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Archived Group Reads 2011 > Madame Bovary Book 1 Chapter 1 - Chapter 9

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) For discussion of these chapters


message 2: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Is there going to be a proposed reading schedule, or are all the threads open for discussion right away for those who read quickly or already know the book?


message 3: by Judy (new)

Judy Olson | 23 comments *raising hand to ask the same question*


message 4: by Shirley (new)

Shirley (shirleythekindlereader) I picked it up last night and read a few chapters. Very nice.


message 5: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments A Guardian article on Flaubert, with a link to an Erica Jong article (which in turn has a link to "Table Talk," but it seems to be broken. If anyone finds the right one and it seems worthwhile, do let us know):

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/...

From the Erica Jong article:

"But what interests me most in 'Madame Bovary' is the heroine's fondness for reading. She dies because she has attempted to make her life into a novel -- and it is the foolishness of that quest that Flaubert's clinical style mocks.

....

(view spoiler)



message 6: by Jenn (new)

Jenn | 12 comments Everyman wrote: "Is there going to be a proposed reading schedule, or are all the threads open for discussion right away for those who read quickly or already know the book?"

I second that question!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) You can start the discussion whenever you want to. The time frame is a month so take your time and enjoy this acclaimed novel.


message 8: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments Lily wrote: "A Guardian article on Flaubert, with a link to an Erica Jong article (which in turn has a link to "Table Talk," but it seems to be broken. If anyone finds the right one and it seems worthwhile, do..."

I would be a bit wary about saying that Flaubert treats Emma with cynical mockery. It's hard to talk about it now that we haven't gotten that far into the novel because I don't want to post any spoilers and the narrative voice is definitely something to watch out for, however, I feel like starting off with a preconception about the book's intent could potentially harm readers. Just don't set out expecting the book to be cynical - it's a very, very beautiful book, it deserves a reader with an open mind which doesn't pass it off as easily understood comedy before even starting to read it.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I have read the book and have not found it to be cynical at all, Andreea. Long established as one of the greatest novels ever written, the book has often been described as a "perfect" work of fiction. Henry James writes: "Madame Bovary has a perfection that not only stamps it, but that makes it stand almost alone; it holds itself with such a supreme unapproachable assurance as both excites and defies judgment."


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Christyb | 44 comments I find myself feeling a bit sorry for Charles. He is so happy and in love with Emma, and she is so unsatified with her life.


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Pippa Loving the story so far. I have just finished reading An American Tragedy and can't help making a comparison - in both the main character is always looking for something better.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Charles is a pathetic creature and Emma is too in the way in which she can't be happy with what she has. She always is looking and bemoaning the fact that what she wants is always the next "gold ring." She is the type of person who will never be happy no matter what and that makes her a sad character.


message 13: by Judy (new)

Judy Olson | 23 comments Here she has a man who is devoted to her, loves her dearly , yet she seems to think that this isn't what she thought it would be. Instead of counting her blessings, she's looking for something that's missing......seems kinda selfish to me.


message 14: by Stephen (last edited Jul 03, 2011 08:23AM) (new)

Stephen (stevethebookworm) | 23 comments Though I agree with the direction of the comments about Emma's response to Charles, I haven't exactly found myself warming to him either. His general laziness, the medical dictionary on his shelves still uncut, his lack of real interest in medicine, all suggest not just weakness, but a lack of focus.
What strikes me strongest is the physicality of the descriptions of Emma early on in the book. And reading this first part, I reflect on its place in a 'Victorian' reading group! Yes, the date fits, of course - but it's the most un-victorian book I've read here! I suspect that the concept 'victoran' with all its connotations is not one that a Frenchman would respond to. Maybe those in the group better versed in French cultural history will put me right?


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Christyb | 44 comments I agree with you all. I found this quote in Chapter 6 that describes Emma perfectly...."she turned, on the contrary, to those of excitement. She loved the sea only for the sake of its storms,and the green fields only when broken up by ruins. She wanted to get some personal profit out of things, and she rejected as useless all that did not contribute to the immediate desires of her heart...
Stephen, I agred with you about Charles. He has given no thought to his life, but rather, has only been a participant. By becoming a Doctor, he fulfilled his mothers wishes, andhe has not added to his marriage. He is simply a follower in his life.


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Bea | 233 comments I find Emma perhaps the most pathetic character in the book. She is so deluded that frustration and heartbreak are inevitable. I think Flaubert describes his characters in such detail that they are somehow contemptable and pathetic at the same time.

I'm not too well versed in French cultural history but I've learned that the novel was considered so shocking that it was initially banned in France. Flaubert prevailed in court however. Possibly, he would have lost in England or America?? I don't know.

Some people consider this the first realistic novel. The absence of moralizing and sentimentality may be what separates this from other works of the Victorian period rather than the subject matter.

Becky Sharp and Anna Karenina were other 19th century adultresses but in both cases their behavior is contrasted with that of sweet moral girls. In Flaubert, everyone is flawed in some way and life itself seems sordid.


message 17: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments Stephen wrote: "What strikes me strongest is the physicality of the descriptions of Emma early on in the book. And reading this first part, I reflect on its place in a 'Victorian' reading group! Yes, the date fits, of course - but it's the most un-victorian book I've read here! I suspect that the concept 'victoran' with all its connotations is not one that a Frenchman would respond to. Maybe those in the group better versed in French cultural history will put me right?"

I started replying to you and ended up writing a really long post which seemed better suited for the background thread.


message 18: by Linda (new)

Linda (lindauhc) | 25 comments Hi Bovary People. I've read Madame Bovary five times, listened to books on tape, saw the 1949 movie starring Jennifer Jones and finally, even wrote a book about Madame Bovary's Daughter. In these first chapters you really see how Emma married the wrong man for the wrong reasons. The seeds of the tragedy are planted. But the question is, is this a tragedy or a portrait of a woman who wants too much?


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Shirley (shirleythekindlereader) So far... I think Charles and Emma are observers of their lives not participants.

This is the first time I am reading MB and I hope they wake up and participate.


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Rebecca I am finding it ironic to that Emma had been schooled in convent and yet married. Reminded me on Maria in The Sound of Music. I like the nuns was surprised at this.


message 21: by Linda (new)

Linda (lindauhc) | 25 comments Charles never moves out of the by-stander position, I fear. But wait for Emma to get into action.


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Everyman | 2531 comments Andreea wrote: "I don't want to post any spoilers and the narrative voice is definitely something to watch out for, "

I hope that voice comes through in translation.


message 23: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments I think the convent school was more in the nature of a Catholic girls school than preparation for becoming a nun. The nuns were surprised because Emma seemed so devout. I love this quote:

This nature [Emma's], positive in the midst of its enthusiasms, that had loved the church for the sake of the flowers, and music for the words of the songs, and literature for its passional stimulus, rebelled against the mysteries of faith as it grew irritated by discipline, a thing antipathetic to her
constitution.

Emma turns to religion at various times in the rest of the story and I don't quite know what conclusions Flaubert wants us to draw in this regard.


message 24: by Stephen (last edited Jul 04, 2011 01:40PM) (new)

Stephen (stevethebookworm) | 23 comments Linda wrote: "Hi Bovary People. I've read Madame Bovary five times, listened to books on tape, saw the 1949 movie starring Jennifer Jones and finally, even wrote a book about Madame Bovary's Daughter. In these ..."

Wow and coming to it for the first time is enthralling. So many writers seem to have drawn inspiration from this book and I'm not surprised. One response to your very specific question about whether the story is tragic or a portrait of a woman who wants too much. I wonder whether that's an either/or. I suppose it depends on your view of what a tragedy is, but I don't see why this flaw couldn't be the stuff of tragedy.


message 25: by Rebecca (last edited Jul 04, 2011 01:52PM) (new)

Rebecca Bea wrote: "I think the convent school was more in the nature of a Catholic girls school than preparation for becoming a nun. The nuns were surprised because Emma seemed so devout. I love this quote:

Thank you Bea your comment answeared my question.



message 26: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) Linda wrote: "Hi Bovary People. I've read Madame Bovary five times, listened to books on tape, saw the 1949 movie starring Jennifer Jones and finally, even wrote a book about Madame Bovary's Daughter. In these ..."

At this point in the story,  I think the marriage between Charles and Emma is a tragedy. Charles is a man who does not understand his wife (nor does he attempt to) and he is a complete bore.   Emma is self centered and is a total boor to Charles when she informs him that he will not be dancing at the Marquis' party. And yes Emma is a woman who wants too much, however Charles barely throws her a crumb. Both characters have major flaws and you can see from the beginning that the marriage is doomed.

Chapter seven has a good description of Charles's personality:

"Charles’s conversation was commonplace as a street pavement, and everyone’s ideas trooped through it in their everyday garb, without exciting emotion, laughter, or thought. He had never had the curiosity, he said, while he lived at Rouen, to go to the theatre to see the actors from Paris. He could neither swim, nor fence, nor shoot, and one day he could not explain some term of horsemanship to her that she had come across in a novel."


message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Marialyce wrote: "I have read the book and have not found it to be cynical at all, Andreea. "

I've only read the first 9 chapters, but so far I agree with you. It's got some sadness to it, but not, from what I can see so far, cynicism. Really, it seems quite a realistic novel; isn't it fairly common for young girls, and men, to have dreams that marriage will be a perfect happily-ever-after, only to find it that it fairly soon turns out to be fairly prosaic, more concerned with the daily routines of life than the exciting events of the Scott novels that Emma loved to read and dream herself into?


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Everyman | 2531 comments Marialyce wrote: "Charles is a pathetic creature ..."

Oh dear. Pathetic? His first days at the school are, not surprisingly, overwhelming, and he is certainly not a leader. But he is diligent in his work, studies hard, gets good grades in his medical studies. Is this pathetic? Then he seems so far -- I've only read through Chapter 9 -- to be a quite competent doctor, nothing special, but capable enough and hard working, making his rounds, staying up late when necessary and getting up in the middle of the night to drive to a distant farm when called for.

This is not the life of "Sultans with long pipes, reclining beneath arbors in the arms of Bayadères; Djiaours, Turkish sabers, Greek caps;" or of the novels Emma read as a girl. But is it pathetic to be an ordinary, studious, hard working, unimaginative man fond enough of his wife? I hope not!


message 29: by Regine (new)

Regine I read this book a few months ago and absolutely loved it.

My first reaction to Emma Bovary was sympathy. The little feminist voice inside of my head was saying "She's just a woman, wanting a better life for herself, and back in the day, her options were really, really, REALLY limited." This changed very quickly. The more I read of Emma Bovary, the more I got a sense of her disillusionment. Her failure to grasp reality and her incessant whining just really made me want to slap her down.

Charles on the other hand...He definitely is not a dashing hero from a romance novel, and he has no ambition. But, he's an average joe who's accepted his situation in life. Even though this doesn't fit Emma's vision of grandeur, I would never call him "pathetic".


message 30: by Andreea (last edited Jul 05, 2011 03:23AM) (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments Everyman wrote: "Marialyce wrote: "Charles is a pathetic creature ..."

Oh dear. Pathetic? His first days at the school are, not surprisingly, overwhelming, and he is certainly not a leader. But he is diligent in his work, studies hard, gets good grades in his medical studies. Is this pathetic? Then he seems so far -- I've only read through Chapter 9 -- to be a quite competent doctor, nothing special, but capable enough and hard working, making his rounds, staying up late when necessary and getting up in the middle of the night to drive to a distant farm when called for."


I think the most accurate and interesting insight in Charles' personality and behaviour comes in chapter 1 when his days as a student are described:

(view spoiler)

which in English is:

(view spoiler)

The 'expression dolente' (doleful/mournful expression) which seems 'interesting' is a direct stab at romantisme which glorified melancholy - Charles had no reason to be mournful, he didn't have to work and was having a lot of fun, but he develops it because it's 'interesting'. Cabarets too were places of ambiguous morality and anti-establishment attitudes were romantist artists gathered. But pay attention to the fact that we're told that Charles became a regular of cabarets before he knew love (which I first took to mean love as an emotion, but now I'm more and more leaning towards to possibility of it simply meaning 'how to make love'). I think it's yet another suggestion that Charles was trying to make himself into a bohemian 'cool' young man, while he really wasn't anything of the sort. Beside that, the reference to being able to play domino and not work being to Charles a proof of his freedom and his passion for Beranger (who wrote both popular songs for cabarets and revolutionary songs for the 1830 revolution) show Flaubert's disillusionment with the 1830 revolution which he considered a huge failure.

If you're careful in the same chapter when Charles' studies are described, you see that he obviously didn't understand anything of what he was taught ('Il n'y comprit rien; il avait beau ecouter, il ne saisissait pas.' - He didn't understand anything; he could listen to it very well, but he didn't notice/understand anything.) and only learned everything by heart without understanding it - and even that he did only because of his mother (of which he was very afraid). I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone, but later on we see further proof that Charles is not a skilled doctor.

Also, later on in Chapter 7 after we're told that Emma couldn't talk to Charles about her feelings, when we find out that:

(view spoiler)

Notice how his incompatibility with the novelistic world is the last of his faults.

I also recall a quote about how Emma started to feel like Charles's love for her was nothing more than a habit instead of genuine feelings, but for some reason I haven't marked it down and now I can't find it. If you pair that with how easily he got over his first wife, to me it becomes obvious that Charles wasn't any more fond of either of his wives than he was studious and hard working.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) The pathetic part of Charles that I refered to is the piece where he never really sees Emma for what she is and what she does. He puts on blinders to the ills of his marriage and sees Emma as what he wants her to be, not for what in reality she is, a creature who never will be happy because she never is able to find true happiness. Perhaps she is fated to fail just as much as Charles was fated to be a mediocre person. While Emma carries visions of grandeur, Charles carries a burning desire for her love and is willing to turn a blind eye to her faults as a wife and mother. I do find that quite pathetic. He loves her but she does not return in any part the affection he so desires. He remains true to her while well......I guess we know that Emma hardly stays true to him.


message 32: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments Despite his shortcomings, I find Charles the most sympathetic character in the novel. He's as deluded as others but seems at bottom to be a decent human being.

I read that passage you cite in Chapter 7 as being descriptive of Emma's perception of Charles. They certainly are not a well-matched couple, for sure. I wonder if any man living could satisfy Emma over the long haul.

What did people make of the change of voice between Chapter 1 and the other chapters? I found it rather jarring to move from a personalized narrator, a schoolfellow of Charles, to a standard omniscient narrator. Given the care Flaubert took with this novel there must have been some purpose for it.


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SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Does the change of narrating style perhaps denote this is another novel that is titled "Madame Bovary" but really traced multiple lives, reactions, influences, and experiences ? This is the main and only thing that has really "struck" me so far in the reading -- I will need to comment more in following sections actually. The story seems to be adding a portrait of provincial France rather than a single portrait of Emma Bovary.

I see the differing viewpoints of Charles in this discussion among everyone here too. We are discussing Charles as he relates to his own history and ambitions and also as he related to Emma and this uncertain marriage.

Did anyone read the portion of the introduction relating to the first chapter and Charles' odd hat? It seemed to imply that the hat signified Charles' faults -- his pomposity. I am not seeing that yet, and not sure that I will. I may have misunderstood the intro anyway.

I did find interesting, that out of ambition (driven by "mother" Madame Bovary) he seeks this medical position -- Public Health Officer. It is not a doctor, but in the minds of the rural people, it is a "doctor" and they address him with respect and call him "Doctor." So it is a mixed bag -- something he finds himself in -- and he can decide if he wants to make the best of it. So the government sort of allowed these medical assistant positions for a long time in rural France, and it was Charles' opportunity to have a profession and be respectable, in spite of his questionable upbringing. (I think the detail of his childhood is very telling. And did anyone catch the similarities between his father and Emma's father?)


message 34: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Marialyce wrote: "The pathetic part of Charles that I refered to is the piece where he never really sees Emma for what she is and what she does. He puts on blinders to the ills of his marriage and sees Emma as what ..."

Marialyce, I think my views of the characters may change as I travel through this book, so I am still on the cautious line with all of them! haha I see all the decisions they are making. Charles is at first the opportunistic one, marrying the widowed lady for money and then falling in love with young Emma right away. As the twists and turns follow, you begin to wonder if anyone of them can be said to be true in their devotion.


message 35: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Rebecca wrote: "I am finding it ironic to that Emma had been schooled in convent and yet married."

I think the school of the daughter in Henry James's Portrait of a Lady was also called a convent school. In a few minutes search, I don't find a good source, but my own sense is that nuns in convents in Europe often offered schooling (and boarding), particularly for young women, sometimes of wealthy families, sometimes girls without living mothers, ...


message 36: by Lily (last edited Jul 05, 2011 02:55PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments SarahC wrote: "...Charles is at first the opportunistic one, marrying the widowed lady for money and then falling in love with young Emma right away..."

It always seemed to me that his mother was more opportunistic than Charles, pushing him thither and yon. Charles seems rather portrayed a bumbling kid, and adult, who sort of ping-pongs from one bad situation to the next.

"Where should he go to practice? To Tostes, where there was only one old doctor. For a long time Madame Bovary had been on the look-out for his death, and the old fellow had barely been packed off when Charles was installed, opposite his place, as his successor.

"But it was not everything to have brought up a son, to have had him taught medicine, and discovered Tostes, where he could practice it; he must have a wife. She found him one--the widow of a bailiff at Dieppe--who was forty-five and had an income of twelve hundred francs. Though she was ugly, as dry as a bone, her face with as many pimples as the spring has buds, Madame Dubuc had no lack of suitors. To attain her ends Madame Bovary had to oust them all, and she even succeeded in very cleverly baffling the intrigues of a port-butcher backed up by the priests. [LOL!]

"Charles had seen in marriage the advent of an easier life, thinking he would be more free to do as he liked with himself and his money. But his wife was master; he had to say this and not say that in company, to fast every Friday, dress as she liked, harass at her bidding those patients who did not pay. She opened his letter, watched his comings and goings, and listened at the partition-wall when women came to consult him in his surgery.

"She must have her chocolate every morning, attentions without end. She constantly complained of her nerves, her chest, her liver. The noise of footsteps made her ill; when people left her, solitude became odious to her; if they came back, it was doubtless to see her die. When Charles returned in the evening, she stretched forth two long thin arms from beneath the sheets, put them round his neck, and having made him sit down on the edge of the bed, began to talk to him of her troubles: he was neglecting her, he loved another. She had been warned she would be unhappy; and she ended by asking him for a dose of medicine and a little more love."



message 37: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Marialyce wrote: "...Perhaps she is fated to fail just as much as Charles was fated to be a mediocre person...."

What does "fated" mean in this context?


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You guys are rough :) I'm finding, much like when I read Great Expectations (Dickens), a bit of cringing going on! I know when I was in high school all I could dream about was New York (even though I was in a perfectly fine city, Philadelphia). I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I paid more attention to my dreamy ideas of romance than the reality of what what in front of me! Haven't we all known mothers like Charles has? Fathers? Maybe little parts of ourselves might resemble some of these characters? Don't we all know people who, metaphorically, have not cut the papers of their books?

I am so deeply impressed with this novel. Flaubert's insight into human nature is amazing. I'm also loving his attention to detail, and how he creates characters so vividly not only by what they say and do, but what they wear, what they have in their rooms, what they eat and drink...


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Lily wrote: "Marialyce wrote: "...Perhaps she is fated to fail just as much as Charles was fated to be a mediocre person...."

What does "fated" mean in this context?"


It was his personna to be fated just as some people can't seem to escape the poverty in their lives, Charles seems (at least to me) to be caught in the inescapable things of his life which he does little or nothing to escape from. His fate seems to be the cuckold he becomes. I want him to do something...yell, kick, and scream his way through this story and stop being such a patsy.


message 40: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Andreea wrote: "I would be a bit wary about saying that Flaubert treats Emma with cynical mockery...."

It is perhaps always easy (and appropriate) to hold the opinions of Erika Jong at arm's length, but I believe she refers to Flaubert's "clinical style" used to question the particular folly of trying to live the life of novels (rather than "real" life) rather than to "cynical mockery." "Clinical" here seems to mean "analytical, detached, or coolly dispassionate." (I think I read it "cynical" the first time, too, and also paused because it was a rethink to consider whether Flaubert was "cynical," but that is not what Jong said. For all her challenges, she can play with words--and ideas. Now, we can turn again and ask whether the very act of mocking is one of being cynical -- and we are back where we started, and I quite agree with your caution about preconceptions.) (See msg 5 & 8).

I will be interested in your comments about MB being a "very, very beautiful" book. Those simply are not the adjectives I would select to describe this obviously acclaimed great work of literature. But, such discussion should probably wait for the end.


message 41: by Lily (last edited Jul 05, 2011 11:06AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Lily wrote: "Charles seems rather portrayed a bumbling kid..."

The harassment Charles receives about his hat rather reminds me of all the contemporary discussion about the pitfalls of teasing and bullying in the classroom and schoolyard.


message 42: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments I think most of the characters in the book are doing much like Charles. He may seem the most docile, but the others also fall into the hypnotic boredom, or unrest, of provincial life. Is it the head clerk, I can't remember, who swears that the only thing saving him is doing the woodwork with the lathe in his attic -- especially on rainy days! Again and again, the story includes the fact that they all give up so much of themselves to monotony. The seem to lose themselves -- and in turn take up the dreams of things. All the main characters become VERY self-absorbed.

Yes, Jacqueline, I agree, this seems very pertinent to common life and our modern lives. This may not be in this section, but Emma, for example, buys the particular fashion accessories and the colognes and then basically sits in her room wearing the stuff and waiting for it to change her life. The seeking of the material world as a means to change her impatience, her yearnings, her lack of understand life in general.

And then the characters move about. The Bovary's move to a different village, Leon moves to Paris, etc. The next village will be better...Paris will be better....etc.

I agree it is a moving book and also very beautiful. We are allowed into their world with this very relatable detail, so we can understand what they are living and much about how they are seeing things.


message 43: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Jacqueline I just wanted to reply about your mention of cutting the papers on the medical book --- that is funny you mention it. In graduate courses I took, I became so disenchanted with the amount of reading required and then the lack of what I believed was real discussion of the subject (we spent an amount of time listening to people recite their own views rather than true to discussion). We had an extremely small seminar group and we could all glance down and see each other's books easily, so when I was too tired to finish all the readings, I would dog-ear a lot of pages and place a lot of slips of papers in with notes instead. I was pretending a bit, like Charles Bovary!


message 44: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Andreea wrote: "I think the most accurate and interesting insight in Charles' personality and behaviour comes in chapter 1 when his days as a student are described: "

Very nice response. I totally missed the passage you quoted: I wonder whether the audio book I'm listening to is abridged even though it doesn't seem to be, or whether I just "spaced out" that passage.

It seems that his temporary (because after all he does eventually attend his classes and become a doctor) fascination with the cabarets is not unusual for a young man first breaking out -- my own son went through a similar period where instead of majoring in his schoolwork he basically majored in girls and partying. But he got over it and has settled down into a good, responsible adult life. So I don't think this episode necessarily dictates his future-- though so far I haven't read further than Chapter 9, so reserve the right to change my mind!

I certainly agree that he went through a period which was a detour from the "straight and narrow" path his mother would have preferred him to take. But does that define his character for all time?

I'll read on and see!


message 45: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Marialyce wrote: "The pathetic part of Charles that I refered to is the piece where he never really sees Emma for what she is and what she does. He puts on blinders to the ills of his marriage and sees Emma as what ..."

Where you later in that post say that Charles was a "mediocre" person, that I can certainly agree with. He is a piece of flotsam on the currents of life, drifting along without a very deep emotional attachment to either of his wives or much interest in grabbing life by the horns. But in this, isn't he a fairly normal person of his century (or indeed of any century)? Is he simply leading a life of quiet desperation along with the majority of his fellow citizens?


message 46: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments SarahC wrote: "And did anyone catch the similarities between his father and Emma's father"

I didn't see that -- can you expand on what you saw?


message 47: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Marialyce wrote: "Lily wrote: "Marialyce wrote: "...Perhaps she is fated to fail just as much as Charles was fated to be a mediocre person...."

What does "fated" mean in this context?"


Thomas Hardy was very much an author wedded to the concept of fate, that it was fate as much as or more than their own dreams, desires, and actions that dictated what eventually happened to his characters (as to people in general).

I'll have to look as I read on to see whether Flaubert has the same general concept of fate, or whether he allows his characters more control over their lives. So far, he seems quite Hardyesque in that most of the actions of his characters seem to be reactive more than active. Even Emma seems more go-with-the-flow-ish (so far); she reads and dreams of so much, but she doesn't (again, so far) do much to make the life she dreams of happen.


message 48: by Stephen (new)

Stephen (stevethebookworm) | 23 comments Charles as flotsam - yes that seems as good a description of any of him. So he is in fact physically very attracted by Emma; and the initial description of her in the book is a very physical one. He does indeed from time to time manifest this physical attraction in small actions in the book - touching her, returning to see her after setting out to work. But it is a generalised and unspoken attraction. And it doesn't stop him falling asleep in front of her. Man of his time, I suppose. Pathetic isn't a word I'd reach for at the moment though. Not sure whether I do pity him, if thats the sense in which people are using it.


message 49: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments flotsam:
Etymology: alteration of earlier flotsen, from Anglo-French floteson, from floter to float, from Old French floter, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English flotian to float
1 : wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on the sea -- distinguished especially in legal usage from jetsam and lagan
2 : something floating or drifting about on or as if on the surface of a body of water: as a : a floating population (as of useless, vagrant, or worthless people) b : an accumulation of unimportant, miscellaneous, and often disordered trifles

"flotsam." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (5 Jul. 2011).

synonyms MOVING, IMPRESSIVE, POIGNANT, AFFECTING, TOUCHING, PATHETIC: MOVING applies to any strong emotional excitation, including thrilling, entrancing, saddening, or calling forth pity and sympathy

PATHETIC suggests pity for sorrow and distress, but unlike others in this group and like the word pitiful it may connote blended pity and amusement or contempt for weakness, inadequacy, and futility.

"moving." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (5 Jul. 2011).


message 50: by Kristen (last edited Jul 05, 2011 05:00PM) (new)

Kristen | 66 comments Regine wrote: "The more I read of Emma Bovary, the more I got a sense of her disillusionment. Her failure to grasp reality and her incessant whining just really made me want to slap her down.

Charles on the other hand...He definitely is not a dashing hero from a romance novel, and he has no ambition. But, he's an average joe who's accepted his situation in life. Even though this doesn't fit Emma's vision of grandeur, I would never call him "pathetic"


haha! i had the same reaction to Emma, Regine. and Charles seems just like an everday average man to me. comparing him to a man in a novel would be like comparing a man today to some overly romantic character in a chick flick. i agree with the assesments of others, that she is the type of person who will never be happy. perhaps that is part of the reason why i liked Anna Karenina much more. she's more complex, and Emma seems to just be flat and superficial to me as a character.


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