What is Emma's psychological problem?

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Emma is bored and dissatisfied with her life. She finds her husband uninspiring, doesn't take to motherhood, and feels buried alive in a provincial French village. She has a comfortable, ordinary life that many would be satisfied with, but she is discontented.

The root of her problem is the novels she reads. She wants to be part of the richer, more exciting, and passionate world she encounters there. Like the famous character of a much earlier novel Don Quixote, she wants her world to conform to the world of fiction, and she tries to refashion herself as the heroine of one of her novels.

This leads her to embark on disastrous affairs, first with Rodolphe and then with Leon. To get the extravagant life she wants and thinks she deserves, she goes deeply into debt, then kills herself as an escape. Her husband dies soon after, and her young daughter Berthe ends up having to become a child laborer in a cotton mill.

Emma wants to remake reality to fit an idealized dream world that arises from the novels she reads. Her problem is her inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. On a deeper level, we could indict the society that formed her to have these useless desires and a lack of outlets for women in her time period.

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