How is analepsis used in Madame Bovary?

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Gustave Flaubert uses analepsis in several places in Madame Bovary. Flashbacks are introduced both from the perspective of the narrator, and as characters’ memories. From the novel’s beginning, the technique of relating prior action at a later chronological point helps the reader gain perspective on the characters’ behavior.

After Charles Bovary is introduced (Part I, Chapter 1) as a student, a flashback provides information about his parents. His father’s neglect—one reason Charles was behind in school—is revealed as connected to misconduct for which he was discharged from the army. His father (also named Charles) had been a medic, anticipating Charles’s future as a doctor as well as his tendency to fail.

Other instances involve Emma, often inserted as her own reflections or daydreams. After her marriage to Charles, she tries to uncover the source of her dissatisfaction (Part I, Chapter 6). A flashback takes the reader to her girlhood and convent education, where the religious life and idle reading of romance novels seemed equally compelling to her. The preference for fantasy led to her disenchantment with religion and abandoning the related lessons. Later, at the ball (Chapter 8), she distractedly recalls her pre-marriage life on her father’s farm, when she conceived her taste for the luxuries she thought she would never have.

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