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Part 2 Chapters I-VII March 13, 2007

Posted by calimom in Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

Is Emma capable of love?  Does she really love Berthe?  Leon?

How are Charles and Leon different?



1. calimom - March 13, 2007

I guess we lost interest with the translation confusion thing.

I am really enjoying the book. Hope you all are still reading.

I feel sorry for Emma’s daughter. Maybe if she was a George…..Those around her who are most in need of her love and attention she considers beneath her or too burdensome to deal with. What should be important to her becomes a distraction in her pursuit of pleasure and fantasy.

2. heather - March 15, 2007

I’ve got company all week, and their bedroom is my computer room, so I’m probably not going to be very active in my comments until after the weekend! Here are some quick thoughts on these sections:

It seems like Emma has romanticized love to such an extent, that I don’t know that she’s capable of loving realistically. Nothing is ever going to live up to her fantasy life. It’s interesting how similar Leon seems to be in his fantasy life. I thought this quote from Emma with regards to the type of books she likes was telling: “I hate commonplace heroes and lukewarm emotions, the kind you find in real life.”

I found myself wondering, particularly after Emma sat gazing at her sleeping child thinking how ugly she was (sheesh! Most “normal” women/mothers would consider that one of the most beautiful images — a sleeping baby!), if the name “Berthe” carried the same negative connotations back then as it does to me now! All the other names she’d contemplated sounded so pretty, then she comes up with Berthe! I never took French, so maybe it sounds better in the language of love than it does in English! I just thought it seemed like she’d purposefully given her an ugly name!

Does anyone know, was that normal to send your child off to live with the wetnurse?

The pharmacist cracks me up. I particularly like the fact that he says of his assistant, Justin: “But the boy had a more serious failing, for which the pharmacist often rebuked him: he was always listening to other people’s conversations.” Then the very next paragraph reminds us of the pharmacist’s own “malicious gossip.” Then how hovering they are with their children — keeping them in padded helmets until they are 4!

I’ll add more thoughts later! I am enjoying the book, Karen! This is my first time to read it.

3. heather - March 26, 2007

You know, this book really is full of lots of subtle humor — I was just skimming back through this section and noticed a part I’d starred, where Binet, the tax collector (the one who “turns out wooden napkin rings” in his spare time), is listening to Leon lament over his boring life, and the following conversation takes place:

“That’s because you don’t have enough recreation,” said the tax collector.

“What would you suggest?”

“If I were you, I’d get a lathe.”

“But I wouldn’t know how to use it,” answered the clerk.

“That’s true,” said Binet, stroking his chin with an air of mingled disdain and satisfaction.

Call me weird, but that cracked me up!

4. heather - March 26, 2007

This was an interesting quote in Part 2, Chapter 5:

“The housewives all admired her for her thriftiness, Charles’s patients for her courtesy, the poor for her generosity.

Yet she was full of covetous desires, anger and hatred. The smooth folds of her dress concealed a tumultuous heart, and her modest lips told nothing of her torment. She was in love with Leon, and she sought solitude because it allowed her to revel in thoughts of him at leisure. His actual presence disturbed the voluptuous pleasure of her reveries.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, nothing in her real life is ever going to measure up to her fantasies.

I keep thinking that I should be hating this character, because I know what she’s about to do, but I find myself strangely drawn to her. I think her character is the stereotype for “unfulfilled desires,” and that is something to which we all can relate. I think we can find it all too easy to covet and desire what we do not have (or more so, what our neighbor DOES have). The quote on the very next page could describe alot of us, as well:

“Her carnal desires, her longing for money and the melancholy of her unfulfilled passion merged into one vast anguish, and instead of trying to distract herself from it she concentrated her attention on it, stirring up her pain and always looking for a chance to suffer. She complained bitterly about a badly served dish or a door left ajar, she lamented the velvet she did not own, the happiness that eluded her, her too lofty dreams, her too narrow house.”

How easy it is to complain about our lot in life, isn’t it?

5. Karen - March 27, 2007

I am absolutely fascinated with this character. I made a comment to a friend, just the other day, that I AM THIS WOMAN. Sometimes I find myself living in a world of discontent and dissatisfaction. She lives in a beautiful countryside in France where tourists today flock in droves to seek tranquility solitude and simply a lovely setting. The simple things and the beauty therein is totally lost on this woman…I find this tendency quite familiar in my own thoughts and heart. A doting husband with a steady job, a sweet baby, the best home in town, people that serve her.
Remarkable how well this author, a man, captures this too common human tendency and reveals it as our own.

6. bethany3boys - March 27, 2007

Hey gals I will try to pop on here in the next few days. I am reading the book and loving it I have just been unplugged and on vacation so haven’t had a chance to hop on here.

7. Nicole - March 29, 2007

I am struck by how much Emma’s discontent with life is so focused on herself, how selfish she really is. And its causing me to look at my own life in areas I am discontent. It’s really a selfish problem. She genuinely feels that she is the center of the universe and that everyone/everything should act accordingly. Oh my gosh, I am soooo like that! When I’m not getting what I want its because I genuinely feel that the world should revolve around me, not God’s ways.

8. bethany3boys - April 3, 2007

Heather the Berthe comment was hilarious. I thought that was an awful sounding name too. And it goes to show how truly selfish Emma is that she doesn’t even think her own daughter is beautiful and doesn’t even want to be with her.

9. bethany3boys - April 3, 2007

Heather I flagged that same quote from Chapter 5!! That one jumped out at me.

Karen and Nicole I too have felt so convicted reading this book. Yes Emma is an exaggeration yet in reading this book my own areas of discontent have pinched me.

10. bethany3boys - April 3, 2007

Karen I don’t think she loves Berthe at all. She hardly has a relationship with her. She just sends her off. I also do not think she loves Leon…she loves the idea of him right now…the distraction. Leon and Charles are so different. Leon reminds me a lot of Emma, which we all know what happens when we are around someone so like ourself usually we end up clashing with them. If this book were written today I would think of Leon as a metro-sexual. 😉 Charles seems so naturally loving, caring, great provider. He seems oblivious to time wasting things such as long nails and cleaning them (that kind of freaked me out when he wrote that about Leon HA HA) Charles seems so unselfish to the point of it eventually hurting him. I mean he is so giving to Emma why can’t she see that. She doesn’t realize how good she has it. I don’t think Leon could ever truly provide for her he is too selfish himself and too busy with trivial things.

11. bethany3boys - April 3, 2007

Heather and I were talking last night and I forgot something I wanted to mention here. Hoping in saying this I am not skipping ahead but I think those of us reading are past that point anyhow. I was noticing how refreshing Flaubert’s writing is in terms of the affair. I was thinking in contrast to the last book we read or other modern books…that at times give to much info. HEE HEE. Anyhow, when Emma had the affair in this book I had to go back and re-read thinking I missed something. I was thinking….wait….did she just have an affair??? Just goes to show in writing you don’t have to go into all those sensational details to have a story. He is such a great writer. I was very surprised by how much I liked this whole book and what an easy read it ended up being.

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