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Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – Part Two

MBShoes

Welcome to the check-in post for Part Two of Madame Bovary! If you didn’t get a chance to read the check-in for Part One, head on over to Juliana’s post at Cedar Station.

We are reading this book through the month of April and we have made it to the second stop. Below are some discussion questions for your consideration. Please feel free to link-up to your own blog posts using our linky or comment below!


A FEW THOUGHTS (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

Personally, I am fed up with Emma and her selfish behaviour. I think the day she pushed her daughter out of the way because she wanted to be alone and feel sorry for herself was the last straw for me. Reading how Emma continuously goes through these cycles of depression, the mood swings and breakdowns, makes me think she’s the kind of person who will always be unhappy (and is possibly emotionally unstable).

I wasn’t surprised that Emma and Leon didn’t know how to act on their feelings for each other. Leon seemed quite sweet and the kind of guy who would do the right thing, not aggressively pursue a married woman. We’ll see how long that lasts in Part Three …

What did surprise me is that Rodolphe allowed his affair with Emma to last as long as it did and become so domesticated. I imagined him as a love`em and leave `em type of guy. I was mad that Emma obnoxiously flaunted her infidelity to everyone in town, most likely out of her disgust for Charles.

I feel bad for Charles because despite his deficiencies, he is a kind man and loves Emma. Now he has all these financial worries and this botched operation attached to his reputation. He’s got good intentions, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Here are some questions to get the conversation going, but feel free to share any of your thoughts on Part Two or the book in general.

1. First of all, what did you think about Part Two?

2. Some of us wondered why Emma wasn’t more interested in embracing a maternal role. She quickly loses interest in her child when she can’t afford to buy luxurious baby items and faints upon hearing she had a daughter instead of a son. Why do you think Emma prefers to seek happiness in romantic love and not give maternal love a chance?

3. We all seem to agree that Emma’s behaviour is foolish, yet why do we still sympathize with her character?

4. Although Emma becomes careless and the whole town seems to know about her infidelity, Charles seems none the wiser. Even when he finds the note Rodolphe wrote to Emma ending the affair, he believes their relationship is plutonic. Is Charles just fooling himself, is he simply naïve? Can he blamed for Emma’s behaviour?

5. We all seem to  be reading different translations of Madame Bovary and some of us wondered whether we are reading the story together in the same way. Do you think this matters? What translation are you reading?

Et voilà! We’ll have our final check-in for Part Three on April 30th, so don’t forget to check both blogs for the final discussion and wrap-up. Thanks for joining us!

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25 comments on “Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – Part Two

  1. heavenali
    April 20, 2014

    Well I am at read-a-longs so In just read the novel straight through with great enjoyment
    I don’t think Emma is at all maternal her aspirations are for romance and the good things in life. I think Emma is sympathetic because there is no actual malice in her, she is romantically foolish and self deluded. She makes the kind of mistakes so many women before her have made. Charles is a weak man, also deluded in his belief in Emma and their marriage he is partly to blame in one sense but is also a casualty of the people around him, starting with his mother, and ending with Emma and almost everyone else in the town. Charles is naive, unsophisticated and unimaginative, he takes everything at face value.
    I read an old penguin classic translated by Alan Russell.

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    • ebookclassics
      April 20, 2014

      Happy Easter Ali! Yes, I agree that Emma probably doesn’t include motherhood in her idea of the kind of romantic life she would like to live. I have to admit that when I was younger, I also had similar fantasies and feelings, and was so desperate to find “true love”. Possibly it’s the reason why I’m being so hard on her. It just reminds me of my own foolishness.

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  2. Cedar Station
    April 20, 2014

    Happy Easter, CJ! Awesome questions.

    I also lost sympathy with Emma during this section. Between, as you said, her erratic spending, the flaunting of her adultery and especially her complete indifference toward her daughter, I had pretty much given her up. I’m not sure what to make of Charles — it seems unlikely that he could be so naive about his wife’s actions, but who knows? Love is blind.

    The Rudolph thing was all kinds of awkward and desperate and clingy. Whoa, crazy lady.

    I wondered about the translations, too — I was reading the Eleanor Marx Aveling translation, which is one of the oldest versions and admits to changing some of the verb tenses. I’m not sure how much of a difference it made. I think I would have disliked Emma no matter who told me the story!

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    • ebookclassics
      April 20, 2014

      We are reading the same translation! And I didn’t know about the change in verb tenses. I guess we can never know about the translation unless we learn French and can compare. Perhaps some of our participants who are reading the book in French could chime in here for us. 🙂

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  3. My Book Strings
    April 20, 2014

    Happy Easter! In Part I, I felt mainly sorry for Emma. She grew up with nonsensical notions about life, and the life of a woman was so restricted in the 19th century. In Part II, I lost some of my patience with her. Like others, I did not like her behavior towards her child. But I thought it was telling that a large part of her disappointment came from the fact that her child was a girl, not the hoped-for boy. I felt a bit sorry for her when it became clear how easy it would be for Rodolphe to seduce her. He had her figured out so quickly…. Charles is a little to blame because he makes so little effort to get to know his wife, but in the end, it was Emma who decided to cheat on him. My review of Part II is here: http://mybookstrings.com/2014/04/20/bovary-part-ii/.
    Oh, and I am reading a free ebook on my Kindle. I am convinced that a translation can make or break a book, but I am pretty happy with my edition.

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    • ebookclassics
      April 21, 2014

      Until you mentioned it, I didn’t really think about how Charles probably doesn’t really understand Emma. He has put her on a pedestal and admires her from a distance. He enjoys watching her almost like she’s an object he has collected. Creepy!

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  4. Naomi
    April 21, 2014

    My post will go up today, hopefully soon! I have to say that I don’t like Emma very much, but I do have sympathy for her. I can’t help but wonder how she would have been; first, if she had been older and a little more experienced; and second, if she had been living in this century, and had had all the help she needed with her depression. I find it hard to judge her too harshly when it is obvious that she is ill. I have never had depression, but know people who have, and it can truly make a difference in how you see the world, and how you think the world sees you.

    I feel sorry for Charles. He’s not perfect, and no, he probably doesn’t try very hard to get to know Emma well, but I don’t think she would make it very easy to get to know. She is one catastrophe after another. He seems to have endless patience for her and is always on his wife’s side, making excuses for her.

    Mostly, I worry for her daughter.

    C.J., I was also surprised by the length of Emma’s affair with Rodolphe. I guess it gave her time to get attached and clingy.

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    • ebookclassics
      April 21, 2014

      I thought quite a bit about Emma’s depression too and how deeply it affected her to the point where she could not function or interact with the world. I didn’t put it in my comments because I wasn’t exactly sure of how I felt, but I think Emma was very sick and needed an intervention. I agree with you that if she had lived during our times people would have been urging her to seek professional help.

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  5. Cecilia
    April 21, 2014

    I haven’t finished Part 2 yet 😦 but I’m quite fascinated with the whole issue of Emma’s lack of maternal inclinations. I think that romantic love is simply easier, and more self-serving; maternal love is also self-serving but for women who are ready for the huge sacrifices that come along with motherhood. It sounds like Emma has not grown out of being a child and so developmentally she can’t even be at the point where she can give herself to another human being. She is still all about serving herself. I also wonder how the loss of her own mother at an early age impacted her lack of ability to be a mother. Perhaps her premature loss has kept her childlike in her needs? It’s a little eerie, but there is a Madame Bovary in my life, with the same kind of trajectory…early loss of mother, early marriage, desire for a bigger life, disappointment in child’s gender, rejection of child…I’ve been analyzing this person for years and now it’s coming in handy for this book…;-)

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    • ebookclassics
      April 21, 2014

      Very interesting points. I never thought about how Emma would have been impacted not having a maternal figure in her life or the idea that she has not grown up herself. She really doesn’t seem capable of thinking of anyone else’s needs except her own.

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  6. Pingback: ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert Read Along: Part II | Yasmine Rose's Book Blog

  7. yasmine rose
    April 22, 2014

    Great questions! I’m so sorry my post is late, I had no internet over the Easter weekend! Here are my responses to your questions on part II:
    http://ymulholland.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/madame-bovary-by-gustave-flaubert-read-along-part-ii/

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    • ebookclassics
      April 22, 2014

      It’s never too late to comment or post! Heading over to your blog …

      Like

  8. jerikavonalexandra
    April 22, 2014

    I am fed up with Emma and her selfish behaviour.

    If Part II can be summarized into one sentence, that would be it. I’m working on my post. 🙂

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    • ebookclassics
      April 24, 2014

      Ha ha, could possibly summarize the whole book? 🙂

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      • jerikavonalexandra
        April 25, 2014

        That too. 😀

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  9. Helen
    April 23, 2014

    Sorry for coming so late to this discussion! Anyway, I really enjoyed Part 2. I thought it was sad that Emma showed so little interest in her daughter and it does seem that the role of motherhood just wasn’t part of the exciting, romantic life she had dreamed of for herself.

    I think it’s possible to have sympathy for Emma because although she is being silly and selfish I don’t think she is necessarily a bad person – just one who is misguided and foolish. It’s hard not to feel sorry for a character who is making so many big mistakes with her life. It’s obvious from the beginning that Rodolphe is the one in control of their relationship and that it won’t end happily for Emma. However, my sympathy is with Charles more than with Emma. I do think he could have made more effort to understand Emma and talk to her about her feelings, but I don’t really blame him for her behaviour.

    I am reading a Penguin version with a translation by Alan Russell. I’m not having any problems with the translation but as it’s the first time I’ve read this book I don’t know whether I might have liked another translation more.

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    • ebookclassics
      April 24, 2014

      No need to apologize, so happy you could join the discussion! We all seem to agree that Emma is a bit of a drama queen and quite negative about everything in her life, whether that is a result of depression or just her personality. I think I said this on another blog, but I wish she would try to make peace with her life. She’s a passionate woman and she could pass some of her passion and intelligence onto her daughter if she wanted to try and do something positive. Be a role model and help Berthe break free of some of the restrictions that Emma is so angry about.

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  10. lauratfrey
    April 26, 2014

    Still working through, but, as someone who struggled with motherhood and still feels ambivalent about it at times, I am able to sympathize with Emma. I also think the way Emma was raised and the prevailing childcare practises had something to do with it – you remember how the baby is “nursed out?” I’m just learning that this was a thing (it’s in Frog Music too) where a baby lives away from it’s mother and is nursed by a wet nurse… some situations like Emma’s where it’s a neighbour, and some like in Frog Music where it’s basically an orphanage, the babies are all stuck together in a room… either way, how the heck is a mom supposed to form an attachment to her child when they aren’t together for the first months? It’s interesting because it’s so different from modern attitudes (though, doesn’t that book Bringing up Bebe have some kind of anti-attachment parenting angle to it…)

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    • ebookclassics
      April 26, 2014

      Hmm, I wondered about all that wet nurse business. The orphanage in Frog Music sounds horrible. I think I would cry and fall apart if I saw that today. I guess we’re probably all judging Emma’s parenting based on our modern ideas of motherhood. You don’t hear any of the other characters taking her aside and saying please spend more time with your child. Not even Charles thinks there’s anything wrong with her lack of attention.

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  11. thetruebookaddict
    April 26, 2014

    I’m really late! I just finished this part. I’m listening to it on audio so I’m not sure which translation it is.

    I too am frustrated with Emma and yet I do have some sympathy for her. When Charles met her at her father’s home, she seemed content with her domestic duties, but at that point in the novel, we were hearing about things from Charles’ point of view. So we really don’t know if she was content. Perhaps she saw the chance to marry a doctor and thought her life would be glamorous. I think she is just very easily disillusioned. This trait doesn’t serve her well with her affair with Rudolph, as she is easily taken in by his charms…to her detriment. One thing I simply cannot tolerate about Emma is her treatment of her child. Despicable!

    I hope I can finish reading (listening) by the 30th!

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      April 26, 2014

      No worries if you don’t finish exactly on the 30th. I’m juggling a couple of books, so I’ll probably just squeak in myself. Is your audiobook narrator male or female? Curious to know! I agree that Emma probably saw her chance to marry a doctor and assumed her dreams would come true if she became his wife. I agree that Emma is very easily disillusioned and fails to recognize that she needs to grow up.

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      • thetruebookaddict
        April 26, 2014

        The narrator is male and very French sounding. His narration adds wonderfully to the atmosphere of the book.

        Yeah, Emma. Take off those rose-colored glasses. 😉

        Have a great weekend!

        Like

        • ebookclassics
          April 26, 2014

          Ooh, that narrator sounds perfect! I think a woman’s voice would be too high-pitched for this story, if that makes any sense. Hope you have a wonderful weekend too and chat soon!

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  12. Pingback: ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert Read Along: Part II | Yasmine Rose Reads Books

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