Theme is one of the most important issues in a literary composition that conveys some universal ideas and truth. Here in the novel titled “Madame Bovary”, written by a French novelist, Gustave Flaubert, there are several dominating themes. The themes, the inadequacy of expression, the powerlessness of women, the disease of romanticism and the failure of Bourgeoisies, are recurring. They have been elucidated one by one below.
In “Madame Bovary” Gustave Flaubert shows how language is often an inadequate medium for expressing emotions and ideas. The characters’ frequent inability to communicate with one another is emblematic of the fact that words do not perfectly describe what they signify. For example, in chapter one Charles’ teacher thinks that he says his name ‘Charbovari’. Again the inadequacy is expressed through Emma repeatedly in the novel. For example, when she tries to express her love to Rodolphe or when she wants her distress known to the priest.
Emma Bovary always hopes for a baby boy as ‘a woman is always hampered’. Throughout “Madame Bovary” Emma’s male companions possess the power to change her life for better or worse – a power she herself lacks. Even Charles contributes to Emma’s powerlessness. His laziness prevents him from becoming a good doctor and his incompetence prevents him from advancing into a higher social class that might satisfy Emma’s yearnings. As a result, Emma is stuck in a country town without much money and fantasy. Again Rodolphe possesses the financial power to take Emma away from her life with Charles but Emma, as a woman, is incapable of fleeing on her own. When Leon Dupuis being discontent, moved to a city, Emma is shackled to a husband or a child.
Flaubert in the novel shows that Emma’s disappointments are the result of the failure of French Bourgeoisies society and she aspires to have the taste more refined and sophisticated than that of her class. This frustration reflects a rising social and historical trend of the last half of the 19th Century. The time when Flaubert wrote this novel, the word ‘Bourgeoisies’ referred to the middle class, people who lacked independent wealth and ancestry of the novelty but whose professions did not require them to perform physical labor to earn their living. Their tastes were characterized as gaudily materialistic. For example, in the pharmacist Homais’ long-winded, know-it-all speeches shows the Bourgeoisies classes’ pretension to knowledge and learning and its failure of the new ideals that this class does not completely understand.
In the novel, Emma is the result of reading romantic novels that she has found at the convent. These books have reflected the more exuberant aspects of Romanticism, a literary and artistic movement that focused on the expression of an individual. Emma fixes herself on the typical ideas of romantic novels and creates an illusory world of her own but as fantasy is rarely like reality she creates chaos all around her. She actually becomes physically ill after each of her romantic episodes in her life. In this sense, romantic ideas are depicted as a disease by the author. When Neon departs from her sensing the impossibility of his marriage with her, she becomes physically and psychologically unwell.
In conclusion, it is apparent in the analysis that the middle class people are beset with a number of crises that have been illuminated accomplishedly by Flaubert in the excellent novel “Madame Bovary” through the aforesaid recurring themes.