Madame Bovary: A Framework for Literary Boredom

by Anoukh

I found myself strangely disappointed by Madame Bovary. Every literature class I ever took seemed to mention this novel at some point. This gave me the impression I had a serious case of “Bovarism”, without even having investigated the source of the term. While reading Flaubert’s famed novel, I was surprised that I couldn’t truly identify with the title character. Apart from one thing: I was bored. I read this book while recovering from the flu. Having only rest on the agenda, the cabin fever made me turn to my trusty E-reader for a copyright-less classic. Little did I know that boredom would be one of the main themes.

As you may already know, Emma Bovary reads too much. She reads wonderful, exciting, romantic and passionate stories. Her books make her feel like there is a bright and shiny world to discover. However, she soon feels that her gender disables her in this respect, as she cannot be its discoverer. Her world is already planned out for her: by her father, her husband, even her lovers. That world is not at all the literary ideal she had in mind. And as her story progresses, she finds fault in everything and everyone. Instead of being painted with vivid colours, the world turns out to be a grey mess. As a last resort, she tries to surround herself by beautiful things, only to find out that beautiful things come at a price. In the literal sense. When she is about to lose all her worldly possessions and the last bit of her reputation, the disillusionment really hits when the required saviour does not appear. She does get offered the money to clear her debts, but the rich old notary declaring his love to her in exchange only reminds her of the ugly face of real-life passion.

In the end, she gets her wish. She dies a dramatic death, and her husband finally becomes the literary ideal. His intense mourning shows the passion that she always craved.

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