What are similarities between Michael Henchard in The Mayor of Castlebridge and Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary?  

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main similarity between Michael Henchard and Emma Bovary is their inability to change their tragic flaws. They are also impetuous, driven entirely by emotion, and lacking in common sense. In the end, both characters are severely punished by their own actions which are a consequence of both, their actions and the lack thereof.

Out of the two, Michael Henchard is perhaps the worse in terms of cause and effect. His alcoholism drives him to do the most heinous acts to include the sell of his wife and daughter. His terrible temper makes him sever ties with the people who loved him and whom he loved as well:

Susan, Farfrae, Lucetta, Elizabeth – all had gone from him, one after one, either by his fault or by his misfortune.

Emma Bovary is just as flawed. Her dissatisfaction with her reality leads her to live a fantasy life that is beyond her means, both financially and mentally. She is always in want of something; whether it is love, status, money, or any kind of change that she can think of.

Like Henchard, she lacks any sensitivity toward her family to the point of fainting when she had a daughter instead of a son, and to the point of saying that her child is "ugly". She neglects her daughter Berthe and completely berates and detests her husband. In the end, she kills herself when her debt literally leaves the entire family destitute. She is manipulative of her present, and her future, until the very end of her life.

In all the tragic flaws of both characters are understandable enough, but what is not acceptable is the fact that none of them can change those flaws or, even worse, are not willing to do it.

Read the study guide:
Madame Bovary

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