Examine the themes of protests and revolution in Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

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

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Most of what is going to be found in terms of activism in the novel would have be extrapolations of it. Part of this is because Flaubert was committed to a Realist style that prevented him from being able to articulate a condition of what should be as opposed to what is. Flaubert is committed to presenting a depiction of how reality is and this prevents him from articulating a condition of protest and revolution.  The reality is that women and men such as what Flaubert depicts did not openly rebel against the class structure of the time period or the encroachment of rationality.  Rather, they were a party to it, complicit in its growth.  Emma Bovary is a victim to this structure, seeking to compete within it by dreaming about upward mobility within it.  She does not advocate rebellion against it.  Flaubert's depiction of Emma, Charles, and Berthe are ones that show the harsh and cruel nature of reality at the time. It is in this depiction that readers feel the need to change such a structure or view it with skepticism.  When Homais is honored at the end of the novel, it is telling sign that the "rational" though that crushes lives underneath each stride towards the future has to be challenged and has to be questioned.  It is this lesson at the novel's end that might be the best example of the revolution and call for change or protest within it.

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