In Part One of Madame Bovary we are introduced to Charles Bovary, he starts out his young life being smothered by his mother. His father was a prominent doctor prior to some scandal that forced him to marry a woman with a nice sized dowry to exist upon. When the young Charles is born his mother spoils him, but desires a better life for him, as her marriage is anything but happy by this point. She sends him off to school, he was doing well, not outstanding, but working hard and getting good marks, but this wasn't enough for his parents. They pulled him from school and sent him to study medicine, which made his head spin and so found other things to do instead of study. He had to admit to his mother that he had failed his examinations, they kept this from his father and he worked harder to at least obtain a second-class medical degree, allowing him to practice some medical skills.
Charles' mother races about to find him a wife and somewhere to practice medicine one he passes his second-class exams. She succeeds on both points finding a small town for him to settle in that has just lost its current doctor and finds a much older widow with a descent dowry to marry him. His wife rules the house, as his mother did, which probably explains why he was content to have a new mother in his life. On a call to a neighboring town, he meets a Monsieur Rouault, who has a daughter that catches Charles eye. He makes it a point to continue frequent house calls to enjoy the company of this duo. His wife becomes suspicious, but does not live long, leave Chales as a widow, allowing him some time to court Monsieur Rouault's daughter. Once the proper period of mourning passes the two are married.
Emma, the new Madame Bovary, is in heavenly bliss for a very short time. She quickly realizes this marriage is not what she had dreamed it to be. Too many happy ever after story books for this girl. She envisions life to be as one reads in story books, dreamy eyed and romantic. She has resorted to finding solace in Djali, her greyhound named after the pet goat to Esmerelda in Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris. Charles, meanwhile, is happy and clueless to his wife's discontent.
When they have the pleasure of being invited to Vaubyessard by Marquis d'Andervilliers Emma is delighted. The trip to Vaubyessard was filled with amazement for Emma, she drank in the marble, fine dining and gilted furniture and the dancing, oh what a treat. This appears to be the beginning of the end for Charles and Emma. This taste has left her a bigger desire for her fairy tale life and she now has no desire to live her married life.
Charles is concerned for his wife's well-being, he thinks her melacholony attitude is based purely on her surroundings and that a move will snap her out of the depths of despair and breathe new life into her. He works on finding them a new place to live and the set off to start a new chapter in a district of Neufchâtel. Little does he understand what is really driving her unhappiness. We learn at the end of the section that Emma is expecting.
Charles is a rather simple man, he is happy to plod along in life and let the women around him run his life. While all the Bovary women, mother, wife #1 and wife #2, are happy to take charge and tell him what, when and where.
I feel that his mother's desire was to give him a better life, while wife #1 was not happy if she wasn't busy telling everyone around her how they were wronging her and making her life miserable, think drama queen.
Dated: December 1844
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Emma on the other hand is living in the clouds and read too many romance novels in her time in the covenant. She is young, but I am unsure of her exact age, which likely plays into her fantasizing for things that aren't necessarily realistic in the real world. I get the distinct feeling that pregnancy will not have any change on her outlook on life with Charles and she will continue to fantasize about living another life and hindering her ability to find any good in her current life. As long as she continues to compare the two, always holding the dream as flawless, she will never find any good in what is right in front of her.
Discussion Questions from Cedar Stations Master Post for Part 1
1. If you are reading Madame Bovary for the first time, what are your initial impressions after finishing Part One? What are your feelings, if any, toward the character of Emma Bovary?
This is my first read of Madame Bovary, Part One started out with a rough overview of Charles' childhood and seemed a bit slow and melodramatic. The speed and imagery of the setting picked up after Charles fell in love and married Emma. Emma is a dreamer to her own detriment, her desire to live an exquisite lifestyle outpaces her reality beyond the normal bounds. While dreaming and wishing is part of everyday life and can be healthy to push us she is failing to enjoy any part of her everyday life and has grown to resent everything about it. She can longer appreciate and see the love and desire Charles has for her. I suspect that even if she was plopped into the Viscount or Marquis lifestyle she would quickly grow tired and desire more once again, never finding true happiness.
2. For those of you who are re-reading Madame Bovary, how does your experience reading the book this time compare with your first reading? Is everything as you remembered it?
Not applicable, as this if my first reading.
3. At the start of the novel, it sounds as if one of Charles Bovary’s classmates is acting as narrator, but his voice gradually seems to disappear. Who do you think is telling the story of Charles and Emma Bovary? Why do you think Flaubert chose to write the narration in this way?
Am I back in school? I always despised questions like this.
4. Flaubert wrote that his principal purpose in writing was to convey a sense of a book’s “color” or “tone” Do you think he has accomplished that in these first few chapters? What is your impression of the book’s “tone” so far, and why?
Yes, I think Flaubert has succeeded in giving you a tone for the book in the first few chapters. Emma's feelings shine through to set the tone of the book. You get a clear description of exactly how she feels as opposed to surmising that is how she feels through other verbal clues.
Twitter Users - Don’t forget to use the hashtag #MadameBovary2014 throughout this event to help other participants find your posts and for informal chats about the book.
Please visit the blogs of your fellow read-along participants and say hello. The master post will keep an updated list.
Reading Edition: Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, Translated by Paul de Man, Edited by Margaret Cohen
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. (2005)
Source: Public Library
Format Read: Paperback - ISBN: 978-0-393-97917-6
Genres: Classic, French Literature, Romance
[Notice: Original posting 2014-04-17 at Plethora of Books Blog: http://bookchallenges.weebly.com]
Tags: Read-Alongs; Madame Bovary