'A Simple Heart': Gustave Flaubert's Story of an Arrested Life

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"A Simple Heart": Gustave Flaubert's story of an arrested life Gustave Flaubert's short story "A Simple Heart" chronicles the life of Madame Aubain's servant Felicite. Despite its brevity, it encapsulates the woman's long, quietly tragic yet comically absurd life. The title refers to the servant, a woman who apparently lives simply to serve others. Of Felicite Flaubert says: "When she was twenty-five, she looked forty" (Flaubert 1). Felicite appears ageless, as if she is not fully human, and simply entered the world to be of service, although Flaubert makes it clear that she once had a family and passions of her own. According to Robert Stanley Martin, "Flaubert constructs the story around loss, specifically how Félicité deals with the losses of those she loves over the course of her life. He pays scrupulous attention to pace: her relationships with those she loses are treated with increasing detail as the story mounts." (Martin 2012). But while these losses could be seen as inevitable and part of the natural trajectory of a lower-class woman's life because of Flaubert's realistic, detailed narrative style, Flaubert's narrative also continually hints at an even greater loss, namely the loss of Felicite to enjoy a fully realized life. Felicite's early life is presented as a series of interruptions as potential normal sources of happiness are slowly extricated from her: first her parents, then the potential for sexual enjoyment, then marriage, and finally for a

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