At other times, seared by that hidden fire which her adultery kept feeding, consumed with longing, feverish with desire, she would open her window, inhale the cold air, let the heavy mass of her hair stream out in the wind: as she gazed at the stars she wished she were loved by a prince. Thoughts of Léon filled her. At such moments she would have given anything for a single one of their trysts -- the trysts that sated her lust...

She continually promised herself that the next rendezvous would carry her to the peak of bliss; but when it was over she had to admit that she had felt nothing extraordinary. Each disappointment quickly gave way to new hope; each time, Emma returned to him more feverish, more avid. She could hardly wait to undress: she pulled so savagely at her corset string that it hissed around her hips like a gliding snake. Then she would tiptoe barefoot to see once again that the door was locked, and in a single movement let fall all her clothes; and, pale, silent, solemn, she would fling herself against his body with a long shudder.

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, Part III, Chapter 6

Madame Bovary is not really the morality play that casual readers make it out to be. On the contrary, Madame Bovary gobbles a handful of arsenic not because she is ashamed of her strumpetry, but rather because, as a result of her spendthrift ways, the property of herself and her dufus husband is about to be seized by legal process. It is prodigality, and not licentiousness, that drives her to suicide. To argue that such prodigality would not have occurred but for her strumpetry is facetious: why would her strumpetry cause her to purchase new rugs for her marital abode? Or all the other rubbish she bought? Eh?

Back to Anesi's Book of Unfamiliar Quotations

©Copyright 1995-2006 Chuck Anesi all rights reserved