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Madame Bovary Summary

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The is a novel of Gustave Flaubert about a marriage that turns into a tragedy.

The story begins with a young boy named Charles Bovary experiencing trouble in school. He goes through much ridicule from the other students. He grows into a young man who is dull and also mediocre. He flunks his exam and narrowly attains a practice as a second- grade doctor. This does not earn him much respect in society. His mother, who is very involved with his life, gets him to marry a widow who eventually dies. Charles receives little money compared to his expectations. He then grows attached to Emma, who was a patient’s daughter. The two get married after Charles eventually gets Emma’s father approval and permission. The ceremony is quite elaborate.

The two relocated to a house in a town called Tostes, where Charles develops another practice. Emma becomes disillusioned by the marriage as it does not meet her expectations in terms of romance. She was a convent girl when she was young and believed that all her problems would end once she got married. Her dissatisfaction is increased after she gets to attend a ball hosted by one of the noblemen. She starts to visualize a wealthier and higher level of life constantly. This leads her to sink into depression and boredom. Her life was too far from the fantasies she constantly had. Emma becomes ill later on. Charles and Emma switch towns after Emma gets pregnant with the hope that the change of society would improve her health.

Charles develops his practice in the town, Yonville. There is a pharmacist named Homais in this town who constantly prides himself in the knowledge of all subjects. They also meet Leon, a young clerk and Emma becomes attracted to him. Leon leaves the town in pursuit of his studies, and this leaves Emma bored. She becomes frustrated and even negates some of the duties she had as a mother and a wife. Charles efforts to please her are unsuccessful as she does not value his commitment and love he had for her.

Emma becomes adulterous in an affair with a landowner by the name Rodolphe. After he leaves her, she becomes very ill. Emma recovers. She runs into Leon while in Ruen and an affair starts between them. She makes frequent travels to see him and in secret while spending her husband’s money. She gets them into so much debt that she keeps secret. The bills become overdue, and the court has her family’s property confiscated. Emma tries to turn to Leon and Rodolphe for aid, but they do not want to help her. She poisons herself after losing hope. Her husband, whom she had destroyed, dies too, leaving the daughter poor and working at a cotton factory.

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