Adrienne's Reviews > Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
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's review
Jul 22, 2008

really liked it
Read in July, 2008

Like many other reviewers I was supposed to read this book in high school, but I'm glad I skipped class because I may not have reread it now as an adult and that would have been my great loss.

It took me awhile to get into the book but I pressed on out of a duty to good literature. Once I really got into it, I really started seeing Flaubert for the genius that he was.

Flaubert's treatment of religion was very interesting to me. Using Homais the chemist as his mouthpiece, he directly shares philosophies about religion that were very contrary to his day. Also, when Emma turns to religion, Flaubert's language in describing her visions of heaven ("seraphic harps" and "a golden throne")mimicks that used to describe her romantic fantasies. Emma has an obsessive fascination with God, and as Flaubert implies, her "relationship" with him verges on being sexual. The relationship is brief and dies out after it proves disappointing, just like her other "escape" relationships. She is using religion in the same way that she used her affairs. It seems like the novel is contending that religious devotion is also a mere escape from boredom or despair.

I was really, really intrigued by the character of Homais. It seems like I would need to read this novel several times through to really appreciate him for what he is. On the surface he seems to have it all together: he has a good wife, children, and he does well in his profession. But he, like Emma, is discontented and seeks fulfillment outside of those things. The interesting thing is that, while Emma's flight tendencies stem from her romantic fantasies and obsessions, Homais is very grounded in science and reason but still has those same flight tendencies, though they are expressed much differently.

I can definitely see why Madame Bovary is required reading for pretty much every student. There is so much going on this book-- stylistically, thematically, and symbolically--that one could read it over and over and never cease to discover new things. It is beautiful.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Wesley So this was one of my favorite reads in Mama Squires's class! Of course, I wasn't reading into the religious thematic aspect of it so much as I was just blown away by Flaubert's ability to paint his characters and settings with words. I really admired it from a writer's standpoint, and he later became a roadblock in me becoming any sort of writer. How could I ever be pleased with my own writing if I couldn't even begin to hold it up against that by Fitzgerald, Flaubert, or Dickens. Stupid, I know. But I'm content enough just reading the good stuff instead of producing it.

message 2: by Eric (new) - added it

Eric I remember skipping that class with you a time or two!
I need to re-read this one. I think I'd like it even more!

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