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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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Madame Bovary is set in provincial France. The action in the first section (containing nine chapters) occurs in the small town of Tostes. The village, Les Bertaux, is also mentioned, for it is the place where the heroine, Emma, spends her girlhood. After Charles and Emma are married, they make a trip to La Vaubyessard, a chateau. This is in response to an invitation by a certain Marquis. The second section (fifteen chapters) is set almost exclusively in the small town of Yonville, about twenty-four miles from Rouen. The Emma-Rodolphe relationship is also played out in La Huchette, Rodolphe's residence. They meet in the scenic woods on the outskirts of Yonville as well. The last chapter of this section describes the Bovary couple's theater trip in Rouen. The final section moves between Rouen and Yonville. In brief, then, the novel captures life in small towns. It is Emma's boredom with life in the country that makes her rebel. Therefore, the setting plays a major part in the novel.


Major Characters

Emma Bovary

The central figure and protagonist in Madame Bovary. Her life, despite its passions, is tragic. Neither her husband nor her lovers are able to satisfy her needs. Her death by suicide concludes her wasted life.

Charles Bovary

Emma's husband. It is his insensitivity that drives Emma to seek solace elsewhere. Lacking ambition and being dull, he is in no way equipped to deal with Emma's temperament. Otherwise, he is a kind-hearted and trusting soul.

Leon Dupuis

One of Emma's lovers. In a way, he is the first lover, although during their first period of acquaintance, there is nothing adulterous about their relationship. They renew their love much later when Leon is older and more experienced.

Rodolphe Boulanger

A man of the world. He is quick to perceive Emma's boredom and use it to his advantage to become her first real lover.


The chemist at Yonville. He spouts his 'knowledge' at the slightest opportunity. A representative of the rising middle class, he is anti-clergy and seeks to better his status by ingratiating himself to the powerful.


A merchant and a moneylender in Yonville. He is highly important with respect to Emma's character and the overall structure of the novel; it is he who tempts Emma with expensive goods and gradually forces the Bovarys into debt. Lheureux indirectly causes Emma's financial ruin, which contributes to her moral downfall and tragic end.

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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Online Plot Synopsis


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