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Archived Group Reads 2011 > Madame Bovary Book 2 Chapter 9 - 15

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) For discussion of these chapters


message 2: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments I don't disagree that Rodolphe is a low character, as discussed in before here, but as I read through this section, again I see a shift as I was talking about in the previous section. Rodolphe sets out to pursue Emma -- he is bored too, he is tired of his own mistress, etc.

But then it is Emma who establishes this affair -- provides the formula with which it can take place. The riding lessons are accepted, the meetings in the clog-maker's hut, and finally her bold decision to make her own sneaking visits to his estate -- and things continue steadily from there. It becomes her show, so to speak, until ultimately she decides they should run away together.

I think this is really what stands out to me in the story. Rodolphe is really just a means of her transition to true adultery.


message 3: by Jamie (last edited Jul 14, 2011 11:15AM) (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) I agree. I have finished the book and without giving any spoilers I feel you could take out numerous people in this book and the story would not be affected by the change. Emma is going to be Emma no matter.

Has anyone read a background of Flaubert? He did not like this class of people and in the introduction to my book it said he didn't like women and raped one of his mothers maids! I'm disgusted if that's true.

I can't remember the words used but when talking about Rodolphe it's mention he was numb to feeling love because of how many women he used. I wonder if that is how Flaubert felt about himself?


message 4: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Jamie, I have read very little and mostly a few bits of commentary on his writing and the controversy of publishing this book. If I see anything else about this rape, I will post it. Of course rape is a very specific act of violence, but was there any more description of his views of women? why or in what way he did not like women?


message 5: by Susan Margaret (last edited Jul 14, 2011 04:19PM) (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) OMG Jamie. When I read your comment about Flaubert raping the maid my jaw dropped. If it is true then Flaubert is definitely a pig. By the way, what is the name of the book you are reading Jamie ? (The book about Flaubert.) Thank you.


message 6: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Jul 14, 2011 04:22PM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I did some research on that and have not been able to find that aspect. However, Flaubert was bisexual and enjoyed liaisons with both men and women. He frequented houses of prostitution and never married. He was also thought to a have epilepsy or some kind of nervous condition. Madame Bovary is a work of his preciseness. He was reputed to have spent a week constructing and reworking one particular paragraph in the novel. He was certainly a person who was multiple faceted and a product of his family background. His father was a doctor and his mother's father was a physician as well. So the medical profession was well represented in his family.


message 7: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments I just finished reading Flaubert's Parrot which is about a retired doctor and Flaubert obsessive. I highly recommend the book, which was short-listed for the Man Booker prize, after Madame Bovary can no longer be spoiled for you. I loved it.

At any rate, there is no Flaubert rape in the book and I'm sure there would have been if there was one. There is plenty about his liaisons with female prostitutes and with boys in Egypt. He had both epilepsy and syphillis. He was a great letter writer and there are masses of letters to his friends and to the one long-term mistress he had that are pretty explicit.

What I thought was interesting was that Flaubert, like Emma, got the most sexual pleasure from anticipation and imagination. It is interesting that Emma's passions are at their height when she is alone. This may have been what Flaubert may have meant when he said "Madame Bovary c'est moi."

This all sounds kind of tawdry now that I write it down. I think what really counts is the majesty of the prose. Flaubert would have wanted us to stay within the four walls of his meticulously crafted novel. He really believed the author should get out of the way.


message 8: by Jamie (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) I am at work right now but I will let you know the person who wrote my intro and the edition of my book. I looked on Wikipedia and did not see anything, not that it's the best reference, so that's what made me think it may not be true.


message 9: by Jamie (last edited Jul 15, 2011 08:28PM) (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) Ok. This is the edition I read and the intro it says is by Robin Morgan.

Madame Bovary


message 10: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments I have the Penguin classic edition, introduction by Geoffrey Wall, which is pretty good, but nothing that controversial in it, Jamie, so it doesn't help give any evidence on the possible rape.

I am not really online tonight, so I'll chat with you more tomorrow.


message 11: by Jamie (last edited Jul 15, 2011 08:30PM) (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) Sorry I forgot to add who wrote the intro but its Robin Morgan. I am going to see if I can find info on her and get the intro online for you guys to read.


message 12: by Jamie (last edited Jul 15, 2011 09:48PM) (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) This is a link to a preview for my book and it includes the introduction:
http://books.google.com/books?id=m3Rp...

Here is Robin Morgan's bio in her website:
http://www.robinmorgan.us/robin_morga...


message 13: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) Jamie wrote: "This is a link to a preview for my book and it includes the introduction:
http://books.google.com/books?id=m3Rp......"


Thanks Jamie!


message 14: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Jul 16, 2011 06:03AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) http://www.online-literature.com/gust...

This gives a slightly different portrait of Flaubert. I wonder if Morgan's being a radical feminist colored her view?

I have the the Barnes and Noble classic version with the Introduction written by Chris Kraus.


message 15: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Jul 16, 2011 06:04AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Interestingly this novel was brought up on obscenity charges in France.
When excerpts from Flaubert's Madame Bovary were published in 1856 France, law enforcement officials were horrified at Flaubert's (relatively non-explicit) fictional memoir of a physician's adulterous wife. They immediately attempted to block full publication of the novel under France's strict obscenity codes, prompting a lawsuit. Flaubert won, the book went to press in 1857, and the literary world has never been the same since.

Do you think that Flaubert's book was somewhat responsible for the writings of such books as Lady Chatterley's Lover and Ulysses?


message 16: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments Jamie wrote: "Has anyone read a background of Flaubert? He did not like this class of people and in the introduction to my book it said he didn't like women and raped one of his mothers maids! I'm disgusted if that's true."

You should not take everything Flaubert says at face value, especially when he talks about his sexual conquests, he brags incessantly about them and often with very little real life basis. If by 'this class of people' you mean provincial bourgeoisie, indeed, Flaubert was not a big fan of those (although maids are hardly bourgeois). It shouldn't come as a big shock since a lot of writers from his generations sharply criticized the bourgeoisie which is a kind of upper middle class which on the one hand tries to imitate the old nobility (see Emma's fascination for the nobility) while also remaining scrupulously traditionalist when it comes to culture or morals. A lot like the nouveau riches in English and American novels written around the same time, but not wealthy.


message 17: by Jamie (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) Yes I meant the bourgeoisie. I do think Morgan's introduction is written in the point of view of a feminist and I would like to know her references that she used.


message 18: by Jamie (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) Marialyce wrote: "Interestingly this novel was brought up on obscenity charges in France.
When excerpts from Flaubert's Madame Bovary were published in 1856 France, law enforcement officials were horrified at Flaub..."



The book I have at the end has The Trial of "Madame Bovary". I have not had a chance to read it yet but I am guessing its about Flaubert trial.


message 19: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) Well Robin Morgan certainly makes Flaubert out to be a depraved individual.  Thank you for giving us the link Jamie, it was interesting reading. I understand that all of Flaubert's correspondence was translated into English, perhaps that is where Morgan found her information. Andreea, I will take your advice, in other words, Flaubert was all talk and no action.

I have purchased Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes and it looks to be a good read.  Great recommendation Bea!

One last thing,  I wonder why Flaubert remained living in the province considering he had such a strong dislike for the bourgeois? 




message 20: by Bea (last edited Jul 17, 2011 01:41PM) (new)

Bea | 233 comments According to various commentary, Flaubert freely admitted he was a member of the bourgeoisie even while despising it. In my opinion, no one who had not minutely observed the provincial bourgeoisie could have written Madame Bovary.


message 21: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Marialyce (message 15) you are of course making me very interested in researching the influences this novel had in detail. It is a very good question, so now my curiosity will get the best of me!

Andreea, your statement is much what I have been thinking about this novel..."a kind of upper middle class which on the one hand tries to imitate the old nobility... while also remaining scrupulously traditionalist when it comes to culture or morals." Also I think today you find people in society trying to live with those two things simultaneously. And then Emma didn't truly fit either!

And Seeuuder and Bea, also great points about Flaubert's world outside his doorstep that he observed. He was a writer, maybe intellectually on the edge of society. Could you even say he was a male Jane Austen, restricted by, if not gender, then family responsibility? My edition emphasizes that his household was that of himself, his mother, and his sister's child. It sounds as if they had all been affected by the deaths of the father and the sister and so life went thus. Obviously he was a controversial character, and his life must have garnered more comment than Jane Austen's life, but still, perhaps that was why he lived a provincial life. (Please correct me with more detail, I have read very little about him.)


message 22: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments Seeuuder wrote: "One last thing, I wonder why Flaubert remained living in the province considering he had such a strong dislike for the bourgeois? "

Rouen where Flaubert lived most of his life wasn't really a tiny isolated village - it was the biggest city in Normandy and a very beautiful place because of its famous Gothic architecture. You probably know the series of paintings Monet made of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Rouen and Stendhal called Rouen the Athens of the Gothic style. Although the city was badly damaged during WWII, even today Rouen has over 200 protected historical monuments. I can see why Flaubert didn't dislike living there.

However, Flaubert did live in Paris a lot, as a matter of fact, he was living in Paris when he finished MB. He first moved to Paris in 1842 and started studying Law, however, two years later he had his first epileptic attack and withdrew from university. He moved close to his family in Rouen because he had almost no independent income until he started making a living as a writer, but also because he needed their help when he was sick. He also travelled a lot outside France.

@ SarahC
I do think Flaubert and Jane Austen have a lot in common and that he was very close to his family, but Flaubert did not set out to be a writer of provincial manners. It's said that the inspiration for MB came after he forced his friends (the writers Louis Bouilhet and Maxime Du Camp) to sit through a very long reading of La Tentation de saint Antoine (which is an epic, fantastic, completely nonsensical allegorical play set in the Egypt of the 4th century AD). They hated La Tentation and told Flaubert to destroy the manuscript and instead go into artistic detox to rid himself of his obsession with the Orient by writing about a down to earth subject, stuff of the kind that happen to ordinary bourgeois. Not only did MB end up being a lot more than a writing exercise, but after he finished it, he started another historical novel set in the East. Salammbo, set in Carthage during the 3rd century BC, was huge bestseller as well as a critical success. Although it's not very well known in the Anglophone world (I'm not sure why, I think maybe because it was too bloody and sensual for most Victorian readers), it's a wonderful novel and much more readable than most of Flaubert's other work.

And again I have rambled on about background.


message 23: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Andreea, that is very good background, thank you for adding it. You are right, I have not heard of him in connection to his writing of the ancient world. That is interesting to me. What were his works that were closest to his Madame Bovary novel, do you know?


message 24: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments From what I've read on Flaubert, the one I want to read next is Sentimental Education. Some people think it is greater than Madame Bovary, which would make it an uber-masterpiece if true. The novel focuses on a young male student's obsession with an older married woman.


message 25: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments SarahC wrote: "Andreea, that is very good background, thank you for adding it. You are right, I have not heard of him in connection to his writing of the ancient world. That is interesting to me. What were his wo..."

Simple Heart which can usually be found in Three Stories comes closest to MB, I think. The main character is an uneducated peasant woman who unlike Emma doesn't get married and ends up focusing all her love on the two children she takes care of as a servant. You can almost see her as a character in MB in both Catherine Leroux (the woman who wins the silver metal at the fair) and Felicite (Emma's maid/cook/servant), but at the same time, there's a lot of Emma in her too - it's almost a version of what might have happened to Emma if her father hadn't had the money to send her to the convent and get her educated.

Sentimental Education is a very good book too, although it requires more patience than MB. Stylistically, it's a bit sloppy and at times very boring and painfully slow. It's a very 'male' book too and not simply because most of the characters are men, it's much more bleak, business-like, concerning itself much less with the problems of a unique character (because although Flaubert said that there are hundreds of Madame Bovarys in France, to me at least, the character seems highly individualized) than with the mind-frame of a whole generation. Frederic Moreau feels more like a caricature used to make a political/literary point, Emma Bovary I can see as a fully formed person with an existence of her own.


message 26: by Lily (last edited Jul 23, 2011 10:19AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Here is an illustration by Brissaud of Rodolphe at the Agricultural Fair:

http://homepage.mac.com/joshtche/Gara...

Although I generally like to let my imagination create my image of characters from the author's descriptions, books with illustrations are so rare today that I do enjoy these occasional glimpses of old books with them.


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