Madama Bovary & Anna Karenina

Reading provides an escape for people from the ordinariness

of everyday life. Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, dissatisfied with

their lives pursued their dreams of ecstasy and love through reading.

At the beginning of both novels Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary made

active decisions about their future although these decisions were not

always rational. As their lives started to disintegrate Emma and Anna

sought to live out their dreams and fantasies through reading. Reading

served as morphine allowing them to escape the pain of everyday life,

but reading like morphine closed them off from the rest of the world

preventing them from making rational decisions. It was Anna and Emma's

loss of reasoning and isolation that propelled them toward their


Emma at the beginning of the novel was someone who made

active decisions about what she wanted. She saw herself as the master

of her destiny. Her affair with Rudolphe was made after her decision

to live out her fantasies and escape the ordinariness of her life and

her marriage to Charles. Emma's active decisions though were based

increasingly as the novel progresses on her fantasies. The lechery to

which she falls victim is a product of the debilitating adventures her

mind takes. These adventures are feed by the novels that she reads.

They were filled with love affairs, lovers, mistresses,

persecuted ladies fainting in lonely country houses, postriders killed

at every relay, horses ridden to death on every page, dark forests,

palpitating hearts, vows, sobs, tears and kisses, skiffs in the

moonlight, nightingales in thickets, and gentlemen brave as lions

gentle as lambs, virtuous as none really is, and always ready to

shed floods of tears.(Flaubert 31.)

Emma's already impaired reasoning and disappointing marriage

to Charles caused Emma to withdraw into reading books, she fashioning

herself a life based not in reality but in fantasy.

Anna Karenina at the begging of Tolstoy's novel was a bright

and energetic women. When Tolstoy first introduces us to Anna she

appears as the paragon of virtue, a women in charge of her own


He felt that he had to have another look at her- not because

she was very beautiful not because of her elegance and unassuming

grace which was evident in her whole figure but because their was

something specially sweet and tender in the expression of her lovely

face as she passed him. (Tolstoy 76.)

In the next chapter Anna seems to fulfill expectations Tolstoy

has aroused in the reader when she mends Dolly and Oblonskys marriage.

But Anna like Emma has a defect in her reasoning, she has an inability

to remain content with the ordinariness of her life: her marriage to

Karenin, the social festivities, and housekeeping. Anna longs to live

out the same kind of romantic vision of life that Emma also read and

fantasized about.

Anna read and understood everything, but she found no

pleasure in reading, that is to say in following the reflection in

other people's lives. She was to eager to live herself. When she read

how a heroine of a novel nursed a sick man, she wanted to move about

the sick room with noiseless steps herself. When she read how Lady

Mary rode to hounds and teased her sister-in-law, astonishing everyone

by her daring, she would have liked to do the same. (Tolstoy 114.)

Anna Karenina was a romantic who tried to make her fantasies a

reality. It was for this reason she had an affair with Vronsky. Like

Emma her decisions were driven by impulsiveness and when the

consequences caught up with her latter in the novel she secluded

herself from her friends, Vronsky, and even her children. Anna and

Emma both had character flaws that made them view the world as fantasy

so that when their fantasy crumbled they resorted to creating a new

fantasy by living their lives through the books they read.

Books allowed Emma Bovary to withdraw from her deteriorating

life. They allowed her to pursue her dreams of love, affairs, and

knights; from the wreckage of her marriage with Charles. Emma's,

experience at La Vaubyessard became a source of absurd fantasy for

Emma, and ingrained in her mind that the world that the novel's she

read depicted was with in her reach.

She devoured without skipping a word, every article about

first nights in the theater, horse races and soirees; she was