Madame Bovary Realistically Portrays the Struggles of Bourgeois Life

Categories: Madame Bovary

Gustave Flaubert displays the contrast between Emma’s romantic ideals and the realism of the Bourgeoisie life using symbols and recurring motif. Through the symbol of the lathe, Flaubert displays the unproductive, useless and ornamental character of bourgeois tastes, the banal and mundane ways of bourgeois life and develops the theme isolation leads to rebellion.

Through the symbolism of the lathe, Flaubert portrays the unproductive, useless and ornamental character of bourgeois tastes. The symbol of the lathe utilized throughout the book belongs to Monsieur Binet, a tax-collector, who “had at home a lathe, at which he spent his time turning serviette-rings to clutter up his house”.

With the lathe, Monsieur Binet creates napkin rings which are useless and serve no function and only take up space. It is also mentioned Monsieur Binet does so “with the jealousy of an artist and the egoism of a bourgeois.”

The lathe provides Monsieur Binet with a sense of superiority to those who do not have one.

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This characterizes the selfish nature of the bourgeois class which is unproductive and does not benefit society. Additionally, the only time Monsieur Binet is described creating an object with the lathe he is “busy making a wooden replica of one of those indescribable ivories, composed of cescents and spheres one inside the other” which, despite its complexity and beauty, is “entirely useless”.

While making the object, “the golden dust was streaming off the lathe”. The golden dust that streams off the lathe creates imagery in the reader's mind and illustrates the luxurious and refined appearance that emanates from the bourgeois class, making them seem of a higher class however nonetheless a replica.

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While Monsieur Binet “[was] apparently lost in that state of complete happiness” he only accomplishes “an achievement that quite dulls the imagination.” thus the lathe serves as a reflection of the bourgeois tastes only used out of habit. Thus, Flaubert is able to display the unproductive, useless and ornamental character of bourgeois tastes through the symbolism created for the lathe.

Flaubert also cleverly utilizes the symbol of the lathe to depict the banality and mundane ways of bourgeois life which entraps Emma. The sound radiating from the lathe becomes of particular importance in the following quote, 'you could see at the window of his attic the lean profile of Monsieur Binet bent at his lathe, making the monotonous snoring droning noise that was audible even in the Golden Lion”. The monotonous noise resembles and echoes that of the Bourgeois life, a boring droning noise that is always present (but has no great impact on life idk).

The noise always remains in the backdrop constantly reminding Emma of Yonville and her confinement within Bourgeois life. The sound therefore represents the pointless activity that occurs within Yonville and life simply passing by without unexpected events or excitement. It is also important to notice the placement of the lathe which remains in the confines of the attic, a useless place which is not often visited and utilized to store trash. Flaubert then contrasts the lathe with the feeling of pleasure which relates to the useless things which make the bourgeois happy.

Updated: Feb 21, 2024
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Madame Bovary Realistically Portrays the Struggles of Bourgeois Life. (2024, Feb 21). Retrieved from

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