MovieChat Forums > Madame Bovary (1949) Discussion > What a supremely selfish woman!!!!

What a supremely selfish woman!!!!


I saw this movie for the first time, and all through it Emma Bovary continues to be such an immature, self-centered,class A fool. She had a gentle, loving husband and a beautiful child - and threw it all in the garbage can! How many people would have loved to be in her situation? How could someone with any soul at all abandon her own child!? I had absolutely no sympathy for her at all.
She reminded me so much of selfish Scarlett O'Hara. I had hoped, like Pip in the novel "Great Expectations", she would come back down to earth and GROW UP, but no. I only wished her husband had dumped her like Rhett dumped Scarlett.

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She was a victim of her passions - it happens to people.

I can't say I admire her but I love the movie and the book.

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I agree with sue.

_______________________________
www.stoptheremake.com

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She wasn't a victim:This woman wanted things she couldn't have.One of her lovers, knew her true agenda as a materialistic social climber.This is why he gave her that lenghthy speech stating why he didn't want to allow a woman as herself to destroy his life.She married the wrong man because he didn't deserve such a woman as he ended up married to.She was her own worst enemy!

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One of her lovers, knew her true agenda as a materialistic social climber.This is why he gave her that lenghthy speech stating why he didn't want to allow a woman as herself to destroy his life.



Do you mean Rodolphe?

What he meant by "destruction" - and I thought he said so quite clearly - was her all-consuming flame of (often deluded) romantic passion.

Emma Bovary was never a "social climber".
I mean, that is SO not the point of her character!
She wanted beauty, harmony, passion, she fantasised about a fairy tale life - because that's what she had been fed (by deleterious "romantic" novels) all her young life before she met Bovary. A today's equivalent could be a young girl from a humble family whose fantasy and expectations are (mal)nourished by a steady diet of soap operas, telenovelas, and glossy magazines.

And there is very good reason why Flaubert (James Mason) gives that speech at the beginning and the end of the film.
Remember what it says?
Who and what is to blame for the misery of people like Emma Bovary?

She may not be particularly likeable, but she is immensely poignant.

Besides, the one thing that defines the novelty and the great historical value of this wonderful Flaubert's work is precisely the total absence of assigning blame to this or that individual.
There are no victims - or, they are ALL victims.
They are all HUMAN: no less, no more.

And, interestingly, this Hollywood film version is particularly effective in conveying just that.


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A today's equivalent could be a young girl from a humble family whose fantasy and expectations are (mal)nourished by a steady diet of soap operas, telenovelas, and glossy magazines.

And there is very good reason why Flaubert (James Mason) gives that speech at the beginning and the end of the film.
Remember what it says?
Who and what is to blame for the misery of people like Emma Bovary?



Exactly!
Only I would say they don't even have to be from a humbe family. "Middle class" and every other "class" is just as bad. I mean, they fall prey to them just as easily. And they don't even notice their own captivity, just like Emma didn't.

I also agree with IDCook that it was all about being "commonplace" and the refusal of that simple fact.

There's some serious potential for very good discussions here. Too bad they usually stall and end up going nowhere.






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well said, BlueGreen. Call me superficial but i thought Dr. Bovary was boring and wasn't surprised when she preferred Rodolphe.

"Who put the pineapple juice in my pineapple juice?"

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I wanted to slap Emma. If this is the average person then society as a whole is screwed. To be so selfish and not give a thought about those you are hurting is not a character flaw I can forgive. Even Scarlett O'Hara at least cared about other people sometimes.

Lois Lane=Leia Lane

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Harsh. lol.

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I recommend you all watch the movie Little Children to get Kate Winslet's character's perspective on Madame B. Her character is part of a book discussion group, and she initially fetlt the same way about Emma. And who wouldn't?

The whole book discussion scene in LC is really good, with the funniest line in the movie delivered by Rebecca Schull (formerly Fay on "Wings"). (For such a sad movie overall, there were a few good moments of comic relief.)

Otherwise, point well taken. If she didn't want the doc, a lot of other women in Yonsville would have gotten in line for a crack at 'im!

"Well, for once the rich white man is in control!" C. M. Burns

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I only wished her husband had dumped her like Rhett dumped Scarlett.



Thankfully, Flaubert is Flaubert - not Margaret Mitchell. ;)







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Yes, Madame Bovary had issues. I think she was a woman that was born before her time. She lived during a time when women didn't have many options and essentially after becoming married were viewed as property. She was not satisfied with her life even though she had an adoring (and very tolerant) husband. I think the men in her life left a lot to be desired. They thought nothing of cavorting with her even though she was married knowing full well it could ruin her reputation. Sad story indeed.

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The women who have everything don't appreciate it until its gone. She's a woman who had it all and took it for granted. She had men who weren't really that much in my eyes to cheat on my husband with. If she would have had an affair with a powerful, rich man maybe I could understand a little more. She pretty much had affairs with losers. I'm not knocking her for having affairs because men have affairs all the time and they get a pat on the back but if a woman dares to have an affair she's called every bad name in the book because women are suppose to be loyal and loving wives, stay home and be barefoot and pregnant, and stand by their men even if their men cheat. In society back then and now it's okay for a man to cheat, people say that's the way men are, but it's not okay for a woman to cheat. Everyone feels a man has the right to leave a cheating woman but on the other hand a woman is expected to stick it out with a cheating man. Madame Bovary had a good man who was too good for her but there's been plenty of good women who had men who they were good enough for but they still stayed with those men. Bovary, stupid? Yeah, just like a lot of men who mess up a good thing.

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I didn't find her stupid - more like tragic and flawed, like most of us. I agree with ClothesOff about the scene from Little Children where Kate Winslet's character explains why she loves the book and Emma Bovary. For those who haven't seen it, here's the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxO5YbQwuDw

If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.

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While I find it more sensible than some of the positions taken toward the Emma Bovary character I still find Winslet’s lines in Little Children severely lacking understanding of the character; maybe even the whole point of the tale entire.


Emma Bovary, as I believe Flaubert intended, might be best understood as possessed by tragically commonplace passions.

Her life isn’t unhappy, she’s simply unable to escape being terminally dissatisfied with the fact that her personal lot in life isn’t as glamorous and leisurely as the lot of some other people… not all other people.

In fact, once married to the doctor, her lot in life is a lot more pleasant than conditions for most people in the period. One might imagine that had Emma become wedded to Boulanger she’d have pestered him to become king of France so that she could take up residence at Versailles. lol


“Your thinking is untidy, like most so-called thinking today.” (Murder, My Sweet)

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I think that's probably how most people would react to Emma Bovary, but if you consider the time period she lived in, women had very little economic or physical freedom. They pretty much went from their father's home to their husband's and tried to make the best of it. A sensitive, overly imaginative woman like Madame Bovary didn't have the outlets for her passions that she might have had in the modern era. She alludes to this herself when she frantically tells her husband that she wants a baby - a BOY baby because boys grow up to have freedom that she could never have. She is trapped in her life and going quietly insane because of it, until she starts having these stupid affairs. There's some virtue to lowering expectations in life, but some people just have a hard time with practicality and ordinary life. I think Emma Bovary was both a victim of her time, and also somewhat mentally ill. I don't think she really intended to hurt anyone, she just couldn't fathom the consequences of her desperate actions.

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I could buy your argument if she had an abusive, horrible husband and a nasty brat for a child. I just see her as S-E-L-F-I-S-H!!

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Selfish?

How about average?


Emma represents not only the character of the average person who lived during her time and place —— Her husband wished he was more accomplished; Homais, the pharmacist, continuously infers awareness of high culture; Dupois, the legal clerk, reads from Homer during Emma’s pretentious ”salon;” Hippolyte, the gimp, expresses a desire to be dashing and attractive to women. Even the money lender, Lheureux, maintains a veneer of good taste and breeding in his dress and spoken manner. Pretending to be something more akin to a banker than engaging in usury. Finally, Boulanger, though quite well off with society connections, uses the fact that he has more money than the common folks in the village to seduce Emma, who, seeing herself as mired in poverty, regards him as rife with wealth. Extending further pretense with expensive gifts to appear a lady of means and worthy of his ‘class.’ Boulanger himself is not unrealistic about his own financial standing. His gifts to Emma are few and not extravagant. ——

Emma is the same as the average lower- middle- or upper-middle class person who is swept up with class consciousness and, due to that, attempts to live a bit beyond their immediate financial means.


Imagine a nation full of people accepting credit to purchase homes priced to cost far more than most of them can comfortably spend during the course of their lives, along with a large number of those remaining living basically from one paycheck to the next, and you might have an idea of just how many people conduct themselves more or less just as Emma Bovary does in the book.

So, Emma embraces an arrogance common not only among the middle-class of her time and place, but which is as easily found in middle-class America today.

1- A desire to be wealthy;

2- Desire to attain admirable social standing (if not full-blown fame). To be viewed as important in some way — professional standing, membership in a socially acceptable, or unacceptable group (either real or imagined), etc.;

3- A desire to be regarded as superior to some people while also being at least equivalent to others no matter how much more intellectually aware or accomplished either might be; (a sort of all men are created equal complex)

4- Young women and their parents praying the girl will wed a doctor or lawyer, or at least a man with a steady income, hopefully on the higher end of the scale in the area where they live and work… by comparison to their friends and neighbors.


Emma Bovary, as most people in developed societies, desired to be privy to as much wealth and leisure as she could attain by whatever means were available to her. However, this amounted to no more than her husband’s income and social standing. She’d imagined his being a doctor was sufficient to meet her desire. Overlooking his indication of not being very accomplished and leading a dull life himself. In those days doctors did not hold the same social standing they do now because the practice of medicine was still a good bit hit or miss. Most were little better than a witch doctor or old woman offering herbs and roots. They might be able to guide you through a fever and do a passable job of resetting a broken leg bone, but little more. But, as with Boulanger, Emma saw the doctor as inhabiting a higher station in life and deluded herself to believe that every station above her own was a station of wealth and excess.

So, to close, it makes little sense to find Emma detestable. She’s no different than your cousin Goober. Perhaps even a lot like you. At worst she is to be pitied. Her greatest sin lay in allowing her deluded perspectives to bring near and utter ruination to her friends and family.

If Emma Bovary is to be understood as stupid, she’s recognizable to be no more stupid than most people still are.


“Your thinking is untidy, like most so-called thinking today.” (Murder, My Sweet)

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