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Madame Bovary Feminism Essay

Madame Bovary, A Woman Struggling Among A Patriarchal Society

In the novel Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert criticizes sexist societies. He implicitly suggests that women should be given more freedom and should stop being oppressed. Throughout the novel, Flaubert uses various strategies such as cliché, tone and the specific symbolism to carry out this criticism.
To begin with, Gustave Flaubert uses cliché in his book; he portrays Emma as an unhappy and oppressed woman whose marriage has been arranged, but she dreams of eloping with other lovers. In the past, parents chose their daughter’s husbands without their consent. Women were expected to be happy with their husbands, but very often they weren't. Evidently, this happens in the novel Madame Bovary: Emma is clearly unhappy with her father's choice in Charles when the author states “He seemed to her contemptible, weak and insignificant, a poor man in every sense of the word. How could she get rid of him? What an endless evening! She felt numb, as though she had been overcome by opium fumes.” (III.2.35) He disgusts her and she wishes she could run away from him. This is cliché because Emma is unhappy with the husband who was chosen for her and she decides to cheat on him to “free” herself from the endless requirements of marriage. Flaubert chose to use this strategy in order to criticize society and emphasize how depressed and powerless women used to be. He emphasizes this cliché through repetition of the monotony Emma experiences and her dreams of a better life, "She was no doubt held back by indolence or fear, and by shame"(II.5.43), "Yet she was full of covetous desires, anger and hatred. The smooth folds of her dress concealed a tumultuous heart, and her modest lips told nothing of her torment." (II.541-42) In these two quotes, Flaubert stresses Madame Bovary's feelings of hate and sadness because he cannot follow her dreams. She can’t do what she wants because of prejudice and society’s predisposed role for her. Flaubert uses cliché to demonstrate how often women were not happy with their lives because they could not decide anything for themselves and because they could not change them because society wouldn’t allow them to.
Subsequently, the author uses a specific tone in the novel. Throughout the course of the novel, Flaubert uses a tragic tone to narrate Madame Bovary’s story. This tone emphasizes the sadness in her life and her longing for an unreachable freedom prevented by society. Throughout the book, each man Madame Bovary meets and every new dream she gets only add to her state of tragedy and desperation. When Flaubert writes, “The drabness of her daily life made her dream of luxury, her husband’s conjugal affection drove her to adulterous desires. She wished he would beat her so that she could feel more justified in hating him and taking vengeance upon him. She was sometimes amazed by the horrible conjectures that came into her mind; and yet she had to go on smiling, hearing herself told over and over that she was lucky,...

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Madame Bovary deconstructs the prim, idealized vision of the perfect nineteenth century woman, simply by giving her thoughts, feelings, and desires. Our protagonist is simultaneously the perfect woman and the nightmare woman of this period. She’s beautiful, a good housekeeper, and on the outside seems like an obedient wife, but she’s actually an adulteress, a spendthrift, and, to be honest, frivolous. Through the life of Emma Bovary, Flaubert attempts to show us an objective, intimate perspective on the difficulties of womanhood during a restrictive and judgmental time period.

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Madame Bovary deconstructs the nineteenth century notion that women should have fewer desires and ambitions than men, and suggests instead that women’s subordinate role in society creates greater tensions between their internal and external lives.

Instead of focusing on differences between the sexes, Flaubert comments upon the ways in which women and men are similar.