Reality versus Illusion in Madame Bovary
A central theme in Flaubert's novel, Madame Bovary, is that of reality versus illusion. In this story, Emma Bovary attempts to escape the mundane of normal life to fulfill her fantasies. By enjoying romantic novels, traveling from place to place, indulging in luxuries, and having affairs, she attempts to live the life that she imagines while studying in the convent. It is Emma's early education that arouses in Emma the conflict against what she perceives as confinement. The convent is Emma's earliest confinement. Her little contact with the outside world is what intrigues her, the novels smuggled in or the sound of a distant cab rolling along the streets.
At first, she is excited about her…show more content…
But as the chapter progresses, thoughts of escape start to infiltrate Emma's mind. She wishes to live a life of royalty in a manor house. As her stay in the convent progresses, Emma continues to fantasize images of exotic and foreign lands. The escape technique that she uses to conjure up images of heroines in castles seems to lead inevitably to chaos and disintegration. "Sultans with long pipes swooning on the arbors on the arms of dancing girls; there were Giaours, Turkish sabers and fezzes; and above all there were wan landscapes of fantastic countries: palm trees and pines were often combined in one picture with tigers on the right a lion on the left."
Emma's strange dreams by this point are chaotic with both palms and pines mixed together with lions and tigers. These dreams continue and change themselves into a death wish as swans transform themselves into dying swans, and singing into funeral music. But Emma, although bored with her fantasy, refuses to admit it and she starts to revolt against the confines of the convent and the discipline, which was against her constitution. When her father finally came to take her, no one, not even the Lady Superior was sorry to see her leave.
Emma Bovary's education at the convent is significant not only because it provides the basis for Emma's character, but also because the progression of images in this chapter is indicative of the entirety of the novel.