How have conventional values been challenged in Madame Bovary?

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

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I think that one conventional value that has been challenged through Flaubert's work is the idea that there can be totality or a sense of transcendent simplicity in consciousness.  Emma proves herself as does Charles to be characters that must recognize the intrinsic pain that exists in being in the world.  Both of them cling to dreams and cling to hopes of transcendent happiness.  They both follow in earnest the plans of what individuals are "supposed" to do.  In this, the novel brings out a rather strong rebuke of what is accepted as tradition or conformity.  These traditional pursuits are revealed to possess a potential for failure and how the individual appropriates this becomes a part of both characters' compositions.  I think that another conventional value that is strongly questioned, if not outright challenged, is the value of love.  Emma's notion of love has been structured through her understanding of romance novels and ideals that are not steeped in reality.  It is because of this that she constantly finds a level of unhappiness in love and in her relationships, for she always expects them to be something else.  In this, Flaubert challenges the conventional and traditional notion of love, suggesting that what individuals are led to believe in terms of love actually sets them up for failure within it.


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