What did Loulou come to represent for Félicité in "A Simple Heart"?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Felicite has "a simple heart," Flaubert is keen enough to show that love can be complex and can take on different forms.  Loulou represents this as he comes to embody many different elements for Felicite.  On one hand, the fact that Loulou comes from America reminds Felicite of her dearly beloved and departed nephew, who also went to America and died there.  When Madame Aubain gives Loulou to Felicite, he comes to represent another being to which her love can be externalized.  Felicite's fundamental gift is that she has the purest expression of love and while she does not have a husband or children of her own, Felicite's love is a universal one.  Whoever is the recipient of it is one who experiences the purest and most authentic form of love that is both universal at the joy of being in the world and specific to the individual that Felicite loves.  Loulou is the last creature to experience this, as Felicite teaches it phrases, tends to it, and cares for it in much the same way she cared for Madame Aubain's children and anyone else who required her love.  At the same time, the concept of the bird comes to represent much more for Felicite.  The fact that Loulou goes missing is another example of the world in which Felicite lives is one where the experience of love is not permanent, but rather fleeting and transitory.  In this world, love is like a bird that enters the gilded cage of consciousness for what seems to be an instant and then flees.  The fact that Felicite suffers a loss of hearing and becomes sick in her attempts to find the bird also represents how one has to sacrifice greatly in order to maintain the fleeting and transitory nature of a love in a world that does not validate nor support it entirely.  When the bird dies, Felicite's perception of it as representing the holy spirit itself represents her own universality of love, the fact that her love is something that is "other worldly" in how it is transmitted to others.  The embodiment of her spirituality, it is with this image in her mind that Felicite passes into a world where her own nature is more the norm, leaving a world that never was able to fully understand or authenticate her beauty.