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Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert - Book Cover

Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary is a novel penned by Gustave Flaubert, a notable figure in French literary realism. His realistic storytelling greatly influenced literature in his homeland.

Initially serialized in La Revue de Paris from October 1, 1856, to December 15 of the same year, the complete novel was later published by Lévy Frères in Paris in 1857.

Despite its acclaim, the novel faced criticism, particularly for its perceived moral transgressions, including the portrayal of adultery. Flaubert was even put on trial, but ultimately acquitted of the charges.

Recommended for: Readers interested in classic French literature and the literary realism movement. This novel by Gustave Flaubert is considered a masterpiece of 19th century fiction and a seminal work of realist literature. It provides an insightful exploration of the human condition, particularly the themes of dissatisfaction, materialism, and the gap between romantic ideals and mundane reality.

You will:

  • Immerse yourself in Flaubert’s meticulous, almost clinical attention to detail in his depiction of the provincial French town and the daily life of the characters.
  • Witness the author’s exceptional skill in crafting a complex, psychologically nuanced portrait of the main character, Emma Bovary, and her gradual descent into disillusionment and moral decline.
  • Gain insight into the social, cultural, and historical context of 19th century France, including the emerging bourgeois class, the role of women, and the tensions between traditional values and the desire for personal fulfillment.
  • Appreciate Flaubert’s innovative use of language, symbolism, and narrative techniques to convey the themes of the novel, such as the contrast between romantic ideals and harsh realities.
  • Engage with the ongoing literary and philosophical debates surrounding the novel’s treatment of morality, the nature of reality, and the limitations of human nature.
  • Develop your analytical skills as you explore the novel’s complex themes, the author’s narrative strategies, and the implications of Flaubert’s groundbreaking realist approach.
  • Discover the enduring influence of “Madame Bovary” on subsequent literature, from the development of the modern novel to the exploration of the human psyche.


Part I

The main character of the novel is Emma, who lives on the farm with her father after the death of the mother. She marries the widowed doctor Charles Bovary, who adores the beautiful woman. She expects her marriage to be a more social and exciting life. But, after a while, she gets bored with the daily routine of the village and her husband.

So, Charles moved to another town because he was concern about Emma´s health and her complaints about where they live. They moved to Yonville, hoping his wife will enjoy a change of air.

Part II

In Yonville, Emma had a daughter. The birth of his daughter Berthe cannot change the way Emma feels. On the contrary, she is unsatisfied, suffers from depression and mood swings. The Bovary family know new neighbors, such as Mr. Homais, the pharmacist, along with his family. Also, Mr. Lherheux, a manipulative merchant, and other neighbors like the gentlemen Tuvache. Among the neighbors, is Mr. Léon Dupuis, who will sympathize with Emma since both have similar interests in literature and music. Their passion for the same kind of writing will lead them to an impossible love. As a result, Léon moves to Paris.

Emma’s lack of personal goals and her love for luxury will lead her to get into debt with Mr. Lherheux. Moreover, she gets into an affair with Rodolphe and is not afraid to betray Charles. She plans to escape with Rodolphe. Although, at the time of the escape, Rodolphe changes his mind and leaves Emma. As a result, Emma gets ill.

Part III

Charles and Emma went to the Opera when she is fully recovered. There she encounters Léon. As a result, Emma begins an affair with Leon and lies to Charles about taking piano lessons to see her lover. Meanwhile, Lheureux charges the debt to the Bovary family, who have no way to pay. In desperation, Emma swallows poison. She dies after a horrible agony.


Gustave Flaubert. Madame Bovary. Publisher: Vizetelly & Co (London), 1886. Translated from the French by Eleanor Marx-Aveling. Originally published in 1856. This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author and translator died at least 100 years ago. Text from Wikisource: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Madame_Bovary_(Marx-Aveling_translation)
This digital edition is provided by Ebooks-net in 2024 under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license. The full text of the license is available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

To cite this work

Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. Ebooks-net, 2024. CC BY-SA 4.0. https://ebooks-net.com/ebook/madame-bovary/


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