"Madame Bovary", Flaubert’s first published novel, is his greatest and a masterpiece of Universal literature. Emma Bovary has become one of the most famous characters in world literature, and critics continue to debate and interpret her life, which, in its depiction of the conflict between idealism and reality, remains every bit as relevant today as it did when first published.
The centre of the novel is the character Emma Bovary, but the French author Gustave Flaubert also emphasised his social critic towards the life in French provinces in the 19th century. The themes of the novel are marriage and adultery.
By characterising his characters, Flaubert made a new concept called bovarism defined as people’s tendency to consider themselves different than they actually are and believe, like Emma, that they are made for another destiny.
The novel is divided into three parts whose limits are the crisis of the main character.
"Madame Bovary" tells the story of a marriage that ends in tragedy. Charles Bovary, a good-hearted but dull and unambitious doctor with a meagre practice, marries Emma, a beautiful farm girl raised in a convent. Although she anticipates marriage as a life of adventure, she soon finds that her only excitement derives from the flights of fancy she takes while reading sentimental romantic novels. She grows increasingly bored and unhappy with her middle-class existence, and even the birth of their daughter, Berthe, brings Emma little joy.
Grasping for idealised intimacy, Emma begins to act out her romantic fantasies and embarks on an ultimately disastrous love affair with Rodolphe, a local landowner. She makes enthusiastic plans for them to run away together, but Rodolphe has grown tired of her...
Glenda Jackson hits the mark in this superb narration of Flaubert's classic novel. Her reading perfectly captures the restlessness of Emma Bovary, a character perpetually dissatisfied with her solid, steady husband and bourgeois life in provincial 19th-century France. Emma's unrealistic dreams (she yearns for a perfect, romantic love that will sweep her away into perpetual bliss) lead her into one affair after another, and then to financial ruin and suicide. Jackson is especially outstanding in the scene which takes place the night before Emma plans to run off with her lover, Rudolf. To Rudolf, Emma is just one in a long series of conquests, and he gets cold feet at the thought of being permanently responsible for her welfare and that of her child. In a swoony, sighing voice full of noble suffering, Jackson reads his flowery letter of tears and regret, saying he loves her too much to ruin her life and her reputation. Then, without missing a beat, she switches to smug, cynical satisfaction, as Rudolf admires the letter and congratulates himself on his close escape.