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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Flaubert

In some ways Flaubert's two major protagonists - Mme Bovary and Frederic Moreau - have much in common and in other ways they are opposites. First, both are young people from the provinces who believe the only suitable life for people of their ambitions is the "big" city, which I put in quotes bcz for Bovary that's still a provincial capital. Second, each is dissatisfied w his/her station and place - EB believes she should be a great romantic figure and FM believes he should be an aristocratic gentleman. Both betray those closest to them in pursuit of their ideals and both prove destructive, cruel, and careless. Yet their endings are vastly different: Emma does by her own hand leaving family behind in tatters. Frederic abandons his dissolute life and at the end looks back and realizes he has wasted his life and given up any chance at happiness. Which is a worse fate? I would only say that the two dates differ in part because of gender and in part because of class. We cannot really imagine Emma ending her life by traveling (alone) across Europe and then looking back and saying her childhood adventures were the best time of all. She is beset by too many obligations to do so. Nor can we imagine Frederic poisoning himself; men of his class or at least he likes to imagine his class are not prone to histrionics - killing himself by poison would have been the ultimate in déclassé and would have made Sentimental education a trashy romance novel - the sort that Emma would read in fact.

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