Study Guide

A Simple Heart Writing Style

By Gustave Flaubert

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Writing Style

Linear, Descriptive, and Straightforward

As most Realist writers, Flaubert doesn't mess around. He tells Félicité's story in chronological order, starting with her childhood (although that only gets a paragraph) and ending with her death, with a little introduction at the beginning that tells you that it's going to be a linear, straightforward story about Félicité:

For half a century, the bourgeois ladies of Pont-l'Évêque envied Madame Aubaine her maid Félicité. (1.1)

He sets it up then knocks it down, folks.

Also in the realist tradition, he loves the detailed description. Check out this bit about the interior of Madame Aubaine's house:

A narrow hall separated the kitchen from the living room, where Madame Aubain would sit all day by the window in a straw armchair. Against the wainscoting, which was painted white, eight mahogany chairs stood in a line. There was an old piano directly below a barometer, with tins and boxes heaped upon it in a pyramid. Two tapestried wing chairs frmaed the yellow marble Louis XV-style fireplace. The clock on the mantelshelf was in the shape of a temple of Vesta. (1.4)

And it goes on! Wait…hello? Is anyone there? Oops, better wake up, Shmoopers; we didn't mean to put you to sleep…we just wanted to give you a taste of the deep descriptions the narrator of "A Simple Heart" is serving up.

And what's the point? Well, since the story is supposed to be documenting what real life is like, you gotta set the scene. It's almost like the narrator is saving these descriptions for posterity, so that archaeologists won't have trouble setting up museums in a thousand years.

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