When I first read it, I pitied Emma Bovary. How stuck she was in her world! What a victim of circumstance! True, she made wrong decisions. But she was trapped in a relationship that bored her.
On this read, I hated her. She made stupid decision after stupid decision. She did not have the ability to love, either her husband, her child, or her lovers. She thought she loved Rudolphe, but from my perspective she lusted, not loved. It was a selfish escape from her boredom. She was naïve and selfish beyond measure. Her husband was doting and kind, and she saw only the negative aspects of his personality. Her husband was, of course, imperfect: that was all she saw.
I wonder if this different perspective is related to my own situation a little. Tomorrow is my fifth wedding anniversary; I realize a little better now than I did two and a half years ago that marriage is always a give situation. You must give of yourself to find joy. A marriage is not each partner giving 50%: it is each person giving 100%, and loving unconditionally. I saw as I read Madame Bovary this time that she gave nothing back. She expected everything and as a result felt she got nothing. Her selfish stupidity meant I felt no pity for her.
Regardless of Emma Bovary’s stupidity, I still greatly enjoyed Gustave Flaubert’s wonderfully written book. Lydia Davis’ new translation was marvelous. Reading Madame Bovary reminded me how grateful I am for my loving husband and for our relationship.
And happy anniversary to Mr. Reid! (He doesn’t read my blog, but I can still say it here.)