Tag Archives: Emma Bovary

Quick Guessing Game

This is for those of you who have read Madame Bovary recently.   Read the quote below and guess which character it is referring to.    I think you could also describe Madame Bovary this way!

To be yearning for the difficult, to be weary of that offered; to care for the remote, to dislike the near…

Discontentment seems often to lead to problems, right Emma?


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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in The Return of the Native



Pot, I’d like to introduce you to Kettle

Nope, still no Madame Bovary wrap-up, but I do have a little observation about everyone’s least favorite adulteress*.

She is, what would be called in some circles, a diva.  You know the type, always wants it her way, will do anything necessary to get what she wants, expects the world to come to serve her, tends to be just a wee bit on the overdramatic side.

But the term diva originated from sopranos who, well, wanted things their way, especially the spotlight.

In this novel, where the word “puke” was scribbled in my margins far more often than “ha,” I did find the following observation from Emma’s trip to the opera pretty humorous,

But the mad scene interested Emma not at all:  the soprano, she felt, was overdoing her role.

*For the record my favorite literary adulteress thus far is Hester Prynne.  It’s kind of weird to have a favorite adulteress, isn’t it?  Hmmm, maybe I need to rethink this whole thing.


Posted by on August 3, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Hurry up!

I’ve mentioned that I took Madame Bovary camping.  While my children played in the cool water of Lake Superior, I relaxed in a beach chair and read.

One evening I continued reading while my crew prepared that night’s s’more fire.

“Mom?  Are you going to keep reading?  Don’t you want s’mores?”
“Yes, I’ll eat s’mores.  I’m just waiting for this character to die.”
“Die?”  “Who’s dying?”  “How are they going to die?”

I gave a “cleaned-up” version of the plot, went back to reading, and was amused every time one of my children asked, “Is she dead yet?”

I finished Madame Bovary the next morning as the sunshine poured through the windows of our rustic cabin and my exhausted family continued sleeping.  Upon waking, the first thing they wanted to know was, “Is she dead?”

“Yep.  and her husband died too.”


Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Keep Off the Grass

sta viator amabilem conjugem calcus – stop traveler, you are treading on an adored wife

Classical Usage:  In Part Three Chapter XI Charles picks Emma’s tombstone, but for some reason allows Homais to select the inscription.  At first he can only think of the “Stop, traveler” line, one that was apparently a common epitaph, and then the completion of the thought comes to him.  There was no question that Emma was adored, and adored, and adored . . .

Classically Mad Usage:  Do not, I repeat, do not put this on my headstone, Jerry.

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Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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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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No, thank you, I’m still full from 1984.

surfeit –  v.  to no longer desire something because it has been consumed to an excess

Classical Usage:  By Part Three Chapter VI Emma has had enough of Léon, and vice versa.  She was as surfeited with him as he was tired of her.  Adultery, Emma was discovering, could be as banal as marriage.

Classically Mad Usage:  One Christmas Eve day when I was nine or ten I gorged on those little oyster crackers covered in oil and ranch dressing seasoning.  They are surfeited for life.

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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Did you ever feel this way?

Do you ever feel tongue-tied?  Ever wish you could pull out just the right words to issue comfort when needed, a laugh when warranted, or a snappy comeback when someone puts you on the spot?   I often have this problem.  Word often seem to get stuck in my head, rattling around in there.  Often time, thought and putting pen to paper may help me in these situations, but how often I’ve wished for better immediate command of words.   And when someone actually DOES give you the right words in a situation, it is truly golden.  Proverbs says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”   So true.

So, tell me I’m not alone in this…right?  Someone out there feels this way too?

Perhaps this is why I LOVED this quote from Madame Bovary.   It just rang so true.   I read it first on my Kindle, then checked my print edition and liked that translation even more.   Maybe some of your translations would say it even better.    I’d love to hear them.

This is from Part II, Chapter 12. It’s actually talking about how Rodolphe doesn’t really listen much to Emma’s flattery because he’s heard it all before from other lips.   He discounts her flowery speeches as exaggerations and empty metaphors.   Here’s the part I liked from the Kindle (free) version:   “…no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer our tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars.”

Here is a translation by Lowell Bair (Bantam Classics edition):  “no one can ever express the exact measure of his needs, his conceptions or his sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked pot on which we beat out rhythms for bears to dance to when we are striving to make music that will wring tears from the stars.”  Much better translation, in my opinion.  I’d love to make music with my words that would cause the stars to weep, but mostly, I’m just directing the bear dancing.  Sigh.

I think this may be the quote I may commit to memory from Bovary…


Posted by on July 8, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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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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The Grass is Always Greener

How true that saying is for Emma!  One would think that a doting husband, comfortable home, many amenities and a beautiful little girl would be enough, but NO.   Emma wants a more handsome husband, better clothes, and adventure.   Time and time again Emma shows us that whatever she has is just not good enough, and as a result, she gets deeper and deeper into her quagmire of deceit and debt.

What really made me slap my head in disbelief, however, was when Emma spent most of Part II, Chapter 10 musing about how perfect things had been when she was single, living with her father.   How perfect the summer evenings were.  The galloping colts were so idyllic.   The bumblebees “struck against her window like rebounding balls of gold.”   “What happiness there had been at that time, what freedom, what hope!”

Emma – you are crazy!  You weren’t happy then, you aren’t happy now, and golly, I’m guessing you won’t be happy in Part III.   Don’t you just want to tell her to “stop and smell the roses?!”



Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Madame Bovary



That Draper Dude

Let’s talk about Lheureux, Monsieur Lheureux, the draper.

First of all, a draper is “a retail merchant who sells clothing and dry goods”.

Madam Bovary’s draper seems to be a high-end draper.  He deals in expensive items, or maybe he sees greed and unhappiness written all over Emma and plays into her discontent.

Lheureux always knows exactly what Emma will be needing even before she knows it herself.

I can’t imagine if a Target employee stopped by my house with a cart full of delightful goodies, pushed it into my hands, and then said that the store were going to do some creative financing so that I wouldn’t have to pay for my new purchases until much, much later.  Tempting.

So Lheureux has his finger on the pulse of Emma’s material greed, but he’s not just a merchant.  Madame Bovary’s draper seems to have some side businesses as well: money lending and potential blackmailing.  He knows more about Emma than a businessman should, but at the same time, Emma’s not exactly discreet.

As I read, I kept feeling like I should know the word “L’heureux” from high school French years ago.  My memory failed me on the meaning of the word, so I looked it up.

heureux: felicitous, fortunate, glad, happy, pleased, lucky, good, excellent


Like I do most other door-to-door salespeople, I believe I’d ignore Lheureux’s knock.

What were your impressions of the draper?


Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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