy her needs. These windows are not only closed, they are guarded by iron bars which show her now permanent state of disillusionment and desire for a renewed romantic relationship. When Rodolphe, a rich, romantic man, is introduced into her life, she begins to see the possibility for the fulfillment of her desires to become an upper-class citizen and her need of passionate romance. The window is again used to symbolize the hope that she has to escape her boring and unsuitable lifestyle. After being begged by her husband to abide by his mother's wishes, she fled to her window to escape and signals for the presence of Rodolphe through the attachment of a white piece of paper to her windowsill and "if he should be chance happen to be in Yonville he would hurry to the lane behind the house" (179). The window is not only a way to see her desires; it is also used to obtain her desires. Similarly, when Rodolphe was disbanding the relationship, "The candles flickered [, and] Rodolphe arose to shut the window" (189). The candles, a sign of light and hope, flickered when he began to write the letter. He instinctively...

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