Gustave Flubert's masterpiece, Madame Bovary, was first published in 1857. The novel shocked many of its readers and caused a chain reaction that spread through all of France and ultimately called for the prosecution of the author. Since that time however, Madame Bovary, has been recognized by literature critics as being the model for the present literary period, being the realistic novel period. It is now considered a novel of great worth and one which contains an important and moving plot. In addition, it provides a standard against which to compare the works of writers to follow. It is nearly impossible to truly understand modern European and American fiction without reading, Madame Bovary.
Charles Bovary, the only son of a middle-class family, became a doctor and set up his practice in a rural village. He then married a women who was quite older then himself. He was unhappily married to her saying that "Her dresses barely hung on her bony frame", This coming right before her death. Upon his wife's death, Charles married an attractive young women named Emma Rouault, the daughter of one of his patients. Emma married Charles with overwhelming expectations. She thought marriage would be filled with three things, "bliss, passion, and ecstasy." Emma had a character that was 1) dissatisfied 2) adulterous and 3) free spending.
For a while she was excited and pleased by her marriage, but overwhelmed by her new life, she quickly became dissatisfied. As a result of her dissatisfaction she became mentally ill. For the sake of her health the Bovary's moved to a new town, Yon ville, where their daughter was born. Emma's unhappiness continued, and she began to have romantic feelings toward Leon, a young law clerk. After Leon left the town in order to attend law school. Emma's boredom and frustration became more intense after Leon left.
She began to forget her role a a wife and mother. Charles tried many times to please but none of his efforts were successful, and she did not value or understand Charles' love for her. Finally Emma had an adulterous affair with Rodolphe, a local land owner. Upon realizing Emma's intentions of an affair with him he states that he is "Gasping for love", and this wins her heart over. Rodolphe then leaves for a period of six weeks and Emma then becomes seriously ill again.
After her recovery, Rodolphe returns and the only explanation for his actions is "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." She then runs across Leon in Rowen and began to resume were they left off. In order to afford the trips to Rowen to see Leon and satisfy her own needs, Emma spent her husbands money freely and incurred many debts. She kept this secret from Charles and managed to obtain a Power of Attorney, so that she would have full control over their financial affairs. Eventually her unpaid bills went long overdue and judgment was obtained against the creditors.
She owed a vast sum of money, and the sheriff's officers arrived to confiscate the family property. Emma tried frantically to raise the money and finally turning to Leon, but he was unable to help, nor was he willing. She even tried to get back Rodolphe, by saying "I stayed with you, because I couldn't tear myself away... ." , he would have no part of her anymore and unwilling to help.
Out of shame and despair of herself, she poisons herself to die. Shortly afterwards, now a ruined and broken man, also died, leaving their daughter to a life of poverty.