When Flaubert wrote Mme Bovary, it certainly wasn’t with the intention of making his character beloved.
At best, Emma Bovary is naive, spoiled, egocentric and annoying. However, it is of little importance. Whilst reading of her disillusions, it is impossible not to try and like her. Flaubert writes of her desperate and futile attempts to join the ranks of the aristocratic with such tenderness that you cannot help but feel that perhaps the author felt a certain love for his antihero.
Emma Bovary is convinced that life has dealt her an unjust card: she believes she is entitled to riches, happiness and a fabulous existence. This arrogance is what causes her to be disliked, both by those who surround her and by the reader. She yearns for an aristocratic lifestyle yet lacks the consideration and gentle touch needed to make social connections. She ruins every opportunity by her childish attitude and fails to realize that happiness cannot be bought.
Madame Bovary is a tragedy, if only because Emma is a tragic character: she has everything to make her life enjoyable, yet she is wretchedly unhappy.
This novel should have been horrible. The main character’s attitude towards life is appalling and the whole novel is centered around her. Nevertheless, there is something magical and beautiful about this classic.
That the tale of a sad, apathetic, suburban wife should have stood the test of time and should be considered one of the best novels of Western Litterature is, quite simply, a testament to the brilliance of Gustave Flaubert and that is reason enough to read this novel.
“Everything immediately surrounding her – boring countryside, inane petty bourgeois, the mediocrity of daily life – seemed to her the exception rather than the rule. She had been caught in it all by some accident: out beyond, there stretched as far as eye could see the immense territory of rapture and passions.”