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Writer's Reviews - Madame Bovary: Gustave Flaubert

Updated: 6 hours ago

The critical-literary analyses offered by WriTribe are a thousand words long. Each has been compiled with the intention of providing writers not only with a general introduction to the works presented, but also to reveal the added value inherent in each of them.

1,000 words go far beyond mere criticism or superficial praise; they are intended to point you to one or more secret elements, showing you what narrative techniques are masterfully employed by the author of the work in question.

Written with the unique perspective of an author for authors, reviews aim to point out to you what added value you can glean from twenty literary classics. With this in mind, choosing the reading best suited to your need will prove much easier.


Cover of Madame Bovary by  Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary (1856)

Gustave Flaubert

The work at a glance

Madame Bovary, set in 19th-century France, recounts the life of Emma Bovary, a young woman who is romantic but dissatisfied with her life and desperate to escape the monotony and mediocrity of the existence she leads.

The plot unfolds through a series of key episodes related to Emma, particularly her marriage to Charles Bovary, a provincial doctor, a good but basically boring man, and her slow disillusionment with this union that continues without love and passion. Therefore, Emma, increasingly disappointed, begins to take refuge in novels, dreaming of an adventurous and passionate life.

Not only that, she tries to find happiness by squandering money to satisfy her material desires and begins to have a series of extramarital affairs with several lovers including Rodolphe Boulanger, a charming gentleman who exploits her naiveté and fragility, and Léon Dupuis, a young clerk with whom she gets carried away in romantic fantasies.

Emma's amorous adventures, however, only lead her to further frustration and dissatisfaction, and her lifestyle, squandering of money, and lack of financial responsibility also lead to serious financial problems. The situation becomes increasingly untenable and Emma finds herself trapped in a vortex of despair and depression. Eventually she decides to seek a final escape by attempting suicide but her extreme gesture fails. Thus Emma, unable to face reality, slowly lets herself go, her marriage fails, and she eventually dies accidentally poisoned.


What you can learn from reading this work:

  1. Particular use of language and literary style

  2. Example of realism

  3. Characterization of characters

  4. Strong impact on later literature


Madame Bovary is an important read for writers because it offers inspirational insights regarding literary style, strong characterization of characters, exploration of universal themes, realism and social criticism, and offers an original narrative structure. Flaubert's style and language are celebrated for elegant and impeccable prose, a true example of how to use language that is yes evocative but precise to create vivid and engaging imagery that enriches the text.

The refined style is expressed through a meticulous search for the perfect word; therefore, the celebrated French author's attention to the art of writing has been modeled by many subsequent authors raising the bar for quality and precision in the literary sphere. Not only that, Flaubert employs an innovative and original structure by including in the narrative a series of flashbacks and time jumps that affect the rhythm and tempo of the story and different subjectivities that, from time to time, shift the gaze on the events that occur by changing the point of view.

But it is in the construction of the characters and in the deep psychological analysis that the novel finds its strength, particularly of the protagonist Emma Bovary, a non-heroine heroine whose characteristics so well delineated have made her into the quintessential literary character. Indeed, in it the author sketches her disillusionment, boredom, greed, selfishness and the consequences of wrong choices from time to time, creating a moving and intense portrait with her weaknesses and contradictions.

Madame Bovary, moreover, is considered one of the masterpieces of literary realism, a trend that made its way into Europe in the 19th century in response to the romanticism typical of the time. It is characterized by an accurate and detailed portrayal of reality that is outlined impartially, without idealizations as the Romantics often did, but focusing on everyday and common situations, even recounting their details.

Starting from this perspective Flaubert was able to deliver to later readers and writers an accurate but no less ruthless depiction of the bourgeois society of the time through social criticism as well, elements that allow him to give more depth to the events narrated making them increasingly interesting and believable.



Madame Bovary has had an enormous influence on literature and the development of the modern novel as we understand it today. Considered, as we have seen, one of the masterpieces of the realist movement due to its meticulous attention to detail and its ability to paint an authentic but no less ruthless portrait of the bourgeois society of the time, Madame Bovary had a lasting impact on literature by paving the way for a more objective narrative focused on a truthful description of social and psychological reality even and especially of the characters, especially the protagonist Emma Bovary.

Such a deep and detailed analysis was a true novelty at the time the novel was published because it helped introduce a new way of representing the complexities and contradictions of the human soul in literature.

It should be remembered, however, that when Madame Bovary was published in 1986, it caused a real scandal because of, precisely, the very realistic portrait that the French writer drew in his protagonist Emma: an unfaithful woman dissatisfied with her married life, a faithless and cheating woman, so much so that the novel was even the subject of an obscenity trial.

However, this scandal and the social critique implicit in the novel helped spark discussions about women's role in society and the restrictions imposed on women in the 19th century.

Madame Bovary remains and is nevertheless one of the classics of literature that is still widely read and studied, whose popularity still endures to the present day, involving and enthralling both numerous readers and authors of later eras, such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, thus decreeing its absolute importance and influence in the literary landscape.

The protagonist Emma represented and still represents one of the most important fictional characters ever, thanks to her precise and profound characterization, becoming over time an icon of the way women are told. If the female characters of previous eras, linked more to a romantic and at times stereotypical idea of women, appeared rather flat, lacking momentum and initiative and relegated to a subordinate social role, Madame Bovary (to quote the singer-songwriter Francesco Guccini, who dedicated an entire album to her), Flaubert's non-heroine heroine, appears decidedly more complex and multifaceted because she lives with desires, ambitions and contradictions.

This shift has paved the way for an increasing representation of women within novels also as complex individuals. Complex and therefore immortal.



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