Gustave Flaubert

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Describe Flaubert's style as a novelist.

Flaubert's style as a novelist is simple, stripped-down, and bereft of all unnecessary ornament and emotion. This is in service of an uncompromising realism that the author believed to be the best way of getting at the truth.

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As the great French novelist Gustave Flaubert freely confessed, the process of writing was a tedious, painstaking affair. Words didn't gush out of him as they did other writers. Instead, they only came to him after long, hard hours of work and revision.

And those words had to be the...

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As the great French novelist Gustave Flaubert freely confessed, the process of writing was a tedious, painstaking affair. Words didn't gush out of him as they did other writers. Instead, they only came to him after long, hard hours of work and revision.

And those words had to be the right words. Flaubert was forever looking for le mot juste, the right word that always needed to be put in the right place. This was the main foundation of his written style, which prized truthfulness over ornamentation.

As a realist, Flaubert was always striving to get at what he saw as the truth of the matter in the world around him. To this end, he utilized a pared-down, simple prose that did away with all excesses of emotion and ornament. In keeping with his firm belief in le mot juste, Flaubert wrote mainly in short sentences, all the better for them to stick in the memory.

One of the most famous of these is the very last line in Madame Bovary, Flaubert's undisputed masterpiece. Not long after Emma's tragic death, the shameless social-climber Monsieur Homais receives a reward for all his relentless boot-licking.

A lesser writer, one more enamored with ornamentation, would've gone into elaborate detail, using dozens of words where only a few would do. But not Flaubert. In his characteristically crisp, economic style, he simply says of Monsieur Homais that

He has just received the cross of the Legion of Honor.

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