Analysis of the Boat Scene in Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary

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An Analysis of the Boat Scene in Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary

As Gustave Flaubert wrote the novel Madame Bovary, he took special care to examine the relationship between literature and the effect on its readers. His heroine Emma absorbs poetry and novels as though they were instructions for her emotional behavior. When her mother dies, she looks to poetry to decide what degree of mourning is adequate; when she becomes adulterous she thinks immediately how she is like the women in literature that she has read about. In one scene, Emma is with her second lover, Leon, rowing in a boat, and she begins to sing several lines from the poem "Le Lac" by the romantic poet Alphonse de Lamartine. The poem is about two lovers rowing on a
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She sings, while rowing with her lover, " One night, do you remember / We were sailingÖ"(186). These lines, though they seem appropriate in the moment, barely scratch the surface of the poem's meaning.

Lamartine wrote "Le Lac" about Madame Julie Charles, a woman that he took with him one summer to vacation at the Lake Bourget. Lemartine fell passionately in love with Mme Charles. However, the following winter Charles fell ill and passed away, never to return to the lake. The poem discusses the happy memories of the summer, but that is not its primary purpose. Mme Charles' death forces Lamartine to recognize the constant and continual passing of time, a theme that is very present in "Le Lac". More specifically, Lamartine discusses the inevitable end of happy moments, such as the ones he shared with Charles. He begs time to "Suspendez votre course! / Laissez-nous savourerer les rapides delices / de plus beaux des nos jours!" (31-31). Throughout "Le Lac," the death of Mme Charles is always forefront. It is her death that inspires the poet to revisit the lake, and it is her death that causes the realization of the passing of time. Although her actual death is only briefly referenced at the beginning of the poem when Lamartine comments on "des flots cheris qu'elle devait / revoir"(7-8), the idea of death remains present throughout the entire work. It is Mme Charles' passing that spurs
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