Study Guide

A Simple Heart Suffering

By Gustave Flaubert

Suffering

Poor, poor Félicité. The long-suffering maid and protagonist of "A Simple Heart" just can't get a break. Things pretty much never go her way. She's orphaned as a young girl, jilted by her first love, treated with indifference by her boss, and lives to see the deaths of her beloved nephew, her boss' daughter, and the boss lady herself. Oh yeah, and as if all that weren't enough, she's also hit by a stagecoach and goes deaf and blind by the time she dies.

But through it all she has a positive outlook. It's like Félicité is a crucible, where suffering goes to be transformed into optimism and strength. She's definitely one tough cookie, and only once, after the mail coach hits her, does she ever let herself really feel the pain of all of her suffering. Other than that she's all sunshine and parrots. Maybe we can all learn something from Félicité; her life sure makes that C+ we got on that last math test seem like a walk in the park.

Questions About Suffering

  1. It's a contest! Who suffers more in the story, Félicité or Madame Aubain?
  2. What is the purpose of Félicité's suffering? Does she learn anything from it?
  3. When Félicité is hit by the mail coach, she reflects on all of her life's suffering. Why do you think this happens right then?
  4. Why do you think that Félicité never marries?

Chew on This

In "A Simple Heart," suffering is a purifying process.

Félicité's suffering is meaningless.

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