Madame Bovary
Gustave Flaubert presents one extreme side of human life many would very much
rather think does not exist. He presents a tale of sensual symbolism within the
life of Charles Bovary. Madame Bovary is the story of Emma Bovary, but within
the scope of symbolic meaning, the make-up of Charles is addressed. It is
representative of deep sadness and a despondent outlook on life whose many
symbols are, at times, as deeply embedded in the story line as a thorn in a
callous heel. The elements making up the very person of Charles Bovary remain
excruciatingly evident, haunting his every move. Symbolic of his yearning for
inner fulfillment, Charles Bovary presents to be a man in search of an unknown
sensual satisfaction. It is no wonder, with the detailed writing the French
government attempted to censor Flaubert when Madame Bovary was published in

1856. Although the vast majority of theorems penned revolve about the life of

Emma, the character of Charles requires examining. In the opening scenes,

Charles Bovary is seen entering a favorite "dive" of escape, an escape from
the realities of life. The cafйs he frequented appear as "dirty public
rooms" (Flaubert 834) housing his passion for the game of dominoes. His
obsession and pleasure from this simple entertainment are exposed as Flaubert
describes Charles entrance into the den of dominoes. "[His esteem] was
beginning to see life, the sweetness of stolen pleasures; and when he entered,
he put his hand on the door handle with a joy almost sensual" (Flaubert 834).

What, other than a profound uneasiness within his personal life, could bring
about so explicit a pleasure from the entering to a dark, dank room? Charles’
life as a student of medicine is one of avoidance. His lack of sincerity and
devotion is shown via the "mother hen" role, which his mother took in
excusing his inadequacies. His insincerity and hypocrisy is indicative of one
with no foresight. He lives now, exists now, and thinks now, not of what is to
come, but of what is now. The author explains how he grew passive toward his
presumed goal: medicine. In the beginning, he would miss one lecture in a day.

Then, the next day, he would miss all lectures. Eventually, because of his inner
thirst for self-satisfaction, he would become idle to the point he would give up
work altogether (Flaubert 834). Charles is a grown man. He is a student of
medicine. Yet, he has his mother making justifications for him. "She excused
him, threw the blame on his failure on the injustice of the examiners, and took
upon herself to set matters straight" (Flaubert 834). Is it no wonder, with a
character flaw such as this maternal control, later in the story adultery and
betrayal would plague his marriage? On the one hand, there is Charles who is
excused and exhaulted by his mother. His father, five years later and on
learning the truth, expresses how he could not believe that one born of him
could be such a fool (Flaubert). Conversely, there is Emma. Emma has her
decision made on her behalf by her father the day of Charles’ last visit
before the engagement. Flaubert represents the affirmative answer to Charles’
alleged proposal by the banging of the shutter as her father turns and walks
toward the house. She is, we can only assume, ready to be the wife of a doctor,
it making no difference his lack of expertise as a physician, not to mention his
lack of masculinity. Charles is a pitiful sight to see. His rebellious nature
toward the attaining of the goal of "physician," as obviously prescribed by
his parents, is directly related to Flaubert’s rebellion toward France in
relation to enforced censorship. The mandatory overseeing of literature, and
limitations thereof, are of prime importance when digesting Madame Bovary. The
many symbolism methods commonly referred to within Madame Bovary are still
obviously there. There is the wedding in the pasture where Emma is forced to
stop to remove litter from her dress. The obstacles of her future happiness lie
beneath her fringe. She is said to stop to raise the hem of her dress, and
carefully, with her gloved hands, to pick off the wild grasses (Flaubert). Her
happiness falls by the wayside. The plaster priest falls and breaks symbolic of

Charles’ future failures in his wonderful world of medicine. Furthermore, this
is directing the reader toward the eventual demise of the marriage.

Nevertheless, it is the continued usage by Flaubert of sexual innuendoes and
expressive words that bring one