Madame Bovary's Entire Experience Term Paper

Pages: 14 (4594 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 17  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

Everything is repeated, but in a different context or in a different way." This is not a moral transgression, but rather a breaking away from the style fully in place during this literary period. "To say that The Awakening is not about sex exclusively, or even primarily, is not to say that sex is unimportant..." (148) Biggs asserts. And yet, "The full range of the senses, the full gender-transcending range of personal possibility, and the full range of means of sexual expression..." were very clearly understood by the author, and are "intermingled in her fiction" (148), according to Biggs' analysis.

What Biggs meant in her line alluding to the "gender-transcending range of personal possibility..." is that she believes both Edna and Robert may be gay. That would certainly be a transgression in the conservative social world at that time, and would also represent a transformation from the typical lovers (infidelity-splashed lovers at that) one would read about in a novel. To bolster her theme - and in doing so, Biggs bolsters Bender's assertion that Chopin "resisted corollaries concerning the female's passive and modest role in sexual relations and the male's physical and mental superiority" (487) - Biggs (156) says readers "never see [Edna and Robert] actually kissing or embracing..."

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The closest Robert comes to making an advance is when he twice rests his head on Edna's arm while she paints" (156) Biggs theorizes. And as to Edna's apparent dearth of sensual or feminine charms, Biggs brings several phrases into focus: Edna is "almost devoid of coquetry" (23); Edna's face is "handsome" but never depicted as "pretty," (which both Madames Ratignolle and Lebrun are portrayed as); Edna's body is described as "strong," "firm," and "different" - but never "soft" or "lovely"; Edna "understands horseracing, courts risk, bets high, and wins - even staking her Kentucky Colonel father, who also wins" (23).

Further, Edna paints as a business, not a hobby, which (Biggs 160) "displaces her accustomed wifely work"; she has a "voracious appetite" and "drinks brandy like a man" (26). She eats like an animal at one point in the book (13), "wolfishly 'tearing' a brown loaf of bread with her 'strong, white teeth'."

Term Paper on Madame Bovary's Entire Experience Is Assignment

As for Robert's lack of normal masculine traits, Biggs finds a plethora of instances that leave the reader with the impression that he is an un-inspired suitor. On page 36 of the novel, Biggs writes that Robert "abandons Edna at the very brink of carnal consummation. When she insists that he confess his love, he calls her 'cruel'." Robert says (36) to Edna: " seem to be forcing me into disclosures which can result in nothing; as if you would have me bare a wound for the pleasure of looking at it, without the intention or power of healing it..."

On page 161 of her scholarly investigation into The Awakening, Biggs explains that "In important ways, then, Edna seems more masculine than Robert and he more feminine than she." Chopin, Biggs continues, "uses comparison, and more subtly, the metaphors of autoeroticism and twinning to dramatize their gender transcendence and resemblance, and also the irresistibly magnetic pull of same-sex love." By "twinning" she suggests a kind of androgynous pairing; and on page 7 of the novel, readers get a first glimpse of Edna and Robert: "...the two seated themselves with some appearance of fatigue upon the upper step of the porch, facing each other, each leaning against a supporting post." "Twins are not lovers," Biggs continues on page 162 of the Women's Studies piece, "yet like lovers, they cannot imagine surviving alone."

Though Biggs' theories can't be proved - only advanced and speculated upon - if indeed Edna and Robert are "twins" in the sense that they each literarily appear to repudiate gender stereotypes, then Bender's contention that Chopin shows "ambivalence toward the idea of sexual selection" (487) and hence Bender's spin on her rejection of key passages in Darwin's The Descent of Man makes sense.

Chopin's infatuation with Walt Whitman's Song of Myself comes into play in the novel, too, according to Bender's analysis. Edna is twenty-eight years old at the outset of the novel, and, Bender writes (490), "...was ready to become a woman like the one Chopin knew in Whitman's Song of Myself." The number twenty-eight appears in Whitman's poem (section 11): "Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome' end in the vision of her bathing with twenty-eight young men." And likewise, in the Chopin novel, in Edna's twenty-eighth year, she will, Bender continues (490) "discover the watery, erotic innocence that Whitman had dreamt for his women."

Edna, in fact, on August 28th, will experience "the first-felt throbbings of desire" and will soon be ready to love "young men" to allow her hand to "descend tremblingly from their temples and ribs..." (Whitman's section 11), following her midnight swim with Robert (in Chapter 10).

Another Whitman connection in Chopin's novel, Bender explains (491): "In tracing the story of Edna's development from her twenty-eighth to her twenty-ninth year, Chopin begins where she must - 'by the shore', as Whitman did in section 11 of Song of Myself."

As for the capacity critics have to read the pivotal meanings and symbols of other important works into novels such as The Awakening, Biggs writes, poignantly: "What is not stated but only implied is more important, overall, than what is told directly."

Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary - Viewpoints and Critical Positions

Elisabeth Bronfen asserts that Emma Bovary "writes herself out of existence" and becomes, in fact, not herself anymore but rather "the romantic heroines that she has been so possessed by in her reading"(411). That having been said, a reader can immediately see how transformation plays into this novel, as Emma apparently transforms herself from her own real world into the world of stories and characters.

Meantime, as brilliant as she is in conveying her understanding of the novel, the sometimes esoteric Bronfen has a tendency to create some confusion in the mind of the average student looking into analyses of Emma, when she writes sentences such as the following: "The conjunction of death with the image resides in the fact not only that death is the radical opposite of the stability and wholeness an image evokes but that the image itself produces an ambiguous division in its spectator and is itself also the location of death."

That aside, Bronfen makes it perfectly clear (412) that "From the very beginning," Emma's imagination "connects unfulfilled romantic desires with death." She is not happy in her marriage, because the desires in her, and the expectations, which were produced by her submerging herself in the act of reading romantic literature, are not fulfilled. In Part I, Chapter V, Emma is upstairs in the house she and Charles would share, and sees a bouquet of orange blossoms, "tied with white satin ribbons" in a bottle - a bouquet apparently used by Charles' first bride. "Charles noticed it; he took it and carried it up to the attic, while Emma seated in an armchair...thought of her bridal flowers packed up in a bandbox, and wondered, dreaming, what would be done with them if she were to die."

That passage - juxtaposing wedding-related images with death - helps Bronfen make her point about the connection of "romance" with "death." It also conveys a point (however subtly) that it was perhaps a transgression to leave bridal flowers from a previous marriage out so that one's new bride could see them and be perhaps hurt a little by their presence. And was it a foreshadowing that perhaps, just perhaps, since her own bridal flowers were out of sight, would her marriage too be soon put in "a bandbox" and shipped off to oblivion?

Signs of her unhappiness (due in large part by her living in a literary dream world?) are abundant in Part I, Chapter IX. She (80) was upset that Charles "had no ambition," and when he kissed her forehead "with a tear in his eyes," she was "angered with shame" and "felt a wild desire to strike him." He disgusted her (80) by cleaning "his teeth with his tongue" and when drinking soup "he made a gurgling noise with every spoonful." He was becoming obese, and thus "the puffed-out cheeks seemed to push the eyes, always small, up to the temples."

She tried to tell him exciting passages from stories she had read that day (81), since he "was something" (and the logs in the fireplace which would listen to her anecdotes were inanimate, and not "something") but she didn't get much response. She dreamed of seeing a "white sail in the mists of the horizon," and though she didn't know if it would be "laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes," nevertheless, every morning "she hoped it would come that day..."

So here we have an unhappy wife, living in a fantasy world, "saddened" at sunset because her mythical ship did not come in and sweep her away, longing… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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