Study Guide

Virginie in A Simple Heart

By Gustave Flaubert

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The young daughter of Madame Aubain, Virginie is too good for this world. We don't really know anything about her other than that she's terribly good and terribly sickly, which is a very bad combination if you're a character in a 19th-century work of literature. It's curtains for you.

Even though she may be a little bit—dare we say—boring, Virginie is still important in the story. She's like the family motor. Whenever she gets sick, they up and move. Doctors are constantly prescribing her different "airs" in a hope that they will cure her, but any time the weather changes her coughing starts again.

The girl has another purpose in the story, too; she's a vessel that allows Félicité to rewrite her own life story. Whereas Félicité had a terrible childhood, she does everything she can to make sure Virginie has a good one. Just look at how Félicité has a crazy vicarious experience through Virginie on the day the girl takes her first communion:

With the vivid imagination that only true love can inspire, it seemed to her that she herself had become Virginie, Virginie's face was hers, she was wearing Virginie's dress, and Virginie's heart pounded in her chest. When Virginie opened her mouth, Félicité felt faint and had to close her eyes. (3.8)

Félicité feels nothing but love for the little girl and totally identifies with her. Virginie is really just an object for Félicité's and her mother's affections; she doesn't have any ill of her own (that we know of).

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