Sunday, May 21, 2006

Madame Bovary

A few posts back for "Mara and Dann" I mentioned that Madame Bovary makes it to the end of the world and I was sad about that since I think it's a terrible novel, then I realized I shouldn't make that statement since I haven't actually read the book--I believe in as much as one is able, one shouldn't criticize things one has not investigated, within reason. I don't need to see child porn or commit murder to know it's wrong, but in the case of art one should give oneself at least one to five minutes of contemplation before turning it off or shutting the book. So I read Madame Bovary this week. It's a beautifully written novel (well, the translation is--I wasn't brave enough to read it in French, and it would take the next two years). I suspect the original is beautiful as well, full of delicate descriptions of clothing and furnishings (he seemed quite fascinated by hats for instance). I enjoyed the contrast between French novels and British novels of the same period. You wouldn't find women having men to their rooms in Austen or Dickens or Trollope. My fundamental problem with M. Bovary has nothing to do with Flaubert but with the interpretation that has been placed upon the novel today. Flaubert has written a tragedy--a deeply flawed character surrounded by other weak people makes an inevitable descent into tragic action ending in death--think Othello, Lear, Hamlet, Oedipus. Death is the only possible conclusion. She is a warning. What she seems to have become in lit. studies is a feminist heroine. Woman trapped by society in loveless marriage uses the only power she has, her sex, to make herself free. Which might be true if she was pushed into marriage, she isn't, she has every choice she just chooses a dull man. Then looking for romance she finds sex, and when the initial passion dies she blames the lover, never seeing that love takes work. Just as she is mislead by the stories that she reads of happy ever after into thinking that such love is possible in life, so are women of today misled by the mini-series of Bovary (I suspect very few people are actually reading the novel).
I realize within myself that I am misogynistic. I forgive men far more than I forgive women and so I do not forgive M. Bovary. I do feel sorry for her, but she is incapable of feeling anything for the people around her--her husband, her child, even really her lovers because they are just illusions--in fact she likes them less the more they are present and that I cannot forgive. Because of certain events in my own life I cannot and will not believe that "LOVE" excuses everything. We always have minds, clothing does not just melt away, there is always a moment to think of other people. Not that I believe that one should stay in a miserable marriage, but if you are leaving, have the courage to say that you are leaving.
Beyond that, along with my own misogyny I know that I sometimes am like her--never to her extent, but I have spent too much to console myself, I have resented others because they are unable to give me what I am missing, but I believe that these are traits I should be trying to overcome, not worshiping.

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