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Social Class in Madame Bovary

  • Submitted: 03/07/2009
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International Baccalaureate World Literature

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Discuss social class in 'Madame Bovary.' Is Emma a sophisticated aristocrat born by mistake in a bourgeois prison, or is she simply a middle-class girl obsessed with a richer life? Make detailed references to the text in order to support your points.

In the novel, 'Madame Bovary,' Gustave Flaubert emphasises the importance of social class: all of the characters have a place in the social hierarchy, with obvious distinctions between lower, middle, and upper classes. The lower classes are represented by those who work for the Bovarys': Felicite and the wet nurse, in addition to the old beggar and to an extent, Justin. The upper class consists of Rodolphe, the guests of the ball in Part I, and even, Charles Bovary's classmates in the very first chapter. The Bovarys are part of the middle class, much to the disappointment of Emma. Emma is obviously part of middle-class society, but whether she belongs there requires further analysis.

'Madame Bovary' is about a beautiful woman, who is enchanted by the novels she reads, and ends up in a boring marriage, looking for the excitement she reads about. This eventually leads her into adultery, first with Rodolphe, and then

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