Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Analyzing Flaubert's literary techniques in Madame Bovary.

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Flaubert Gustave (181-1880) was born in Rouen, France. He studied law unsuccessfully in Paris and returned home to devote himself to writing. In 1856, after five years of work, Flaubert published his master piece, Madame Bovary, in a Paris journal1. Madame Bovary tells the story of a provincial wife who seeks release from the boredom of her marriage in adultery and romantic dreams. Her illusions and her debts finally drives her to suicide. In this essay, I would like to discuss some of the literary techniques that Flaubert employed in Madame Bovary.

Flaubert uses descriptive passages as another dimension of his story. In many novels, descriptive passages serve as intermissions in the plot , but in Madame Bovary theyre an integral part of the story. For example, Flauberts description of Charles cap in the opening scene tells a reader as much about its owner as one might get in several pages of character analysis. In a similar vein, Flaubert conveys the aimlessness of Emmas affair with Leon by taking the reader on an endless cab ride through the streets of Rouen.

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Symbolism is another important literary technique in Madame Bovary. Flaubert frequently uses windows as a symbol of freedom or restraint, depending on whether they are open or closed. For instance when Charles visits Emma (chapter ), she is seated in the kitchen with the shutters closed. The interpretation might be that Emma is shut in and stifled with her monotonous country life. On the other hand when Charles gets up in the middle of the night- too excited by his thoughts of Emma to fall asleep- he sits by the open window and watches the stars, an indication of the promise that his dreams open up for him.

The blind beggar lack of insight that characterizes the main figures in Madame Bovary. Charles is blind to Emmas unhappiness and to her unfaithfulness. For her part, Emma is unable to see through either her own self-deceiving view of life or the deceptions of others. She idealizes her lovers and is fooled by both the false ideas of Homais and the unscrupulous practices of Lheureux.

Madame Bovary is full of irony. Irony is a device used to express something that has a meaning opposite to what is intended or expected. The biggest irony of all is that Emmas fantasies about ideal love contrast with the reality of marriage and her affairs with Rodolphe and Leon. Charles ironically throws Emma into the arms of her lovers. For example, he encourages Emma to stay in Rouen to see the end of the opera and to travel to Rouen to take piano lessons. In both cases, he allows Emma the opportunity to spend time with Leon.

Indirect narration has also been used. That is, Flaubert writes neither in the third person, nor the first. Events are recorded as if from the viewpoint of a particular character but not in that characters voice. In this way Flaubert retains a distance that evokes objectivity. The opening paragraphs of Chapter 7 that describe Emmas despair at the loss of Leon are a good example of the indirect narrative technique that Flaubert uses to reveal a characters thoughts without having the character speak in his or her own voice (first-person), and without making the narrator (third-person) appear to be directly commenting. In a sentence like, Ah! he was gone, the only charm of her life.... there is no evident narrator and yet Emma is not being quoted. In another sentence, And she cursed herself for not having loved Leon, Emmas actions are described by the narrator who has taken over. The alternation of narratives is rhythmical and keeps a balance between action and thought.

Flaubert also employs the technique of parallel conversations as a counterpoint component of the scene he is orchestrating. For example, if the conversation between Emma and Rodolphe is compared to the speeches of the orators at the agricultural show, it is clear that both are studded with lies, cliches, and posturing. Both conversations are equally at odds with true feeling and meaningful communication, despite their superficial differences in subject matter. No one in the audience is really listening to the orator, who, like Rodolphe, is merely expressing the thoughts and feelings that he thinks his audience wants to hear. And Emma herself is so blind to her own motivations that she cannot see the lack of genuine feeling behind Rodolphes words. Moreover, Rodolphe does not hear the sincerity and desperate need in Emmas words.

This essay has analyzed some of Flaubert’s literary techniques in Madame Bovary. In my opinion, I think that the novel was written a superbly controlled style. Due to the discussed techniques, as a reader I felt as if I was reading something real.


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