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Striving for higher social status has been the downfall of many people just as it was the destruction of Emma Bovary. In Nineteenth Century France, several class existed: peasant or working class, middle class, upper-middle class, bourgeois, and aristocrats. In the story, Madame Bovary, we see a number of individuals striving to move themselves up to the bourgeois, a status that is higher than the working class but not as high as nobility. The bourgeois are characterized by being educated and wealthy but unlike the aristocracy, they earned their money through hard work and kept it through frugality (Britannica). Our bourgeois strivers in Madame Bovary kept up appearances but they would never quite make it to the full rank of bourgeois. Because the level of ones social class status is determined so much by appearances, an individual can keep up a good front and be accepted into the circle when they are out of town where no-one knows the truth.
Both Emma and Homais followed this practice in their pursuits to really belong. Madame Bovary is about a sense of self, a search for personal identity and reality versus illusion. The symbolism throughout the story is clearly indicative of this fact (Nadia 136). Charles Bovary moves between two classes: working and middle. He comes from a middle class home but he does not seem to care what his social status is. Both his mother and his wife, on the other hand, want to move up in class status.
His second wife, Emma Bovary becomes obsessed with becoming part of the bourgeois and is sorely disappointed when she finds she has married a man that might have the potential to do so but lacks the ambition (Galenet. com). Charles, at the urging of his mother, an upper-middle class woman, attends medical school, which will give him the means by which to move into the bourgeois, but it takes him two attempts to pass. Undaunted, his mother, the elder Madame Bovary, who believes she can change her own class status thorough her sons success, sets up a medical practice for him in the rural town of Tests.
Since he is the only physician in the town, his success should be assured. Mother Bovary also arranges a marriage to a widow she believes is wealthy with an already established social standing. However, Madame Dubuc is a fake. Still, Madame Dubuc, who is bourgeois in behavior and idealism, but who is middle class in reality, helps Charles give the appearance of a higher class standing by expertly managing his finances and teaching him how to dress and speak. Madame Dubuc believes that her husbands patients can help them move up in status. The introduction of Monsieur Roualt encourages the new wife; he is a rich farmer, part of the upper-middle class; in her mind, this patient can aid in her efforts to move up the social ladder.
As we see, the relationship between Charles and Roualt backfires because seemingly rich farmer isnt so rich and because Charles becomes infatuated with Roualt's daughter, Emma. Madame Dubuc dies never having realized her dream of moving into the bourgeoisie. Emma, as the new Madame Bovary, becomes even more acutely aware of class differences when they attend an affair at the Marquis dAnder villiers estate. Here, in the company of the rich, she sees the bourgeois life she wants and believes she deserves. She becomes so unhappy with her life, she becomes ill. Charles moves them to Yonville, a city, but her life is still not transformed as she wants it (Galenet.
com). Emma's obsession with the bourgeois and her realization that her husband is never going to move up, sends her in search of a pseudo-bourgeois life by borrowing money to buy the latest fashions, hiring a ladies maid and having affairs with men who are of the higher social class (Ring rose 7). After Emma's suicide, Charles is so distraught nothing matters, he becomes even less ambitious, if that were possible, he becomes impoverished and he slips into the working class (Brombert 36). Rodolphe Boulanger, a gentleman, owns the estate, La Hughes.
He is the man of Emma's dreams and becomes her first lover. He belongs to the country gentry but he is a scoundrel and an opportunist. He is manipulative, shallow, and cold-hearted. Emma is nothing more than a conquest to him and he throws her away when he tires of her.
His social status remains constant throughout the story (Galenet. com). Lestiboudois, the Yonville cemetery caretaker is an example of the peasant or working class. His job involves physical labor and the type of work does not earn him much respect. He earns little money, even though his two jobs gives him double earnings from each death in town. He earns extra money from taking other jobs, including caring for the gardens at principal gardens, including the Bovary's.
Lestiboudois remains in the same social class status throughout the story (Flaubert). Monsieur Homais, the pharmacist, does change his status during the novel. He begins in the upper-middle class but aspires to move into the bourgeois. He finally succeeds in his quest when he receives the Legion of Honor medal (p. 303). Prior to that auspicious occasion, Homais does everything he can to give the appearance of being bourgeois. Remember his initial meeting with the Bovary's he was wearing green leather slippers and a velvet fez with a gold tassel (p. 879).
In his conversations he consistently attempts to make himself look better than he is. He is the one who convinced Charles to perform surgery on Hippolytes club foot. This act was not out of compassion for Hippolyte, but rather, he thought it would give him a great story for the newspaper and gain him more fame (Flaubert 878). Homais even names his children after great men, illustrious deeds or noble ideas. Homais may look the part, and the prestigious award may even give him an even greater appearance of the bourgeoisie, but he will never really be part of that status (Flaubert 880). Flaubert's attitude toward Madame Bovary and her world is ambiguous.
He generally treats her with contempt and a bit of irony. She reflects romanticism and striving to better herself. These contradictions, leave the reader feeling sympathetic towards her one minute, and feeling pity or disgust for the next Based on the evidence presented in previous pages, it is concluded that Flaubert saw Madame Bovary's world as being in the middle-class. She was never able to move to the bourgeois no matter how hard she tried or what ruses she used to give the appearance of being there. Although there is at least one character representing each of the social classes, most of the characters belong to the middle and upper-middle class society.
Works Cited Primary source Flaubert, Gustave. Madam Bovary. Vol I of The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Ed. Maynard Mack, et al. 6 th ed. 2 vols.
New York, Norton 1985: 1991. Secondary sources Brombert, Victor. Madame Bovary: The Tragedy of Deals. Gustave Flaubert. Ed. Bloom, Harold.
New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1966. 23 - 43. Nadeau, Maurice. The Greatness of Flaubert. New York: The Library Press, 1972. 134 - 137.
Unknown. Overview: Madam Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. Unknown. Social Class.
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