Analysis of the Death of Emma in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary

Categories: Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary, is a novel about a woman named Emma and how her affairs and desires lead to her demise. Flaubert alludes the overall meaning of Madame Bovary in every section of this novel. This holds especially true for the closing section, when Emma dies and the reader is shown how the town reacts. This novel is supposed to avert young women from being adulterers by showing the consequences of adultery and romantic unrealism. This is conveyed through the harshness of Emma’s death, the impact and outcome of Charles’ life, and the reaction of the town.

Emma commits suicide by consuming a handful of arsenic, she does this because she thinks it will be a painless and rather easy death . However it does not end this way, Emma death is long and full of suffering. This is a consequences for all her adulterous and irresponsible actions, that she thought she could get away with. Emma not only cheated on Charles(with 2 full blown affairs) she also consistently took advantage of his money and sent them into a tremendous amount of debt.

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Emma attempts to run away from her debt and failing affairs by committing suicide and Flaubert does not allow her to go with ease. Flaubert torchures Emma and finally gives her a taste of her own medicine. He also contrasts Emma’s idealization of her death, which is peaceful and painless, with a grotesque version of suicide. Flaubert refuses to let Emma continue to live in her romanticized fantasy life.

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The closing finally forces Emma to suffer the consequences of her own actions, thus providing a warning to the reader.

The closing also shows the reader how Emma’s actions also affected others. Emma caused Charles to go into debt and lose all the money that he worked so hard for. Emma also broke his heart when he finally found out about his affairs. After Emma died Charles wanted her to be buried in the finest green velvet and he also did not want to sell any of her things, which only caused him to go into further debt. Then while going through a desk he would have to give to the debt collector, Charles found a love letter to Emma from Rodolphe. Then as he proceeded to investigate he found all the other love letter Emma received, both from Leon and Rodolphe. To add insult to injury Charles ran into Rodolphe at the market where they proceeded to talk about the affair. Poor Charles could not take anything else at this point because shortly after Berthe found him dead. Emma’s actions pushed Charles to an early death and caused Berthe to lose both of her parents. Flaubert does this to show what happens when one is selfish and does not consider how their actions could affect others.

After Emma’s death everything in the town continues as if nothing ever happened. Even Leon and Rodolphe proceeded with their lives as if nothing ever happened, Leon aven got married. This shows the reader that being selfish and adulterous gets you nowhere in life. Though you might think you are important to the people you are having the affairs with, you can vanish and they will not be affected, at all.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Analysis of the Death of Emma in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. (2024, Feb 08). Retrieved from

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