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Last Rites

Spoiler Alert:  Don’t read this if you don’t want to know the ending of Madame Bovary!



The purpose of the Catholic sacrament of Extreme Unction, or Last Rites, has always confused me.  When it is administered by a priest before death, it supposedly confers forgiveness of sins.   But, where does this leave the dying person or their grieving loved ones?   Is there hope for heaven, or will this just ensure greater mercy in purgatory?   I feel as though I should know the answer to these questions.  Any Catholic readers or scholars out there?   Please enlighten me.

I love the language that Flaubert uses when describing Emma’s Last Rites:

Then he recited the Misereatur and the Indulgentiam, dipped his right thumb in the oil, and began to give extreme unction.  First upon the eyes, that had so coveted all worldly pomp; then upon the nostrils, that had been greedy of the warm breeze and amorous odours; then upon the mouth, that had uttered lies, that had curled with pride and cried out in lewdness; then upon the hands that had delighted in sensual touches, and finally upon the soles of the feet, so swift of yore, when she was running to satisfy her desires, and that would now walk no more…(then told) her that she must now blend her sufferings with those of Jesus Christ and abandon herself to the divine mercy.

Oh, and another question for the Catholic folk out there – would the priest have given her this sacrament if he would have known that she was committing suicide?   Is there hope for her despite her self-inflicted death?  I think I agree that at death we all “abandon ourselves to the divine mercy” of our Father, but I am so thankful for the hope I have because of what Jesus accomplished for me through His sufferings and death.

I think I’d rather leave with the Funeral Psalm they chose for Emma.  Here is Psalm 130 (v. 1-4, 7,8):

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!   O Lord, hear my voice!   Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!   If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?   But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared…O Israel, hope in the Lord!   For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.  And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.


Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Red Herring

damascened – adj.  inlaid with gold or silver

Classical Usage:  At the beginning of Part Three, Chapter VIII Emma goes to Rodolphe to ask for money prostitute herself.  He says he doesn’t have the money, although I’m sure he would have accepted the product for free, but she doubts his honesty as her eyes fell on a damascened rifle that glittered in a trophy on the wall.

Classically Mad Usage:   I don’t own anything damascened, I don’t think, so instead I’ll ask this question:  Did you, like me, fear when we caught a glimpse of the gun that this novel was going to end with ringing shots and more than one person dead?  Flaubert fooled me for a second, there.

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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Speaking of Good Quotes…

Here’s another favorite from Part II, Chapter 13.  This one is speaking of Rodolphe’s heart condition.  He is going through past correspondence from other women, and says,

What a lot of rubbish!   Which summed up his opinion; for pleasures, like schoolboys in a school courtyard, had so trampled on his heart that no green thing grew there, and that which passed through it, more heedless than children, did not even, like them, leave a name carved upon the wall.

Flaubert really has a way with words.  Sometimes the words he says just grab me and make me ponder.  I may not have enjoyed the subject matter as much in this novel, but his command of the language and his analogies are so breath-taking.



Posted by on July 9, 2012 in Madame Bovary



A Little Less Slaking Was In Order

slaking – v.  quenching or satisfying desires

Classical Usage:  While Emma and Léon are in their “honeymoon” (blech, puke, gag me with a spoon) days of the affair everything is more beautiful and lovely in their eyes.  This is how Flaubert describes it:  it was as though nature had not existed before, or had only begun to be beautiful with the slaking of their desires.

Classically Mad Usage:  It’s hot here this week.  Really hot.  It might take an entire lake to slake my thirst.

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Posted by on July 8, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Shine, Verger, Shine!

pyx – n.  a box used to hold the Eucharistic hosts, or a box used to hold sample coins at a mint

Classical Usage:  When Emma falls ill after Rudolphe’s abandonment the priest arrives with holy water for her bed, and pulls a white host from the sacred pyx.  Context there was pretty handy at defining the word, but not for making it stick, because when I ran across it again in Chapter I of Part Three I couldn’t remember at all what it meant.  Flaubert describes the verger of the church approaching Léon, anxious to give him a tour of the place.  He was in full regalia, with plumed hat, rapier and staff, more majestic than a cardinal, shining like a pyx.  So, I’m justified by not getting it that time on context, right?

Classically Mad Usage:  I have friends on the altar guild at church.  I think I might just test out their vocabulary.

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Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Glug Glug

malmsey – n.  a fortified sweet Madiera wine

Classical Usage:  This is the type of passage that has become the only portion of Madame Bovary that I’m enjoying.  I think Flaubert writes beautifully descriptive analogies.  Okay, you’re right, sometimes what he’s describing is far from beautiful, maybe striking is a better choice of adjectives.  You be the judge, this is from Part Two, Chapter XII:  Hers was an infatuation to the point of idiocy; the intensity of her admiration for him was matched by the intensity of her own voluptuous feelings; she was in a blissful torpor, a drunkenness in which her very soul lay drowned and shriveled, like the duke of Clarence in his butt of malmsey.

Classically Mad Usage:  Malmsey, please.

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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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An Ugly Riding Habit

I’m having a hard time enjoying the beauty of Flaubert’s writing when his characters are so ugly… and I’m not talking about their physical appearances.  Their insides are ugly!

You need evidence?  Proof?  How about Part II, chapter 9.

Rodolphe has purposefully stayed away from the Bovarys.  He’s playing a game with Emma, a game with which she’s not familiar.  A game that he has mastered.  The game of seducing a married woman.

At the start of the chapter there’s a little flirtatious conversation.  Oh, not between husband and wife.  Between Rodolphe and Emma.

Then Charles Bovary becomes part of the scene.  Here’s where I imagine Rodolphe twirling his greasy, handle-bar moustache.

“Wouldn’t horseback riding be good for your wife?”  says Rotten Rodolphe.
Clueless Charles: “Why, yes it would, but sadly we don’t have a horse.”
More moustache-twirling by Rodolphe, “Well, I have a horse that I’d be happy to share…
very happy to share.”
Charles: “Golly, that’s just great!  I love my wife so much that I’m willing to send her off with you, a
stranger I’ve only recently met.  You seem concerned about my wife, so I like you.”

Now here’s where Emma gives us a glimpse of how ugly she is inside.  Rodolphe has left and husband and wife are discussing the riding proposition.  Oh, yes.  It’s a proposition.

Charles: “I think you should go riding with Rodolphe.  He’s a handsome, wealthy man who seems
sooooo nice.
Emma pouting: “Nah. I don’t want to.”
Charles: “But, Emma sweetie, I think you should!  It would be good for your health.  You’ve seemed so depressed  since that attentive Leon moved away.”
Emma: “I still don’t want to go.  It would be weird.”
Worried Charles: “But your health?!”
Whining Emma: “I’d have nothing to wear on the date.”
Charles: “Dearest, we’ll buy you a new outfit to wear on the horsie!”
Emma: “Okay, I’ll go. (at the risk of ruining my marriage)”

Ack!  The text says, “The riding-habit decided her.”

The final touch of ugliness is when bumbling, bewildered Charles writes to Rodolphe that “his wife was at his disposal and that they were counting on his kindness.”

Get the scarlet letter ready.  Emma’s going to need it.



Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Here’s to the Farmers!

I must admit that my husband is sometimes the butt of jokes due to his past history of being the (9th) offspring of a farmer, growing up on a farm, or even just being from Nebraska, a state largely populated by farmers.   I often laugh along with the jokes, and he seems to take them well, probably because we all know that farmers are really the “salt of the earth.”  Where would we be without all the farmers?  Hungry, that’s for sure.   And my husband learned many wonderful lessons growing up on a farm, such as not to tease a baby pig when the mother is around.   Or, maybe the more important lessons of diligence, the value of hard work, putting the needs of others (even pigs) before your own, patience and working as a team.

I think Flaubert appreciated farmers too, if this quote is any indication:

Where indeed, is to be found more patriotism than in the country, greater devotion to the public welfare, more intelligence, in a word?   And, gentlemen, I do not mean that superficial intelligence, vain ornament of idle minds, but rather that profound and balanced intelligence that applies itself above all else to useful objects, thus contributing to the good of all, to the common amelioration and to the support of the state, born of respect for law and the practice of duty…

Here! Here!   A toast to farmers.   (And a big “thank you” to my own “farmer” and the family that raised him.)


Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Madame Bovary



Reward for Madame

The madame in the title is me.  I need a reward, a carrot, to keep me reading this book.  I’m still in part one, but to quote Jeannette,

“Madame Emma Bovary is getting on my nerves.”

I totally agree with you, Jeannette.

I did some searching, looking for a movie version of Flaubert’s work.  See, I didn’t watch Moby-Dick and the only Uncle Tom’s Cabin I plan on watching is the clip from “The King and I” that includes a horribly botched rendition of the story. (That musical is waiting for me at the library.)  It’s time to see how another novel was translated to the big screen.

I’m looking for a movie reward: something that I can watch while eating croissants and pretending that I remember even a little of the French I took in high school.

Oh, the choices!

This is the BBC’s version.This one was made as a tv miniseries.I even found a trailer for this one.  If you’d like a sneak peek into the story, click on the image.

I spied additional adaptations as well.  This could be almost as much fun as when I watched Jane Eyre.  Now if I could just finish the book.

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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Welcome to Yonville! Avoid the Cream Cheese and Watch Your Step.

Well, in Part II, Emma and Charles have a new home.   Due to Emma’s melancholy, Charles looks for a new place to reside and decides on Yonnville-l’Abbaye.   While at first glance it looks picturesque (see Chapter 1 of Part II), perhaps Emma has reason to beware.

Flaubert calls the region “a bastard land” – what exactly does that mean?   I’m assuming a negative connotation, but “bastard?”   Apparently, the landscape is “without character.”   Also, they make the “worst Neufchatel cheeses of all the region.”     When I read “Neufchatel,” I immediately thought of those silvery packages of cream cheese at the grocery store.   I had to do extensive research (Wiki) to determine that:

Neufchâtel is a soft, slightly crumbly, mould-ripened cheese made in the French region of Normandy. One of the oldest cheeses in France, its production is believed to date back to the 6th century. It looks similar to Camembert, with a dry, white, edible rind, but the taste is saltier and sharper. It has the aroma and taste of mushrooms. Unlike other soft-white-rinded cheeses, Neufchâtel has a grainy texture.[1] It is most usually sold in heart shapes but is also produced in other forms, such as logs. It is typically matured for 8–10 weeks.

American Neufchâtel

In 1872, William Lawrence, a New York dairyman of the township of Chester, created the first American cream cheese as the result of an attempt to create a batch of Neufchâtel. This American Neufchâtel is softer than regular cream cheese due to its approximately 33% lower fat and higher moisture content.[2][3] Due to this reduced fat content, it is found in most grocery stores as a reduced-fat option to cream cheese. In the United States, this Neufchâtel is sometimes called farmers’ cheese.[4]

But, none of that matters in Yonville, because they are known for their terrible Neufchatel.  Too bad.  I’m glad we got it right in America.  What would dips be without Neufchatel?    (And how DO you pronounce that anyway?  I don’t want to sound like an idiot.)

Also, apparently farming is costly in Yonville, because “so much manure is needed to enrich this friable soil full of sand and flints.    Watch where you are walking in those pretty gowns, Mme!

So, welcome to Yonville.  Home Sweet Home.   (Do the stinky cheese and stinky soils forecast stinky relationships as well?  Only time will tell.)


Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Madame Bovary, The Blog


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