In Madame Bovary, examine the motives behind the actions Emma took in the narrative. 

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

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Emma's motivations lie at the most compelling elements of her characterization.  Flaubert desired to construct a work of absolute realism.  In the process, he is able to bring out a character that is fundamentally unhappy with her sense of being in the world.  It is this dissatisfaction with what is that compels her to constantly to strive for what can be, only to find out that it can never materialize in accordance to her own subjectivity.  For Emma, her desire to escape the boredom of life on the farm is why she agrees to marry Charles.  Her motives are simply to escape.  This will be paralleled in her dissatisfaction with marriage to Charles, causing her to embrace materialism as a way out of this condition.  When this proves to be shallow, Emma flees into the world of romance.  In the end, Emma's motivations are representative of a restlessness in where she is and an incapacity to accept the limitations of her being in the world.  As the narrator, Flaubert describes these motivations as being crushed by the weight of her dreams, as Emma deconstructs "every pleasure by wishing it to be too intense.”  The emptiness that results, what is called "a universal numbness," is the only legacy that Emma leaves behind.

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