The Corruption Of Literature: "Madame Bovary" By Gustave Flaubert [Research Paper]

3581 words - 15 pages

Literature is often the result of fantasies and dreams. Consequently, many times in literature the truth is fabricated and stories are made to please the audience rather than to convey an accurate message. The modern public's infatuation with the lives of celebrities is a contemporary example of this concept as it eventually leads many people into debt and unhappiness with their own lifestyles. Similarly, in the novel "Madame Bovary" written by Gustave Flaubert, the author explores the idea that the deceitfulness of literature in France may have devastating effects on people. Flaubert's tone and portrayal of characters in "Madame Bovary" illustrates how the corruption of literature ...view middle of the document...

These exotic pictures of "faraway places" trigger her imagination and are a part of her dreams. Emma's dreams are also prompted by the diction of the literary works she read. Flaubert comments on her fascination and excitement when encountering words that are associated with love, and how "Emma tries to imagine just what was meant, in life, by the words 'bliss,' 'passion,' 'rapture' --- words that had seemed so beautiful to her in books" (Madame Bovary 40). Flaubert emphasizes that Emma believes she does not know the true meaning of these words because she attempts to imagine their meaning and mentions how they "seemed" beautiful, suggesting that they might not be so in actuality. Emma is unable to understand the meaning of these words because she feels her own experiences cannot be of the same intensity as described in her novels. The specific words that Flaubert mentions are important because all of them: "'bliss,' 'passion,' 'rapture;'" relate to love and sensuality. Flaubert uses a sarcastic tone to introduce the idea that literature is so corrupt that it causes Emma to be incapable of defining common words. His tone reflects his critical ideas concerning the corruption of literature in French society. It is in search of the meanings of these words that Emma embarks on her later affairs. Flaubert's critical tone towards literature throughout Madame Bovary indicates the disillusionment of Emma Bovary as a result of the corruption of literature.
Through his characterization of Emma Bovary, Flaubert establishes several preliminary influences of literature on Emma as a person. Emma reads a great number of romantic novels, in which love is described through the use of many idealistic sensual feelings. Martin Turnell, a literary critic, explains that because Emma is unable to experience these sensual feelings in reality, she "turns to her sentimental novels, with their dashing heroes, in an attempt to imaginatively live the passionate life she desires" (94). Due to literature, Emma feels that she lacks love experiences and responds by living her life through her novels. Consequently, Emma relies on literature for consolation and is reluctant to cope with real issues. Critic Michal P. Ginsburg describes Emma as being an "imaginary character; a character whose life, desire and even body, is created and shaped by others," and explains her existence as being "'doubly-bookish,'" in that she is "not only a fictive character in a book....she has been created by literature" (132). Ginsburg considers Emma to be imaginary because she only lives through literature. The books she reads "create" and "shape" her as a person by providing her with dreams, ambitions, and desires. Emma is "doubly-bookish" because not only is she a fictional character, but her personality as a character is formed by literature and she envisions herself as one of the characters in the books she reads. Emma being "doubly-bookish" is a result of Flaubert's use...


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