The passage begins with a monologue from Rodolphe: what he expresses in the passage is a fairly cliché set of ideals from the romantic movement. He talks of “Striving souls” and “beating hearts” . Particularly typical is the idea of two souls matched by fate that cannot be drawn apart. However despite the words of the text the tone is not one of romance. Flaubert intentionally marrs Rodolphe’s words by introducing them with the sentence:
“Rodolphe had moved in closer to Emma, he was talking in a low voice, speaking rapidly”
This has the effect that Rodolphe appears to be making a clumsy attempt to seduce Emma, rather than simply expressing noble sentiments. Another tool that Flaubert uses to make the entire situation still more comedic, is by consistently contrasting the everyday provinciality of the agricultural fair with the frivolous fantasies in which the two “star crossed lovers” engage. This is used consistently throughout the passage, but it makes its first appearance in introduction to this section: Flaubert talks of bleating lambs and cattle, then suddenly Rodolphe says:
“Don’t you find this social conspiracy revolting? Is there one sacred feeling that they do not condemn?”.
This adds to the reader’s feeling that Rodolphe and Emma are completely in a world of their own with little or no connection to the reality of the bovine conspirators. The reader should note the over-punctuation which creates a disjointed tone:
Oh! Come what may, sooner or later, in six months, ten years, they will be together, will be lovers, because Fate ordains it, because they were born for one another.
Flaubert runs the entire monologue into a single paragraph. This has the effect that we are left with the impression of a clumsy attempt at seduction muttered quickly under the breath.
In the next paragraph Flaubert describes the sensations that Emma feels. He writes of Emma’s observations of Rodolphe. Ironically much of the passage is devoted to describing the smell of Rodolphe’s pomade and to the fresh scent of the ivy climbing a nearby house, but one can only imagine the onslaught of odours that would campaign against ones nostrils in a rural agricultural fair. Flaubert’s writing here mimics that of French Romanticism, his style is an exaggeration of the literary genre that he seeks to mock. This is perhaps also a reflection of the feelings that Emma wants to have as much as the feelings that she does have.
The next paragraph contains the concluding section of the Councillor’s speech. One should note the immediate change: Emma has been lost to the scent of Rodolphe’s hair, and then suddenly the councillor shouts out “Endurance! Perseverance!”, ideals which are in stark contrast to Emma’s thoughts of desire. This serves to make Emma appear petty, concerned only with those matters that are emotive and frivolous.
Flaubert makes another sly stab here, this time at the church.
Endurance! Perseverance! Heed neither the voice of habit, nor the over-hasty teachings of rash empiricism! Dedicate yourselves above all to the improvement of the soil, to good manure, to the development of the various breeds, equine, bovine, ovine and porcine.
If one reads the opening sentences from the Councillor’s speech it becomes clear that his manner of oration is based on the stereotype of a “hellfire and damnation” preacher: the resemblance can perhaps be most clearly seen in the way he cries out virtues, and in “Heed neither the voice of habit, nor the over-hasty teachings of rash empiricism” a sentence that is quite biblical in its construction if not in its subjects. This is certainly a caricature of an evangelical preacher. This impression is aided by the Councillor’s introduction:
“…she could hear… the voice of the councillor psalming out his phrases”
Mimicking the style of a over-zealous padre serves to mock the church by imitation. Applying this same manner of speech to such a mundane topic as agriculture rather than religion serves to demystify it, making it appear comical. Lieuvain then dismounts his pulpit and is replaced by another speaker.
Flaubert takes the opportunity of introducing the new orator to contrast the trivial nature of Rodolphe and Emma’s discourse with the profound speech of Monsieur Derozerays. This is done by contrasting pairs of sentences throughout the paragraph, alternating between describing the lovers’ conversation, and describing the speech. This technique begins thus:
Accordingly, praise of the government played a lesser role; religion and agriculture were rather more in evidence… Rodolphe, with Madame Bovary, was talking dreams, premonitions, magnetism.
We now move a little lower on the page and find a similar contrast:
…Cincinnatus at his plough, Diocletian planting his cabbages and the emperors of China bringing in the New Year by planting seeds, the young man was explaining to the young woman that these irresistible attractions had their origin in some previous existence…
Flaubert clearly wants to make a mockery of the whole situation. He is trivialising these matters of the heart by comparing them to the hardworking people of the fields, where the labourers are planting seeds for the New Year. Flaubert continues to alternate between describing the speech and describing the seduction. The contrasts between the two begin subtly but as we continue down the page they grow less and less so. By the time we reach the bottom of the page Flaubert has begun to intermingle the words of Rodolphe, speaking of love and destiny and of all the ideals of French romanticism and Derozerays, who talks of money of work and of that which is concrete and substantive:
- Did you know that I would be escorting you?
- Seventy francs!
- A hundred times I wanted to leave, and I followed you, I stayed.
- As I shall stay this evening, tomorrow and the day after, all my life.
Flaubert’s purpose in this entire extract is to satirise the seduction. More importantly, it is to show that the ideals that are shared by the Bourgeoisie and the Church concern matters that are emotive and are therefore trivial compared to those things concrete such as land, money and food. Flaubert trivialises the entire Romantic genre by setting a clichéd romantic conversation, that proliferates with the language and metaphors that permeate the literature that he is satirising. He then places this exaggeration of the Romantic movement into a situation that is overwhelmingly provincial and agricultural. This serves his purpose of mocking the petty bourgeoisie and the Romantic movement.
Fairlle, A. A Critique of Madame Bovary. 1962 Edward Arnold. London
Flaubert, G. (trans. Wall, G.) Madame Bovary. 1992, Penguin Classics
Roe, D. Gustave Flaubert 1989, Macmillan
Stankie E. Flaubert: The Making of the Master 1967. Weidenfeld + Nicolson. London.
Tillett, M. On Reading Flaubert 1961 Oxford Uni Press London.
Fairlle. A critique of Madame Bovary. 1962, Edward Arnold. London
Here's what a star student thought of this essay
Quality of writing
In terms of language, the essay is spotless. No spelling or grammar mistakes at all; the writing is clear and fluent, and the author uses it to his advantage. Some turns of phrase are indeed quite witty, making the essay even more interesting, for example “bovine conspirators” or “consistently contrasting the everyday provinciality of the agricultural fair with the frivolous fantasies in which the two "star crossed lovers" engage”. Terms specific to literary analysis are to be found throughout the text: “exaggeration”, “mimicking”, “oration” or “substantive” to name a few. Great job!
Level of analysis
The analysis of the Rouen scene is brilliant in this essay. What impressed me particularly was the depth and variety of points made by the author. For example, this is especially effective when he compares dialogues between the lovers and the speech by the city official: he starts off with a general point, brings up examples, and goes on to explore the implications: “The contrasts between the two begin subtly but as we continue down the page they grow less and less so. By the time we reach the bottom of the page (…)”. This technique continues all the way though: small points that shift and develop to bigger points, and end up being solid ideas and theories. However, I have found a couple of misinformed remarks: throughout the essay, the author insists on Flaubert’s “hatred” and “loathing” towards the French society. These words are too strong for an academic essay and should be written more diplomatically. Moreover, in contrast to the author’s opinion, Flaubert has actually been notoriously difficult to define and has rarely been classified as a naturalist. Still – overall, the author has managed to capture the essence of the scene both in the context of the question and as an essential part of “Madame Bovary”.
Response to question
The essay begins with a detailed introduction, which tells the reader about Flaubert, the novel, French Romanticism, as well as the concept of satire itself. For an essay of this length, the introduction could have been shortened and made more compact. However, as soon as the main body of the text begins, the writer quickly dives into the most important elements of the Rouen scene and explores a series of literary techniques and subtleties, all of which are linked to satire. We have a rich mix of the study of dialogue, behaviour, free indirect style, thought, as well as minute, but significant details, such as punctuation. The writer never strays from the question and elegantly pushes all his points together towards a very well-written essay. One thing only is lacking – a conclusion. Because of such a detailed analysis in the main body, the conclusion would have been necessary to really knit everything together once again.