Victorians! discussion

29 views
Archived Group Reads 2011 > Madame Bovary Book 3 Chapter 1 - 5

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) For discussion of these chapters


message 2: by Jamie (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) I just finished part two and can only guess this part will talk about an affair with Leon. Since he lives in another town this will only add to the chances of being caught and this trend of Emma's cannot be good.


message 3: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) I thought it interesting when Emma went to the church in Rouen and Leon tries to pull her away. The " tour guide" tries to engage them in a tour but Leon wants nothing to do with it and he is even rude to the guide. Is Leon being selfish because he wants time alone with Emma or is he afraid that "religion" might persuade Emma to change her mind about their affair? This is the third time in the novel when the church has failed Emma. The first being when Emma was at the convent school and was introduced to romance novels, and the second when she attempted to seek help from the priest. 


message 4: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Do you think that Flaubert's implication was that the upper middle class was filled with marriages of material gain rather than of love? This being why the approach to extra-marital affairs was so blatant. This is what I am seeing so far -- I have not completed the novel yet. But the casualness of these affairs by the participants is so marked -- in regards to morality.

Or are we meant to see that these are characters that, while rogue-ish even (Rodolphe), are naive to the destruction that these sexual affairs can cause?


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Oh, I do think so, Sarah. He saw the marriages as being that of convenience, certainly not ones of love everlasting. I think in a way this novel foreshadows the ills of today's "marriage" society. One only needs to look in the headlines to see the amount of infidelities and how they have wrecked lives. I believe Flaubert saw and witnessed a lot of society's ills as far as marriage was concerned. I wonder if he was a thinker who looked towards the future or just was reading what was hidden behind the closed doors of French society?


message 6: by Alex (last edited Jul 21, 2011 12:07PM) (new)

Alex Marialyce wrote: "I think in a way this novel foreshadows the ills of today's "marriage" society. One only needs to look in the headlines to see the amount of infidelities and how they have wrecked lives."

Dan Savage has been in the press recently saying that monogamy might not be the greatest idea we've ever had, and he backs it up in part by going back to Victorian times. He points out that male infidelity was winked at and almost assumed, while female infidelity was, of course, disastrous; flash forward to now and, instead of all infidelity being seen as it used to be for men (stuff happens), it's all seen as it was for women (disaster). Why didn't we equalize in the other direction? he asks.

Not at all sure whether I agree with him - non-monogamy would emphatically not work in my marriage - but it's an interesting viewpoint, especially in the light of Madame Bovary (or Anna Karenina).


message 7: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments SarahC wrote: "Do you think that Flaubert's implication was that the upper middle class was filled with marriages of material gain rather than of love? This being why the approach to extra-marital affairs was so ..."

I don't know, think of how Emma's marriage was decided. Charles didn't even ask her, he asked her father who said yes then went to talk to Emma. We don't know whether he asked her or simply told her that she has to marry Charles because we're not allowed in the house when they discuss (which, I think, is a very interesting technique). I don't think she married Charles just because of any kind of material gain to herself, pushed by her father, she genuinely thought she loved him. I think the same thing happens when she starts the affair with Rodolphe - there's at least the suggestion that she was forced by Rodolphe into it.


message 8: by SarahC (last edited Jul 22, 2011 06:57AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments It is still hard for me to see Emma as forced into many of the things in her life. I still have the impression that Emma was "waiting" for Rodolphe to come along rather than he waiting for a likely candidate for an affair. I do agree that Emma would have been pushed by her father to marry Charles -- as I said before her father seemed very accommodating the whole time for this building of a relationship between a married man and his daughter. However, the passion seems to be more from Charles' part. Even before marriage, Emma was listless or languid and really didn't seem too led by much feeling. And after the marriage, she never seems to seek any real emotion or life in this marriage.

But also, at this point, my views are colored by this current section of the book, particularly Chap. 5 of this section. She has detached from any real human operation. She overrides both Charles and Leon, failing to acknowledge that anyone else has emotions or feelings. She minimizes even Leon, referring to him as a child, injuring him by saying her former lover was a sea captain. She also insists he spend any expense on her and ignore his employer, etc. Her detachment from humanness seems so complete at this point in the novel.


message 9: by Alex (new)

Alex Agreed, Sarah.

Emma was explicitly psyched to marry Charles. She had no idea what she was doing, but she was into it.

Rodolphe - as you said, she was so ready to be preyed on that all Rodolphe had to do was give her a pretty little speech and she tumbled. She was like a ta-ka-radi tower near the end of the game.


message 10: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments What is this ta-ka-radi word you speak of? :P


message 11: by Alex (new)

Alex Also known as Jenga? Here's a link to a hilariously snotty page about it.


message 12: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments I know Jenga. I will take a look at the link :)


message 13: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments SarahC wrote: "It is still hard for me to see Emma as forced into many of the things in her life. I still have the impression that Emma was "waiting" for Rodolphe to come along rather than he waiting for a likely candidate for an affair. I do agree that Emma would have been pushed by her father to marry Charles -- as I said before her father seemed very accommodating the whole time for this building of a relationship between a married man and his daughter. However, the passion seems to be more from Charles' part. Even before marriage, Emma was listless or languid and really didn't seem too led by much feeling. And after the marriage, she never seems to seek any real emotion or life in this marriage."

I don't see Charles as being passionate at all, do you? I see him as settling for Emma because she's pretty and clever and admiring her for that, but real, romantic passion? Not really. Charles is affectionate towards Emma, but not in love with her and that's, in my view, one of the reasons why their marriage fails. We see passionate exchanges of romantic cliches between Emma and her two lovers, but nothing of the kind happens between Emma and Charles. Emma thought she was in love, but after she got married and realised that marriage doesn't bring her happiness, she realised she probably wasn't:

Before marriage she thought herself in love; but the happiness that should have followed this love not having come, she must, she thought, have been mistaken. And Emma tried to find out what one meant exactly in life by the words felicity, passion, rapture, that had seemed to her so beautiful in books. (part i, chapter 5)

The main reason for her unhappiness is not material hardship, but loneliness, she feels like she can't really talk to Charles:

If Charles had but wished it, if he had guessed it, if his look had but once met her thought, it seemed to her that a sudden plenty would have gone out from her heart, as the fruit falls from a tree when shaken by a hand. But as the intimacy of their life became deeper, the greater became the gulf that separated her from him. (part i, chapter 7)

Beside that, doesn't she repeatedly set out to become an ideal wife? Both right after she got married and after Rodolphe abandoned her, she makes conscious efforts to be meek/obedient/do everything Charles wants and keep her household in good shape.

-

She might have been waiting for somebody like Rodolphe, but I think she definitely hadn't been waiting to be coerced into sex and start an affair with him. Here is the whole sequence from chapter 9:

(view spoiler)


message 14: by SarahC (last edited Jul 23, 2011 04:34AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Andreea, I suppose we disagree on certain points here and may not use the terminology the same personally. Charles is motivated by a passion for Emma throughout the entire story actually. His may or may not be an individual's true definition of love, however. Throughout the story he gives way to so many plans in order to pull her from these illnesses she falls back into after the choices she makes. So many things he does because he wants her to be to happy in her life with him.

Emma's passions however are caught up in her own self-fulfillment and fantasy -- so there again passion with a different definition, although certainly more of the physical manifestation than what she and Charles share (except for the beginning of the marriage).

I also disagree that she repeatedly tries to become an ideal wife. These seemed to be simply "trends" to her -- more of a "well that last thing didn't make me happy, so I think I will dote on Charles this month." Her actions that might appear domestic and wifely were passing phases, while within herself she did not actually change. Her need to live outside her conventional world remained -- her need for excitement, and pampering herself, and expensive things (thus the mounting, hidden debt). I saw no real sustained want of Emma to become an ideal wife, either as an emotional partner or a genuine partner in building the household and family.


message 15: by SarahC (last edited Jul 23, 2011 04:33AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Perhaps the sequence of the scene when she and Rodolphe begin their physical relationship may be interpreted differently too. And I believe it varies slightly per translation into English. But in my translation, I think the very next page is significant to her mindset too, though. "Something had come to pass more awesome than if the very mountains had shifted about." As she rode back into Yonville from this 'riding lesson,' "she pranced her horse on the cobbled street."

When she later went to her room to be alone, she kept saying to herself "I have a lover! A lover!, savouring this idea...."

I still believe that she was satisfied with the turn her life had made.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I would have to agree with Sarah's assessment of Charles. I think he desperately loves Emma, but unfortunately does not really know how to show it in a way Emma finds romantic. She jumps at the chance for an affair because for lack of a better word, she is bored. Charles is not the hero/lover Emma reads about and longs for in her novels and her life.

Emma never really tries to be a "perfect' wife. She continually is "on the hunt" looking for the thrills she thinks she so deserves. She so wants to be one of those women she reads about where the sex and romance are amazing throughout time. She never really faces head on reality. She is definitely a "prisoner" of her supposed needs both romantically and physically. I often wonder what or actually when she would have grown tired of Rodolphe if he didn't drop her first. No one could ever live up to Emma's expectations because in fantasizing and not seeing through the realities of life, she can't ever really become a woman in love.


message 17: by Jamie (last edited Jul 23, 2011 01:03PM) (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) I feel Charles and Emma were in love with an idea. Charles was happy with his life through his eyes and with the way he viewed his wife. Emma could never be happy because she couldn't find happiness in life because her dreams were too big.


back to top