The Theme of Change in Madame Bovary
Change is a central theme in the novel Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, and is key to understanding the character of Emma Bovary. Through parallel events the reader comes to realize that Emma's need for change is the result of the influence her early life had upon her. At the convent Emma is left to develop into an extreme romantic with high hopes for excitement and dreams of sensuous pleasures that will never be fulfilled. Thus, when life refuses to conform to her romantic notions Emma alternates between various activities in her constant search for a way to consummate her romantic longings.
As a young girl from the country Emma is placed into a convent in the city. Here Emma develops and receives nourishment for her already sentimental soul. She looks upon "copper crosses," the "sick lamb" and the "mystic ...altar" with the vigor of a scholar on a quest for knowledge. She listens intently "to the sonorous lamentation of romantic melancholy" which "awakened unexpected joys within her." Emma, being isolated from the outside world, is left alone to develop her capricious dreams that she reads about in novels, gaining the hope of someday fulfilling these romantic and passionate desires. Emma devours books that involve "romantic woes, oaths, sobs, tears and kisses...gentlemen brave as lions, gentle as lambs" and always "impossibly virtuous."
Due to Emma's isolation from everyday living she develops the need for excitement and as a result cannot endure her own married life. Life with Charles simply does not fit the fictionalized accounts she reads of. Thus Emma turns to the comforts of adultery and when passion is not readily available she will resort to any activity in the hope that it will fill the void in her heart. She tries everything. Emma redecorates her house, takes up reading, subscribes to Parisian magazines, helps at charities, knits, paints, plays the piano and engages in a multitude of other activities. However, none of these are enough for Emma. With each occupation she takes up she soon becomes bored and rejects one activity for another. Emma does not understand that she is a middle-class woman, in a middle-class existence and that no amount of hope will result in the fulfillment of her dreams. Instead of coming to the realization that fantasy is fantasy and reality is life she fritters away her time in daydreaming of another life, waiting for "something to happen." When Leon leaves for Paris, Emma, left in the dull town of Yonnville, buys a "plan of Paris, and moving the tip of her finger on the map, she...