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11. Madame Bovary is structured around Emma's attempts at self-fulfillment through romantic attachments. Each of the book's three parts centers around a romantic hope and a disillusionment. You can start out by comparing how she felt before and after her marriage to Charles. Discuss her illness after the ball at La Vaubyessard and how that led to the move from Tostes to Yonville. Her relationships with Rodolphe in Part Two and Leon in Part Three follow the same pattern. The need for fulfillment is followed by the illusion that she's found her ideal lover. When her illusions are shattered, she withdraws into herself and becomes ill. After she recovers, the pattern begins again. You can also discuss other repetitive patterns of parallelism and echoing that add to the overall structure of the novel. This would include the comparison of important pairs of scenes like the ball and the country wedding or the clubfoot operation and the opera. You can write about Emma's recurring religious feelings, as well as other repeated situations.
12. Flaubert uses "double action," or counterpoint, as a way of contrasting the values of Romanticism with those of middle-class life. You can begin by citing the conversation between Leon and Emma at the inn on the night when the Bovarys first arrive in Yonville, and by contrasting it with the conversation between Charles and Homais which takes place simultaneously. Discuss the use of "double action" at the agricultural show when Rodolphe attempts to seduce Emma against the backdrop of the award-giving and the speeches. The scene at the opera is also an example of "double action": Emma's thoughts are described in relation to what's happening on the stage. You might develop an argument for the possibility that Emma's affairs are also forms of "double action" set against the stodginess and monotony of her life in Tostes and Yonville with Charles.
13. Flaubert was brought up in a provincial middle-class environment (see the section on The Author's Life and Times). Yet in his youth, he was exposed to Romanticism, and this conflict between romantic ideals and bourgeois values dominates the novel. Nineteenth-century Romanticism was a protest against the ideal that the power of reason was what gave meaning to a person's life. Romanticism emphasized emotions and the imagination, as well as a search for the truth of one's individual being. You can discuss how Flaubert's feelings and portrayal of Emma are a key to his attitudes toward Romanticism. Ask yourself whether Emma, as depicted by Flaubert, is a true romantic. Refer to the fact that Emma gets her ideas of Romanticism from popular novels and that her ideas of life are distorted into an illness whose symptoms mirror the characteristics of fictional heroines. You might also bring up the question of the extent to which Emma belongs to the middle-class world she seems to despise. You can discuss the idea that, in the end, Flaubert saw the evils of both the romantic and middle-class views and chose instead to emphasize the importance of hard work and dedication over ideals. Catherine Leroux, Dr. Lariviere, and Justin are among the few characters whom Flaubert admired. Some think that through Emma's suicide, Flaubert was able to "kill" his own tendency toward Romanticism and realize that what mattered most in life was his devotion to the art of writing.
14. Irony is a device used to express something that has a meaning opposite to what is intended or expected. Discuss how Emma's fantasies about ideal love contrast with the reality of marriage and her affairs with Rodolphe and Leon. Write about Leon's seduction of Emma in the back seat of the carriage in Rouen and how this creates an ironic contrast to Emma's romantic fantasy of traveling or taking a honeymoon. Mention how Charles unwittingly throws Emma into the arms of her lovers, citing, as an example, his suggestion that Emma and Rodolphe go horseback riding together because it would be good for her health. In similar fashion, Charles encourages Emma to stay in Rouen to see the end of the opera and to travel to Rouen to take piano lessons. In both cases, he allows Emma the opportunity to spend time with Leon. Write about the irony of Justin's involvement with Emma's suicide. Discuss the irony of Charles' romantic behavior after Emma's death. Include mention of the ironic contrast between Rodolphe's attempts to seduce Emma and the speeches at the agricultural show. And don't forget the biggest irony of all: Emma's dreams of love and beauty end in disgrace and death.