A pink taxi

A pink taxi

March 6, 2012

Madame Bovary, the Reader

Borges' short story about a reader reading a book about another reader reading a book who gets killed while he is reading, makes every reader turn around in fright of an aggressor. It is the Russian doll syndrome where the narrative keeps repeating itself, like an Escher drawing of a hand drawing another hand that is drawing.....

Why are readers so quick in judging Madame Bovary? Why do they label her in half-hazard as an adulteress and stop at that? Why do most readers, even today, react with discomfort at her impulsive behaviour and scream out for scandal?

Madame Bovary was a reader. Perhaps she was a naïve one and she lived in romanticised disillusion. She was so bored in her rural France that she travelled her imagination through books.

Out of naivete she decided to live up to her dreams and her impulses.
It is clear that despite the automatic labelling of Madame Bovary as an adulteress, Flaubert sympathised with his heroine to the point of standing by her cause and side and declaring that "Madame Bovary is me!" Madame Bovary is his reader. Aren't we all readers when we read his novel about a woman reading novels?

Literature must not be censored. I remember how shocked my grandmother was when I told her spontaneously that I was reading DHLawrence's Lady Chatterely's Lover. "Do your parents know you are reading this when you are 14 years old?" she asked. Perhaps my parents understood that if I had the wherewithal to read DHLawrence then I was mature enough to understand that a woman may have a fling with a gardener. My mother forbid me to read cheap romance novels though and I understand her selectivity.

I am dwelling on the reading of this classic Madame Bovary, aware of the coup it made in the mentality and its ramifications for women's emancipation. Here was a woman who was free to read and allowed to imagine her fantasies. This is a great step in XIX century France. Flaubert's style is essentially descriptive. Again, he makes way for the reader to decipher the story through the environment's details. He rarely dwelt about the feelings of his characters, only their actions, reactions and body language. The reader observed and deducted.

It all boils down to the reader: we are reading a book about another reader.


  1. Ooh that is a heavy posting,a special for literary readers.

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