Flaubert painted his controversial novel objectively -- with equal doses of both ethereal landscape descriptions and earthy characterization. He gave no moral judgments; I was left to examine the themes for myself, to strain each tragic scenario through my own sieve. I think it's pretty much impossible to close the book on Madame Bovary and not wonder -- at least for a moment -- "What if?"
Several weeks ago, my friend Sandy Bramhill sent me an email which contained her response to Madame Bovary. She has generously agreed to let me use it as the first guest post on Classical Quest. The images of paintings by Mary Cassatt and Claude Monet can also be found on my new Pinterest boards.
by Sandy Bramhill
...Emma's mother had lived to raise her? She had a loving father, but what if she had experienced the love of a mama as well? What if she had witnessed a healthy, loving marriage when she was growing up?
...the old woman who came by the convent from time to time had not loaned Emma romance novels? What if Emma had read good literature? What if the heroines of her books had been examples of faithfulness?
…Emma had been taught the Word of God rather than being raised with only the mystical and emotional aspects of religion? What if she had read the Bible for herself?
…when Emma tried to share her deep inner struggles with the priest, he had actually listened to what she was saying? What if he had given her good counsel?
|Rouen Cathedral, by Claude Monet -- depicted in a scene in Madame Bovary.|
…Emma had had a group of female friends? Or even one true, faithful female friend?
…Emma had had to work? What if she didn’t have the luxury of sitting around fantasizing and wallowing in her discontentment? Would keeping busy have staved off some of the self-pity? (The elder Madame Bovary thought so.)
…had had a son? Would she actually have taken to being a mother? (I certainly don’t think so – boys spit up, too! But Emma may have thought so.)
…women in her time nursed their own babies instead of sending them away? Would Emma have bonded with Berthe and found meaning in motherhood?
|Images Courtesy Wikipaintings|
...[Emma] was not happy, and never had been. Why was life so unsatisfying? Why did everything she leaned on instantly crumble into dust? […] nothing was worth seeking – everything was a lie! Each smile hid a yawn of boredom, each joy a curse, each pleasure its own disgust; and the sweetest kisses only left on one’s lips a hopeless longing for a higher ecstasy. (III.6.29-30)
Sandy lives with her husband and two teenage sons in Tucson, AZ. She loves reading, cycling, and befriending people from other countries. She discovered Classical Quest through "The Book That Changed My Life" post. Soon after, she joined me and the ladies at A Classic Case of Madness on our journey through the classics.