And the Mother of the Year Award Goes To:

21 Jun

Well, it won’t be Madame Bovary, that’s for sure!  All I can say, is “poor, poor child.”

Emma conceives while in the middle of a bout of depression, and is more concerned about the welfare of her dog than her soon-to-be-born baby.

She “hires out” all the baby sewing and knitting, because she really could care less.

She really wants the baby to be a boy, so that she can have “revenge for her impotences of the past.”  (Part II, Chapter 3)  Of course, it turns out to be a girl.  So much for revenge.

The naming is a fiasco.   First she wants one with an Italian ending.  She refuses Charles’ idea to name the baby after her mother.   Her mother-in-law rejects Madeline, which I think is the nicest of all the suggestions personally.   Finally they settle on Berthe.  Berthe?!   Poor child.

The child is baptized with champagne by a drunken grandfather.   Bad omen, I’m sure.

Then, Emma sends her daughter away to live with a nurse for however long it takes until she is weaned.   I think  she visits once.

When the baby finally returns to her rightful home, a servant takes care of her most of the time, leaving Emma free for other “pursuits.”  The one incident recorded of mother/daughter interactions involves Emma pushing Berthe, causing her to fall and cut herself.   Emma blames this on her daughter’s clumsiness, and somehow assuages her guilt by convincing herself that motherhood is just so difficult.  Sure, Emma.  You’ve obviously worked so hard at this vocation.

Mother of the Year?  Sorry, Emma.  Maybe next year?   (Somehow, I doubt it.)

P.S.  Our last novel was “smothered with mothers,” most of them wonderful examples to follow, but boy, this book is about as opposite as you can get in that respect!


Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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6 responses to “And the Mother of the Year Award Goes To:

  1. Jean

    June 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Yes, Emma’s treatment of her baby is certainly calculated to enrage us moms, isn’t it! Here’s my post on the book:

    • Christine

      June 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      Thanks for the link to your post, Jean!

  2. Steph (@FABR_Steph)

    June 21, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    This is a unique post. Madame Bovary doesn’t get my vote for mother of the year, wife of the year or daughter of the year.
    While it was common for people to send out their children to a wet nurse, it is dreadful to imagine now. Jane Austen herself was sent to the home of a wet nurse.
    I find it fascinating that Madame Bovary knew that the key to her child’s freedom (in her eyes) was to be born male. Madame Bovary is not a very likable character, is she? It is impressive that a male author could capture her passion in the way that he has. The insinuation of a deep depression is there and I am curious if he knew a woman like her.

    • Christine

      June 23, 2012 at 7:20 am

      I think I read somewhere that Flaubert said that He was Emma Bovary. Has anyone else read that anyplace? Did I imagine this? Oh, I may have read it in Murnighan’s Beowulf on the Beach book.

  3. Jeannette

    June 22, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Good insights, Steph, and thanks for commenting, Jean. I will go directly over to your post and take a look.

  4. Jeannette

    June 23, 2012 at 9:33 am

    I think you are right, Christine. In fact, there is huge critical debate on whether or not he did a good job as a man trying to “be” a woman.


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