Madame Bovary


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
downfall.
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
destiny.
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;