Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Published by Oxford University Press
I haven’t read a lot of the “classics” and as a result of not being well-read in this category of novels, I typically find myself intimidated by them and have a preconceived notion that I won’t enjoy the ones I do pick up. Inevitably, though, when I read them I surprise myself with how much I enjoy the experience of reading these classic books – they are considered the “classics” for a reason, after all! Such was the case with Madame Bovary – I found the book so refreshingly current and saw so many parallels to issues that people (well, women mostly) face on a regular basis in today’s society.
Here we have this woman who is confined by her time period and status in life (female) to a life of essentially being owned by a man. For most of her life, that man is her father, and then she marries Mr. Bovary, and he begins taking ownership of her. Although technically she is an independent human and citizen, the world doesn’t see women that way during this time in history, and she certainly doesn’t feel that she has any independence or ability to make her own choices whatsoever. So what does she do? She rebels, of course. She falls in love with several men who are not her husband, bucks social norms and her own wedding vows, and carries on several affairs without her husband’s knowledge. She comes dangerously close to getting caught several times, neglects her child to continue relationships with these guys, and comes to look at her husband with a mixture of disgust, anger, and of course regret.
Ultimately her story is one where you can see that having zero power in life can cause someone to do terrible things, whether it be because she was depressed, simply fell in love with the wrong people, or, was frankly bored out of her mind. But I saw so many parallels to the way women have been treated throughout history, and how the lack of access to power, information, money, etc. in even today’s world leads people down dangerous paths and causes people to make choices that are not in their best interest.
I missed the book club meeting for this one, but I’m sure the ladies in my book club had a lot to talk about because there’s so much here to think about and discuss. I’m really glad I read Madame Bovary and it’s one more time I need to remind myself that classics are deemed classic literature for a reason. I definitely need to experience more of them.