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Themes

There are many, many poor decisions made in Madame Bovary. Really, it’s so full of textbook BAD, BAD CHOICES that it could double as a manual of warning signs in a high school health class. We’ve got a whole range of folly here, from financial to emotional. The novel, however, makes no real moral judgments – instead, we just watch objectively as the characters get themselves deeper and deeper into trouble. The implication is that folly is a natural state of the human condition.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. Is folly always a matter of action, or can not acting (like Charles) also be considered foolish?
  2. Is it folly to simply indulge in one’s imagination?
  3. Does Emma ever realize when she makes a foolish decision?
  4. Are all of Flaubert’s characters in this novel fools? Are there any that can avoid this label?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Emma’s greatest folly is her unshakeable belief in her own fantasies.

While Emma’s actions in the novel are often perceived clearly as foolish, the novel does not judge them morally as right or wrong.

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