In Gustave Flaubert's "A Simple Heart," Felicite is not a tragic character. What do you feel?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not think that Felicite sees herself as a tragic figure.  That would be too complex for her.  This is not to slight her as a character.  Felicite believes in the capacity to love as an extension of who she is.  In fact, she does not even see it as love as much as simply being her.  It is here where she is not tragic.  No matter what conditions might present, she will be this way.  There is no collision between incommensurate notions of the good that pit her in an unenviable position of choice, nor is there an appropriation of the world in accordance to her own subjectivity that leads to nothingness.  In this sense, she is not Emma Bovary.  Felicite is not tragic because of her authenticity and pure transparency in her ability to love.

Yet, it might be here where we, as the reader, recognizes the tragedy in Felicite. She is not a tragic character in her own mind, but we see the traged in our own lives.  Part of this resides in the fact that we recognize that our own world lacks people like Felicite.  We recognize that just as her social order did not entirely validate her, our social order fails to really validate those who represent values like Felicite.  It is here where we understand the tragic condition is not in Felicite, but rather in ourselves.  We are the tragic ones because we live in a world that does not fully authenticate or validate people like Felicite.  The tragedy is not with Felicite, but with us, in our own lives and our own experiences.  When we see Felicite as a "shelter in the storm" and not being validate, we immediately are reminded about our own pain in consciousness because we live in our own "Pont-l'Évêque," without appreciating enough the Felicites, if any, that are around us.  Flaubert understood the salvation in creating someone that is not tragic, but rather reminds humanity of their own tragic condition.  It is the only way to explain someone who could create a characterization like Emma Bovary and have such a brutally honest way about seeing reality as having an equal belief in the power of Felicite and the ability for human beings to represent something of "consolation" as opposed to "desolation," in the words of Flaubert's friend, George Sand.  It is here where the tragic state of Felicite is actually our own.

On the outside she is a tragic character, on the inside she isnt. The beautiful point of the story is about the power of love, - Felicites is the 'last man standing' in the end, while primarily Bourais is dead and gone!