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Romanticism Vs. Realism In Madame Bovary

1760 words - 8 pages

Throughout Gustave Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary, the story frequently overlaps realism and romanticism. Both are shown through Flaubert’s attention to the details of the ordinary, dull life found in a small town and the dialogue that Emma shares with her targets of affection. This paper will analyze several of the characters and how they relate to romanticism and realism, and Flaubert’s attitude towards the bourgeois.

Emma Bovary is the biggest disgrace to romanticism in the book. This is portrayed in chapter eight, when she is at the ball. Although she is gorgeous, she has nearly no grace and inelegantly falls on the Vicomte. While she cherishes the moment, she embarrasses ...view middle of the document...

His simple life and lack of luxury infuriated her and pushed her to pursue people like Rodolphe, who was rich and, at the very least, feigned passion.

Until Emma’s death, Charles had no real delusions about his life. He helped people as he could and didn’t try to overstep his bounds as a medical officer for personal gain, although Homais and Emma both pressured him into the clubfoot operation. When Emma died his truly passionate side came forth and he tried to live in a way that she would have liked him to. Sadly, this meant buying luxury items he couldn’t afford and spending money he didn’t have on frivolous things. Eventually, he lost everything and died penniless. Such was the life of a simple and ordinary man who had nothing exceptional about him at all. Flaubert’s descriptions of Charles always painted him in a bland light, one that could easily blend into the background, but this is the point. Charles was nothing special, but he was a good man with a solid job. Realistically, that was what many women were looking for at the time, except for Emma, who sought only the greatest and most luxurious, carefree lifestyles based around her Romantic novels.

Unlike Emma and Charles, Rodolphe has a romantic glow to him, one that exists in a manner that fits the realism depicted in Madame Bovary. Rodolphe is a wealthy landowner who visits Charles to have one of his workers bled. When he sees Emma, he is immediately interested in her and begins to plan ways to seduce her, which are successful. Emma thinks of Rodolphe as the sturdy aristocrat who will save her from the unexciting life she lives with Charles. However, Rodolphe only sees her as a quest to meet his sexual desires. He is wealthy and fairly attractive, and constantly goes through the company of women. Despite Emma’s proclamations of love, he has no desire to whisk her away. This gives Rodolphe the appearance of a one-dimensional character, simply a womanizer. However, towards the end of the novel, when Emma is desperately in debt and is exhausting every means to acquire the funds, tracks him down. At this point in the novel, Rodolphe has already broken ties with Emma and has moved on, but upon her arrival and confrontation we see him have the beginnings of a change of heart. As Emma speaks about forgiving Rodolphe and her desire to be with him again, oddly false, considering her actual plans with him before they broke up, he seems bribed by the idea and genuinely willing to try having a strong healthy relationship. In this way, Rodolphe fits both into the romantic character persona: rich, charismatic, poetic in his speech, and that of a realistic character; his past experiences influence how he acts now, but he is capable of change.

Another character with the spark of a Romantic is Leon Dupuis. Leon parallels Emma in the sense that he seeks the romantic life. The aggravation with his current lifestyle brought on by his adolescence speaks to Emma and they hit it off quite quickly. They...

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