Top 4 Madame Bovary quotes
“She hoped for a son; he would be strong and dark; she would call him George; and this idea of having a male child was like an expected revenge for all her impotence in the past. A man, at least, is free; he can explore all passions and all countries, overcome obstacles, taste of the most distant pleasures. But a woman is always hampered. Being inert as well as pliable, she has against her the weakness of the flesh and the inequity of the law. Like the veil held to her hat by a ribbon, her will flutters in every breeze; she is always drawn by some desire, restrained by some rule of conduct.”
Emma, Part 2, Chapter III
One of the most famous quotes of the book is because it anticipates a large and significant portion of the feminist perspective of the society that became more commonly understood as the feminist movement gained popularity. Flaubert’s protagonist is a complicated character who provokes both anger and sympathy in the readers. This portion of the book allows the reader to view her with sympathy as they begin to understand the powerlessness that she feels about the course of her own life.
“Emma was just like any other mistress; and the charm of novelty, falling down slowly like a dress, exposed only the eternal monotony of passion, always the same forms and the same language. He did not distinguish, this man of such great expertise, the differences of sentiment beneath the sameness of their expressions. Because he had heard such-like phrases murmured to him from the lips of the licentious or the venal, he hardly believed in hers; you must, he thought, beware of turgid speeches masking commonplace passions; as though the soul’s abundance does not sometimes spill over in the most decrepit metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of their needs, their ideas, their afflictions, and since human speech is like a cracked cauldron on which we knock out tunes for dancing-bears, when we wish to conjure pity from the stars.”
Rodolphe, Part 2, Chapter IX
Language and truth are major themes of the novel as Flaubert explores how language can be manipulated to present a twisted aspect of the truth. Rodolphe has seen the manipulation of language too often and has himself borne the fruit of that manipulation. Therefore, he does not truly accord any value to what people tell him, especially when it comes to grand expressions of emotions. Similarly, Homais is another character who can present a false front of his emotions due to his ability with words.
“And besides, should Rodolphe hesitate to come to her assistance, she would know well enough how one single glance would reawaken their lost love. So she set out towards La Huchette, unaware that she was hastening to offer what had so angered her a while ago, not in the least conscious of her prostitution.”
Emma, Part 3, Chapter VII
In a rather tragically comical sequence in the last section of the book, Emma becomes offended when the lawyer tries to treat her like a prostitute. Yet, she willingly goes to Rodolphe intending to use her sexual power to aid her avoid the consequences of her irresponsible spending.
“Perhaps they loved one another platonically,” he told himself.
Charles, Part 3, Chapter XI
Charles refuses to believe that his wife could have cheated on him, even after her death and coming across Rodolphe’s letter of apology. Through these few words, readers realize that Charles had always loved Emma as deeply as she would have liked, but he never quite was able to demonstrate these emotions to her in any way that she could understand.