Madame Bovary Theme of Love and Romance

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Madame Bovary: Theme of Love and Romance


Madame Bovary depicts love and romance in a different perspective from the moralists’ angle that would instead present the pair as pleasant social tools creating cohesion and unity in the family and the community. Perhaps the most logical criticism gains ground for the presentation of love within the family set up as an insignificant force that easily loses the battle to division, withdrawal and loss of direction. Painting romance as an attractive force disguised in an appealing package to destroy the family cannot only go unmentioned but form the fundamental theme of mistrust and infidelity within the family. The tone used by the author has come under intense criticism due to the openness and plain expression of extremes of love and passion in a way that moralists easily find offensive and obscene.

Love between parents and sons is however illustrated as a cause of concern for the contemporary parent who pays little attention to the development of the child due to the intense pressure experienced from outside the family. Keen interest for the parents enables the enumeration of the importance that love plays in molding children and sustaining the family as a moral building unit of the society that cannot be replaced by the best of training offered to the children. In the end, the tragic conclusion of the romantic story only achieves the best ever irony that opposing forces as good and evil can present as represented by a painful death as opposed to a life full of loving happiness (Byatt, para.3).

Love and Romance in the Novel

The novel rotates around the main characters of a family composed of the Bovary(ies), Dr. Bovary (father), Emma Bovary (mother) and Charles Bovary (son) joined early in the plot by Monsieur and Madame Homaise as well as later by Leon Dupuis, Rodolphe Boulanger and Monsieur Lheureux. The presentation of the young Bovary family in the beginning of the novel presents a naïve son arriving newly at school at a tender age within a backdrop of a father figure struggling with managing the meager family resources. Despite being a former army surgeon, the father is represented as an insensitive family man for having been unable to improve the living status of his family, partly due to the fact that they reside on a small farm and partly due to the fact that the son enrolls in a village school. Love for the family from a man with a relatively better financial background is remotely presented as everyone would imagine such a family to be living in a better environment and the children attending better schooling facilities (Flaubert, para.1). Such suspicion is confirmed in the mother-son conspiracy to black out the father from irresponsible behavior and episodes that the son experiences. As an illustration, Charles’ failure at the medical school goes unreported to the father but the mother’s input to save him from his laziness is projected even in arranging for a practice chance at village facility in Tostes.

In dealing with love and romance theme in a novel, Madame Bovary is a perfect representation of the way the (three main) women in the family handle love and romance issues to their advantage and most certainly to the downfall of the family and that of their own. The first Madame Bovary is Charles’ mother whose love for son gets blown out of proportion resulting to a spoilt son who, although looks presentable and sensible in many aspects, terribly fails where men of his age are supposed to clearly stand out. As a mother and a family woman, it is expected that a balance of love between the husband and sons would eventually lead to a happy family but she fails to bring up a good family due to her biased attention to self love and that of the son. Her family is depicted as a cold union which only presents a chain of disasters to the larger community than it would have been if she applied love to bond the family together in love related virtues. She takes over the role of parenting and her poor performance leads to frustrations of their only son in his encounters with romantic mismatches.

The second Madame Bovary is Heloise Dubuc whose tough stance on her husband only contributes to a difficult life for Charles as he comes to terms with a controlled life at the hands of his first young wife and the mother. Women are illustrated as controlling figures in various aspects as far as motherly love and romantic love is concerned before young men’s freedoms. Though short live, the romantic relationship presents a fair share of frustration of the young man’s life as he progresses to discovery of his love life and career. The third and most dominant Madame Bovary in the novel is Emma, an idealist, dreamer and perfectionist woman trapped in her confused perceptions of a romantic life from her marriage with Charles in his second marriage after the death of Heloise (Middletown, para.3). Her complete disorientation with the appropriate approach to love and romance results to further tribulations in her husband’s life through terrible encounters with extremes of experimentation with romance in the unforgiving external world. Minor characters are mainly men who crisscross Madame Bovary’s development of the plot translating to abuse of romance and love that ought to spell success of the family. The disjunction of love and family life is presented in a way that many novelists would love to capture, despite the inevitable moral issues found in the way of the best presentation as critics of the novel rush to point out.

The author depicts the relationship between the father and son obscured by the mother’s undivided attention to assist him come out of his improper bringing up. As a consequence of the imbalanced love relationship in the family, improper upbringing can be isolated in the behavior and attitudes that Charles develops in his school and after-school life. It is clear that the failure in the exam was as a result of a lazy approach to studies, skipping classes as well as improper prioritization of leisure time over study time while at school. A poor social life formation is illustrated after he leaves schools and is incapable of making his own choice of a wife, a role played for him by the mother who recommends Heloise Dubuc. The author depicts the role of the woman in the 19th century as reserved for lowly functions of the society such as finding a husband for sons as illustrated in the novel. Women social status had withdrawn them from other important roles of the society which makes romance as a strong area of their command in men’s lives (, para.4).

Charles’ real encounters with romance and love intrigues begin when he encounters an old man (Rouault) as a fracture patient in the village in his practice as a doctor where he meets his lovely daughter, Emma. Frequenting the patient’s home is partly contributed by his job and partly by the admiration of Emma and he shifts his attention to her until his wife notices and a confrontation ensues (Flaubert and MacKenzie, 20). The author represents the scene as an irresponsible love attribute that Charles adopts early in his life, perhaps due to the upbringing and observation of love life embraced by his parents. It is clear that the romantic passions facing him could be as a result of the factors of his past experiences as well as a poor social life that prevented his complete development and discovery. Charles loses his young wife and finds a reason to pursue Emma where his love and romantic journey kicks off again (Byatt, para.5). The high expectations that Emma had for a married life are met with romance frustrations ranging from loss of her identity to sexual disappointment.

Charles’ second marriage is marked with terrible failure of romance within the union of marriage to such an extent that the perfectionist approach the Emma had to romance could not be explained by the mismatch in their marriage. Romance is depicted as a result of provocation from the media and perfect novel settings which are far from the real life experience, which could be the reason why most young women get frustrated when they begin to come to terms with the reality of normal romantic settings (Culler, 684). Perhaps misfortune in romantic experiences in the contemporary romantic life is fueled by the idealism in attitude and approach with which young women attach their romantic encounters from the surrounding picture of perfection painted by media and fictional romance literature. Seduction by Rodolphe Boulanger is blinding enough to lead Emma to her death during a ride as her desire of a perfect romantic experience takes her life at ransom. Painting romance and passion as strong enough forces to lead the human race to its perish is far from the reality of the theme as illustrated by the author as he coins lethal vagueness of romantic relationship with family breakups and social weakness. Adultery becomes a quick option for a solution for Emma’s unsatisfied romantic urges but ends to be the beginning of the self-destructive urges which never fail to be achieved.

Monsieur Homais and his family are represented as a perfect family union full of love despite the hardship in which the family’s home setting is given in the novel. Madame Homais intense love for her four children and husband is exceptional which enables her to extend the love of neighbors to a relative (Justin) and a boarder (Dupuis). Her lowly life approach assists her to deal with issues in her family and live within her means as opposed to Emma’s lavish life that blows her love life out of proportion.

Dupuis and Rodolphe are painted as romance experts who hold no value to genuine love but lust for women and illegal passion outside marriage. It is clear that the improper romantic conduct as displayed by such characters always ends them in trouble as much as it does to Emma, the main character in the novel. Abuse of love is represented in by severe consequences in form of financial difficulties as well as disorientation in work related engagements. As an illustration of misuse of romance is in the case of Emma’s encounter with Lheureux causing not only his financial downfall but also costing his own life through suicide. Lheureux deals in money lending business which is dangerously illustrated as a target of abuse by irregular romance encounters, almost always causing an end to such business (Flaubert and MacKenzie, 255).

Works Cited

“Madame Bovary: Celebrating Gustave Flaubert’s Famous Work” 26 February 2003, Web. HYPERLINK “” (accessed 5 October 2011)

Byatt, A. S. “Scenes from a Provincial Life” 27 July 2002, Web. HYPERLINK “” (accessed 5 October 2011)

Culler, Jonathan D. “The Realism of Madame Bovary” MLM,(French Issue) 122.4(2007):683-696 DOI 10.1353/mln.2008.0007

Flaubert, Gaustave & MacKenzie, Raymond N. Madame Bovary: provincial lives. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2009. Print

Flaubert, Gustave “Madame Bovary” 2011. Web. HYPERLINK “” (accessed 5 October 2011)

Middletown, Carol “Fiction Review: Reading Madame Bovary” 21 January 2011, Web. HYPERLINK “” (accessed 5 October 2011)

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