Madame Bovary
Madame Bovary
by Gustave Flaubert
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Madame Bovary Theme of Freedom and Confinement

You all know the feeling of being trapped inside your own life. Well, take that to an extreme, and you’ve got Madame Bovary. The novel’s protagonist feels stuck inside an unhappy marriage, a restrictive society, and a monotonous everyday routine, and she’s willing do to almost anything to escape. She dreams of fleeing her old life and finding a new one that’s more exciting and full of exotic possibility. However, every time she tries to change her life, it cycles back somehow into the same old, same old. Can she ever escape? Is escape even possible? The novel isn’t very optimistic on that front.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. Is Emma ever really "free?"
  2. Emma perceives marriage as a prison. Does Flaubert offer any alternate models for marriage?
  3. Does Emma’s sense of confinement relate to her gender?
  4. What role does money play in the theme of freedom and confinement in this novel?

Chew on This

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

Emma creates her prison through her own thoughts and actions.

The rigid expectations of the society that Flaubert depicts puts all of the characters under an equal amount of pressure; all of the characters are therefore just as confined by their circumstances as Emma is.

Next Page: Foolishness and Folly
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