Argumentative Essay: Madame Bovary

Argumentative Essay- Madame Bovary

The paper seeks to establish the truth in the claim that Emma Bovary brought all the suffering to herself through the illusions of living grand life, fantasizing about luxury and infatuation. Madame Bovary takes the readers through the life of Emma Rouault, the wife to Charles Bovary, who gets drawn into the world of the rich and constantly fantasizes about what it would be like if she were rich. Emma ends up hating Charles and the fact that her marriage to him puts an almost permanent obstacle to her ever achieving her dreams. In the pursuit of her fantasies, Emma engages in two different extramarital affairs that end up increasing her frustrations even more as they fail to fulfil her dreams. She finally gets to realize that in the world she lives in, fantasies often remain as just that, fantasies. As much as one may argue that Emma is a victim of the status quo in the downcast middle-class society as well as her naturally ill temper, it may be evident that her lack of satisfaction with her status in the society and her unabated yearn for wealth are the root cause of her problems, but is it?

At first glance, one may be quick to assume that Emma’s love for material luxury is her problem. However, it is instead a symptom of her problems. Emma Bovary is subjected to constant disappointment, and her committing suicide is as a result of her getting worn out by unreachable dreams. When she commits suicide, Emma owes 8000 F in debt caused by her overspending. It is not just these debts that lead Emma to commit suicide. She is well aware that her voluptuous tastes will bring ruin to her husband as well as her daughter. Emma believes “love had to fall suddenly with a great thunderclap and lightning flash, a tempest from heaven that falls upon your life like devastation, scatters your ideals like leaves and hurls your soul into the abyss” (Flaubert, 2004, p. 147).

For a woman with such gigantic desires, being married to an average doctor does not make her situation any easier. She tries to get herself to love Charles, but she just cannot settle for average. Instead, she grows to despise him more and more every day. She hates how he gurgles his soup and picks his teeth and laments “Oh, why, dear God did I marry him?” (Flaubert, 2004, p. 345). The average life she lives increases her fantasies even more ‘like a shipwrecked sailor, she pursued her solitary world with hopeless eyes, searching for some white sail far away where the horizon turns to mist.’ (Flaubert, 2004, p. 375). It is these fantasies that drive her into pursuing extramarital affairs that leave her high and dry. She is even more distraught than she was before. This pushes her even deeper into her world of fantasy and she even considers herself a sacrificial victim of love ‘it seemed that her soul, rising toward God, would be annihilated in his love, just like burning incense going up as smoke’ (Flaubert, 2004, p. 432).

As much as we may be fast to judge Emma as a greedy woman stuck in a world of fantasies that finally ruined her, we should consider what she went through. The affairs and experiences of Emma’s early life demonstrate the how surroundings could affect the fate of an individual within the society, her sufferings are a result of being stuck in a vicious circle of constant pain and disappointment. She seeks solace in fantasy since reality has become too harsh to bear. For this reason, the novel stresses a real understanding of life, by what flaws and fate in human nature must constantly be accepted and addressed; otherwise, they may result in destructive optimism.


Flaubert, G. (2004). Madame Bovary. New York: Oxford University Press.


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