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Archived Group Reads 2011 > Madame Bovary Book 3 Chapter 6 - 11

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) For discussion of these chapters


message 2: by Anna (new)

Anna | 30 comments I've finished it and I must say I thought it was an excellent book. It took me until the second part to get into it but was really hooked then. I think this book would benefit from a re-reading at some point.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Oh, good, Anna. Glad you enjoyed. Did it ring true to you? Did you find the characters and the story believable?


message 4: by Anna (new)

Anna | 30 comments I found both Emma and Charles believable and thought they both demonstrated how little has changed. There are still people like Emma (both women and men) who are never satisfied with their lot and who perhaps end up going down the wrong path thinking the grass will be greener. At first I felt sorry for Emma but but sympathy waned as the book progressed and I thought her rather selfish. It wasn't just Charles that she was unhappy with but her daughter also. She was so intent on living the life she wanted regardless of the impact her behaviour was having on those close to her.

I thought Charles was extremely naive and was probably turning a blind eye to Emma's behaviour. It was easy for him to attribute her behaviour to ill health rather than face up to her unhappiness with him.

I found myself wanting to give both of them a good shake.


message 5: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Anna wrote: "I found myself wanting to give both of them a good shake. "

Smile. And how is this done or who could have done such in the story?


message 6: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) Lily wrote: "Anna wrote: "I found myself wanting to give both of them a good shake. "

Smile. And how is this done or who could have done such in the story?"


Probably no one. They were all self-absorbed. But then again the elder Madame Bovary may have been able to shake them up if she knew all the facts!


message 7: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Seeuuder wrote: "...But then again the elder Madame Bovary may have been able to shake them up if she knew all the facts! "

Wasn't the need for self respect and affection the common denominator of most of these characters, for all their perverse and self defeating ways of trying to attain such?

Even of the elder Madame Bovary (Charles's mother), Flaubert writes:

"His wife had adored him once on a time; she had bored him with a thousand servilities that had only estranged him the more. Lively once, expansive and affectionate, in growing older she had become (after the fashion of wine that, exposed to air, turns to vinegar) ill-tempered, grumbling, irritable. She had suffered so much without complaint at first, until she had seem him going after all the village drabs, and until a score of bad houses sent him back to her at night, weary, stinking drunk. Then her pride revolted. After that she was silent, burying her anger in a dumb stoicism that she maintained till her death...." (Part 1, Chapter 1)


message 8: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments I completed the novel -- and I didn't see that coming! Charles, that is. How sad that this destroyed him too.


message 9: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Lily wrote: "Seeuuder wrote: "...But then again the elder Madame Bovary may have been able to shake them up if she knew all the facts! "

Wasn't the need for self respect and affection the common denominator of..."


I guess this is what puzzles me, Lily. Did you mean the need for "respect" or "self respect"? Perhaps Flaubert does build the characters in tiers, the elder Madame Bovary, and then Charles needing things they did not have, but could have accepted or achieved. The elder Madame Bovary could have thrived under true respect. Charles could have accepted and thrived with true affection. But it seems by the time we reach Emma, could she really have absorbed "trueness" of attention or emotion?


message 10: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments SarahC wrote: "Did you mean the need for "respect" or "self respect?"

Sarah -- not certain I was making careful distinctions as I wrote -- nor that I can do much better now. :(

It seems to me that often self respect is fed, even created, by receiving respect, so in a sense respect from others could be considered one of their needs. On the other hand, those with self respect, however attained (personality, ...), can ofttimes withstand much more than those who have not attained such a sense of internal integrity. So the need may be even more fundamentally for self-respect, a gift some families seem to be able to bestow directly on their children.

To what extent is self-respect self generated or created? I don't think I have strong viewpoints on that, although my leaning is that it is learned, heavily by receiving love and caring at an early age, but reinforced and expanded (or battered) by experiences as life progresses.


message 11: by Lily (last edited Jul 24, 2011 02:55PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments SarahC wrote: "...But it seems by the time we reach Emma, could she really have absorbed "trueness" of attention or emotion?..."

Here I am perhaps the hopeless optimist, or even a romantic. I like to believe that all humans, each human, could respond to true affection.

But, then one must ask, "true affection" from whose perspective? Flaubert would seem to have us believe that Emma's fantasies prohibited her from either recognizing or creating affection that was both adequate to her and sustainable within her situation.

I can't quite bring myself to the view that novels alone are that pernicious. But Flaubert wrote before novels particularly explored the impact of childhood relationships on later life. (Okay -- I'm not certain I can defend that last sentence. But certainly the situation was different by the time D.H. Lawrence was writing.)


message 12: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Those are really good points Lily. The novel brings up so many questions like these. I liked what you said about the different avenues from which respect/self respect arrive. That is food for thought. I doubt that of the characters who might have realistically garnered some respect within the Bovary family and Emma's family that respect WAS received. (I must leave Monsieur Bovary out of this, he seemed too feckless to me.) But elder Mrs. Bovary, early on. And Charles -- he was doted upon by his mother, but I am not sure given many substantial "tools" for the world, like respect. And Emma, probably not respected or really guided in childhood.

(Note: what did you think of that whole sequence of Charles first entering the school room and the hat and everything? WAS it to make us feel that he was spoiled? simply inadequate? clueless? I don't know if we ever discussed it much. I believe the analysis in my edition does discuss how in the novel we do begin and end with Charles after all.)

My term true affection was meant in comparison especially to what we see in this novel. My term is more the "through thick and thin" variety, rather than the inconstant or questionable affection of our characters here.

Still puzzling to me but very good issues. Maybe our other friends will enter in with their thoughts.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I think that essentially, both Charles and Emma are clueless. They have no idea what makes for a good relationship between couples. While Charles goes about with his head in the clouds, Emma trots about looking for love "in all the wrong places." In modern times, perhaps these two would have gone to marriage counselors, but given the time and place, they are left to flounder about, not having any clear definition to what makes a relationship, a marriage, a partnership. I have to think they were both living in dream state, one in which they had so many illusions that clouded their view of reality. They were essentially doomed from the get go.

I have to think that they were both at fault for the failure of this marriage, she perhaps a bit more overt, but Charles with his head in the sand bears the same responsibility for the failure of their relationship.

Perhaps, in a way, Flaubert is trying to show that "perfection" in marriage is not really attainable.


message 14: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments The story does look at the marriage, but then Emma's ways seem to take on a life of their own. I don't know that I have seen anything written from that era that gives such a portrait of person as she was. And it doesn't even seem she wanted perfection in marriage, but rather for everything -- her surroundings, her child, money, material objects, her lovers, etc. to be set up to fulfill her desires and her uninhibited nature. So I feel that part of her was clueless -- in not seeing the unreality of all that, and part of her was cunning. Charles was clueless though -- all those times sending her right away to her lovers. And then after her death when he has to confront it -- he still doesn't really get it until he sees the hidden portrait of Rodolphe.

And this is changing subjects, but how horrible that Flaubert says the community descended on the family like vultures (or something like that). Felicite stole Emma's dresses and took off! And the piano teacher even sent bills for lessons she didn't even give! And this to a family of a woman who has just committed suicide. Just a last little bit about the coldness of society, do you think?


message 15: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments If you can lay your hands on a copy, I do heartily recommend spending a little time with Llosa's The Perpetual Orgy: Flaubert and Madame Bovary . I spent about an hour and a half with it this morning and picked up a whole bunch more surprising insights and attitudes towards the book (and what has been written about it and how it has been received). I don't feel I can do a decent job of summarizing -- I dipped into this book the last time I read MB and keep finding more this time. (I will try to add some of Llosa's comments on Flaubert's foot fetish motif in the background notes before the week is over -- they are quite amusing and helped me notice passages in a different way. What prompted me to add this note here was Llosa's challenges to bourgeois assumptions about what is desirable for human happiness and needs. Not certain I entirely agree with him, but his argument seemed well framed. (view spoiler))


message 16: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments SarahC wrote: "And this is changing subjects, but how horrible that Flaubert says the community descended on the family like vultures (or something like that). Felicite stole Emma's dresses and took off! And the piano teacher even sent bills for lessons she didn't even give! And this to a family of a woman who has just committed suicide. Just a last little bit about the coldness of society, do you think?"

There's an interesting comment in The Originality of Madame Bovary about how many of Emma's misfortunes and mistakes can be traced back not to herself or to Charles, but to Homais. He announces the country fair where her affair with Rodolphe is born, advises Charles to make Emma take riding lessons, encourages them to go to the opera in Rouen then insists that she should take music lessons, makes Charles do the club foot surgery, tells Emma where to get arsenic etc. Yet at the end of the book he's the only one of the characters who gets a happy ending because he's awarded the Legion of Honor.


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