Explain Félicité's religious beliefs and behavior in A Simple Heart.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Flaubert is deliberate in his construction of Felicite's religious belief and behavior.  It starts off very small in how Felicite learns about religion and Christianity.  She begins learing it with Virginie, innocent as a child in attempting to gain a better understanding of her own spiritual dimensions.  This growth and maturation evolves over the course of the short story.  Once Felicite is introduced to religion and spirituality, it becomes the focus of her life, almost as if she recognizes her past as configured by religion and her future as being guided by it.  Felicite understands more of her religious identity when Virginie dies, through which she uses her religion to maintain a vigil by the body, prepare the body for burial, and to maintain the grave in a respectful and reverential manner.  Felicite's compassion and transcendent sense of love is one guided by her religious identity, almost as if she has surrendered herself to this higher force.  It is in this where Loulou the parrot becomes an embodiment of spirituality in Felicite's own mind, to the point where the stuffed bird gives her peace in transcendence as she dies.  Felicite's religious love and passion is what Flaubert believes is "the answer" for human beings.  Surrounded and immersed in a world full of despair and pain, Flaubert sees religious love such as what Felicite displays as representing the only way in which humans can retort to a cold and cruel world.  It is here where Felicite's belief in religion is shown to be something that represents the best examples of an end to which a human being can aspire, and why Flaubert has developed her character in such a manner.