Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Emma Bovary (boh-vah-REE), a sentimental young woman whose foolishly romantic ideas on life and love cause her to become dissatisfied with her humdrum husband and the circumstances of her married life. Her feelings of disillusionment lead her first into two desperate, hopeless love affairs and then to an agonizing and ugly death from arsenic poisoning. Filled with fiery, indefinite conceptions of love, which she is capable of translating only into gaudy bourgeois displays of materialism, she is unable to reconcile herself to a life of tedium as the wife of a country doctor. In her attempt to escape into a more exciting world of passion and dream, she drifts into shabby, sordid affairs with Rodolphe Bourlanger and Léon Dupuis. The first of these lovers, an older man, dominates the affair; the second, inexperienced and young, is dominated. Because Emma brings to both of these affairs little more than an insubstantial and frantic desire to escape her dull husband and the monotony of her life, the eventual collapse of her romantic dreams, the folly of her passionate surrender to passion and intrigue, and her death, brought on by false, empty pride, are inevitable.
Charles Bovary (shahrl), Emma’s well-meaning but docile and mediocre medical husband. An unimaginative clod without intelligence or insight, he is unable to understand, console, or satisfy the terrible needs of his wife. Every move he makes to become a more important figure in her sight is frustrated by his inadequacy as a lover and a doctor, for he is as much a failure in his practice as he is in his relations with Emma. Her suicide leaves him grief-stricken and financially ruined as the result of her extravagance. Soon after her death, he discovers in the secret drawer of her desk the love letters sent her by Rodolphe and Léon, and he learns of her infidelity for the first time. When he dies, the sum of twelve francs and seventy-five centimes is his only legacy to his small daughter.
Rodolphe Bourlanger (roh-DOHLF bewr-lahn-ZHAY), Emma Bovary’s first lover. A well-to-do bachelor and the owner of the Château La Huchette, he is a shrewd, suave, and brittle man with considerable knowledge of women and a taste for intrigue. Sensing the relationship between Emma and her husband, he makes friends with the Bovarys, sends them gifts of venison and fowls, and invites them to the chateau. On the pretext of concern for Emma’s health, he suggests that they go riding together. He finds Emma so...
(The entire section is 1087 words.)
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