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The True Meaning Of Madame Bovary, Lain Bare: The Close Passage Analysis Of All Time
(Senior year of high school)
The context of this passage is that it is between two red covers, one of which has a picture of the title character on it and the other of which has a short summary of the books merits. It is printed on grade 4 newsprint in a serif font.
In this passage, Flaubert utilizes certain written symbols representative of sounds made in human speech called letters, grouped into internationally recognized representations of actions, attributes, things or concepts called words, to portray the Bovarys financial arrangements. This fits with one of the major themes of human history, A fool and his money are soon parted. This passage also has tons of sexual imagery. Great big heaping gobs of it.
My passage can be found in any reputable edition of Madame Bovary, but in the one most of you are using it begins on page 236 and also ends there.
The first word Flaubert uses is Charles. If you squint at the word Charles, it looks like a Honda del Sol with no wheels. Since, as we know, only people from backward places like Yonville and Appalachia keep their cars without wheels, this shows Charles provincialism, and why he is oblivious to Emmas desires to live in the city. The fact that it resembles a del Sol, which is a car primarily purchased by people who wish that they had enough money to buy a Mitsubishi 3000GT Spyder, shows that Charles wishes to improve his financial status. Next Flaubert tells us that Charles is at his wits end. This shows that Charles has not thought for very long, at least by a normal persons standards. This carelessness on the part of Charles foreshadows the Big Ten Athletic Conferences decision to admit Penn State: both decisions show a lack of foresight and good judgment. Indeed, Flaubert makes explicit references to the inclusion of Penn State in the Big Ten being a horrible thing for the United States throughout the novel and several times from beyond the grave in the introduction, but unfortunately they are secret and I have sworn to the United States government not to tell them to you.
Further on, Flaubert employs three successive words with the letter o in them: soon resorted to. The association of the exclamation O! with surprise confirms that Charles has been taken completely aback by this recent turn of events. In addition, this could be a reference to Hamlets exclamation upon his death in the Bad Quarto edition, which would imply that the character of Charles has some subtlety that Flaubert has decided not to show us for artistic expediency.
Further on in this sentence Flaubert first mentions the name Lheureux. The unpronounceability of this name is in accord with the inscrutability of the man. The accompanying fact that his name means Mister Happy in English, which is an obvious reference to the character Chucky (Im Chucky! Wanna play?) in the Childs Play horror movie series, shows his inherent evilness. In addition, the two tall letters l and h at the beginning of his name are an image of the phallicism inherent in Lheureuxs character. This sexual undercurrent is further reinforced when, just a few words further on, Lheureux swears that he will smooth things over. If one says this in the proper tone of voice it can be mistaken for an invitation to sexual intercourse. Flaubert also says that Lheureux swore. The fact that this word is merely the popular, benign campfire treat smore with the second letter cruelly inverted shows that underneath that surface veneer of respectability lies a hard, severe, veneered man.
Flaubert then uses numbers to characterize the notes issued. The two, as in the number of notes, refers to Lheureuxs intended sexual conjunction with Charles. Next, the notes are made out for seven hundred francs. The combination of the lucky number seven with the solidity of the number 100 in our base-ten numerical system refers both to Charless perception of his ability to pay off the debts when they came due and Lheureuxs perception of his ability to score. Finally, the number three, here uses to designate the number of months in which the notes are to be paid off, refers back to Emmas failed experience trying to appreciate the Holy Trinity, and in referring to this failure foreshadows Charles and Emmas inability to pay the notes off.
Next Flaubert shows Charless massive Oedipal complex. Under this pressure from Lheureux both financially and sexually, Charles writes a desperate letter to his mother asking her to help him. She then comes in person. This shows that the sexual undercurrents of Charless dilemma have not escaped her; she knows she must be there in person to help Charles extract himself from this predicament. The use of the letters lp in the word help, with its contrasting up- and down-thrusting letters, reinforces the idea of sexual relations between Charles and Lheureux by showing two phalluses.
In the next part of the passage, anagrams made out of the key phrases become particularly important. The first such key phrase is when Emma asks Charles if he had gotten anything out of her. The obvious anagram is Oh-oh, differentiate naughty thong. This shows that Emma recognizes Charless Oedipal complex and is trying to suppress it so that Lheureux can have whatever it is that he wants with Charles. The words naughty thong in this anagram also imply a certain moral decay to Charless mother that was not previously apparent; it appears that everyone is a guilty party in this mess the Bovarys call a life. The word differentiate refers to the fact not only that Charles cannot differentiate between situations where he can express his Oedipal complex, however guiltily, and situations where he cannot; as a special bonus implication it reminds us all that, since Lheureuxs math skills are far superior to anyone elses in the book and he is probably the only one with any calculus, he will ultimately be the one to differentiate the naughty thong.
Away from the anagram front for a moment, here is also the first time Flaubert uses the name Emma. If you squint at the name Emma, it looks like a train coming out of a tunnel (the train is going to the right see?). This both portrays Emmas desire to leave Yonville, by any means necessary, but also her desire for the Industrial Revolution to come into its full flower in France, which would provide her with railroads to utilize. If she rode on the railroads and the blind man tried to stick his hat in the window, his arm would be brutally and satisfyingly torn off when the train got up to speed and he was shaken from his position on the side of the train. Emma is intrigued by this thought (and the reader no less so).
Next Charles says, Yes, but she wants to see the bill. The anagram of this phrase is She not buy whistleable testes. If anything, this anagram is richer for analysis than the first one. In the first place, it reflects Charless mothers innate skepticism about their financial situation. But the phrase whistleable testes is very interesting. Flaubert seems to be trying to impart a whimsical character to their financial and sexual dilemma. The fact that she refers to testes, though, obviously means that she is only talking about Monsieur Lheureux (rim shot). So possibly the whistleable could mean that Charless mother does not trust Lheureux to take the matter seriously, or to present it in as serious a light as it deserves; she may believe that the financial problems run deeper than on the whistleable surface. This sheds new light on her demand to see the bill.
The phrase at the beginning of the next paragraph, next day, rhymes with vexed May, an indication of Emmas desire for spring to come oh dear God Ive got five seconds. Ahem. The rest of the passage contains imagery and diction of some kind and of only minor importance, yet which still manages to tie into the themes I stated earlier and to have profound implications for the rest of the book. Thank you.
You didnt think I would let this end without the Special Bonus Joke, did you? Herewith I present the Madame Bovary Songbook.
Rodolphe the Shameful Playboy
(to the tune of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)
Rodolphe the shameful playboy
Had some very lusty ways
He never kept his women
For more than one or two days
When Rodolphe first saw Emma,
His heart was filled with delight;
He said, Im gonna get that
Woman on my bed tonight!
After some months he got tired,
And left her in the dust
Emma didnt take it well,
She thought shed descend into hell
Rodolphe had other women,
Whom he devoured with glee,
But none of them were as tasty
As pauvre Madame Bovary!
The Monsieur Homais Tribute Song
(to the Flintstones theme song)
He maintains a village pharmacy
Town of Yonville
Hes the leader at pomposity!
Lets go get our clubfoots out for free!
Become just a single amputee!
With Monsieur Homais
He will spout a lot of hot air
His brain is not there
Youll have a boring time!
All this tasty writing ©2002-11 by Andrew Lindemann Malone. All rights reserved.