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Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary

Analysis

Madame Bovary as Booker’s Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Tragedy Plot

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type :

Anticipation Stage

Emma and Charles set up their married household, first in Tostes, then in Yonville.

Things are nice and smooth on the surface of this marriage, but we can see that Emma’s frustrations are reaching a peak. It seems as though it’s only a matter of time before she busts out and does something to shake things up. However, at this point, it could go either way – we’re not sure this story is going to end in tragedy.

Dream Stage

Emma and Charles set up their married household, first in Tostes, then in Yonville.

Things are nice and smooth on the surface of this marriage, but we can see that Emma’s frustrations are reaching a peak. It seems as though it’s only a matter of time before she busts out and does something to shake things up. However, at this point, it could go either way – we’re not sure this story is going to end in tragedy.

Dream Stage

Emma embarks upon her affairs with Rodolphe and Léon.

Emma’s Dream Stage is kind of a bumpy one; she goes through ups and downs based on how her affairs are going. However, when they’re good, they’re very good, and she’s flying high. When she’s really smitten with both Rodolphe and Léon, she’s incredibly happy, and she maintains the illusion that this stage can last forever. Unfortunately, we see her come down from both of these relationships fairly soon – clearly, Emma is only interested in that honeymoon period of swoony, over-the-top romance, and not in actual relationships.

Frustration Stage

Emma realizes that her affairs can never stay sufficiently exciting – she and Léon begin to lose interest in each other.

Emma comes to realize what we’ve seen all along: she really isn’t good at sustaining relationships. She and Léon start to get bored with one another, and despite the fact that she’s still trying to make things work out with him, she constructs another dream man in her imagination, hoping that someday he’ll come along and make everything right. Meanwhile, Emma starts to feel worse and worse about her real-life entanglement with Léon, culminating in a horrible experience she has at an all night party (when she realizes that she’s the only woman there who’s not a prostitute).

Nightmare Stage

Returning home from Rouen one day, Emma receives notice that she owes Monsieur Lheureux 8,000 francs. She desperately tries to get the money from everyone she knows, to no avail.

All of Emma’s previous mistakes have come back to bite her in the butt. This really is like a terrible nightmare – she’s forced to prostrate herself before all of the men in her life and beg for money. Suddenly, it seems as though that fantasy life that she’d been living has just been a cover for the disaster that’s her real life. Bad thing upon bad thing pile up, and Emma doesn’t know what she can possibly do to pay Lheureux back in time. There is something truly horrifying about the speed with which Emma’s whole life unravels.

Death Wish Stage

After failing to get any of her payback money, Emma eats arsenic and dies in agony. In the aftermath of the suicide, her family falls apart.

Left with nobody else to turn to (except Charles, who she can’t face), Emma decides to commit suicide. She doesn’t realize that consuming rat poison will put her through unspeakable torments – she thinks she’ll just fall asleep and not wake up. We can’t tell how clearly Emma makes this decision; it all happens so fast that we almost can’t believe it. Abandoned by her lovers and pursued by creditors, she is sure that nothing else can possibly help her resolve her troubles. However, this is a totally selfish move on her part, since she doesn’t consider the fact that she’s leaving Charles saddled with her debts, as well as with their child.

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