What is the nature of man and God in Madame Bovary?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Like everything else in Flaubert, there is complexity in this particular question.  Human beings are depicted in a variety of manners in the novel.  I do think that one particular present theme would be the idea that all human beings feel particularly challenged by the weight of their dreams.  Flabuert is not attempting to argue that dreams are useless and should not be envisioned, but rather that this disappointment and challenge is a part of human consciousness.  Emma is a great example of this as her dreams help to animate her spirit and sense of being.  Yet, she is constantly crushed underneath the weight of these dreams.  Charles is much the same way.  In the end, human beings are shown as individuals who strive for the garden and wind up in the desert.  In terms of God, I think that Flaubert is attempting to make a profound statement about the nature of religious worship in a time period where there is much in way of skeptical belief about the power of divinity.  Homais might be a good example here.  Flaubert displays as the only character who enjoys a "redemptive" ending.  This might appear to be good on the surface, but Homais, the pharmacist, comes to represent the horror of rationality, a form of existence that seeks to take away the mystery, wonderment, as well as the unique characteristics that allow us to be able to not take the form of the world around us, but rather transcend it.  Religious worship, spiritual identity, and faith in something larger than human consciousness allows us to do this.  Yet, with Homais' victory against the church and those who stand in the way of "rationality," Flaubert might be saying that a way out of the pain of our dreams and the terror of Homais would be to engage in a sense of religious drive and worship.  This might be the only way to transcend the pain of our own consciousness, and the way to allow our dreams to not condemn us, but rather liberate us.

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