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Religion in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary

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Religion, considered as the essence of human spirituality and morality, has been an integral part of life throughout the course of history. It has been an efficacious presence in innumerable works of literature, poetry, and art. For this reason, it is of little wonder that we find the religious theme (or issue?) intricately explored in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Flaubert's Madame Bovary. In essence, these 19th century masterpieces are considered as outstanding examples of Realist literature, and their authors, along with their precise and realistic depictions, intertwine a subtle, but significant sense of religious influence to heighten theme and characterisation. And lastly, it is elemental in the final destruction of both tragic heroines. Flaubert and Tolstoy masterfully entwine the element of religion, and subsequently its role in society by using several characters to embody particular societal religious viewpoints. Flaubert portrays - rather scornfully- the decay of religious values in middle-class French society through the introduction of two characters: Homais and Father Bournisien. Homais considers himself the intellectual of Yonville, and with his irreligious views, he typifies the middle-class mentality of his time and its sciolistic attitudes: "My God is the God of Socrates, of Franklin, Voltaire and B�ranger!" (Flaubert 61) In this respect, Flaubert portrays him as a fool whose true faith lies only in materialistic pursuits which he integuments with the progressive-sounding jargon of scientific ideas, yet remains blind to the entire concept of religion and its values. ...read more.


(Flaubert 173) Religious conduct quickly becomes irritating to Emma, and it soon loses her interest. As her health improves, her religious values seem to decay accordingly, and it is obvious that her amoral attitude will remain adamant for as long as she lives; this is a powerful indication that Emma is fatally flawed, for in her next period of illness, there would be no recovery. In the gripping moments that precede Emma's death, she desperately turns to religion yet again. Although this seems to provide her provisional comfort and peace of mind, it is ultimately futile, as it is outwardly obvious that Emma's views on religion have remained unchanged. This scene is strongly reminiscent of Emma's near-death experience and Flaubert's masterful technique of parallelism becomes evident here. Much like Emma's prior religious 'illumination', this passage is adorned with rich word imagery and powerful sensual symbolism. For instance, as the priest displays the crucifix to Emma, she "stretched forth her neck like one in thirst, and, pressing her lips to the body of the Man-God, she laid upon him with all her ebbing strength the greatest loving kiss she had ever given." (Flaubert 265) As before, the intent of Emma's final religious episode was not one of spiritual and moral recovery, but to rekindle her licentious pleasures for one last time. Finally, as the priest attempts to offer Emma a consecrated candle, the "symbol of the celestial glories that were soon to surround her," (Flaubert 265) ...read more.


The theme of religion is a powerful one, and its impact on classic Realist works such as Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina knows no confines. Alex I don't know what the fuck to do here. I'm a bit under-qualified, I think, to revise your conclusion. I did my best but I don't really know what the book is about. Any conclusions I make will be most likely off topic. Now, Is what I have underlined your thesis? If it isn't then place your restated thesis there. Then somewhere after the second sentence in your conclusion, make a conclusion about the two main characters, the Bovary bitch and Karenina Kaqisinher. Say something about how they fucked up in a spiritual sense (I put something in but I don't know if its any good). Then top it off with - ta da - "A truism emerges, fated are those who wear their spirituality on their sleeve and embellished it with meaninglessness to be blighted by their ignorance." I'm just fucking with you. This has to be as bad of a piece of bull shit as I could have ever hoped to rip out of my ass. You probably shouldn't use it because I most likely doesn't make much sense. See, I really don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. That's about all I can do!! Sorry I can't be of any more assistence. ...read more.

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