Teachers may reproduce copies of these materials for classroom use only. See next page for answers.
VIDEO COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
1. How was adultery, the subject Flaubert explored in his novel Madame Bovary, viewed in the mid-19th-century France of his day? What were the consequences for suspected adulterers?
Adultery was viewed as a threat to all the values and structures of bourgeois society. A woman suspected of adultery could be accused by her husband with little proof, publicly condemned as “fallen,” and stripped of her rights.
2. What was the public reaction to Flaubert's shocking tale of an adulterous woman?
Flaubert was put on trial for violating religious and public morality but was eventually acquitted. His novel became popular reading in his time.
3. What societal values established after the French Revolution of 1789 does Flaubert criticize through his character Emma Bovary?
After the French Revolution, the bourgeoisie redefined social norms, which included the establishment of separate arenas for men and women. Men worked outside the home in the new factories, leading to increased production and rampant consumerism. Emma represents Flaubert's distaste for the consumer-driven society of his day.
4. What romantic principles fuel Emma's fantasies as she becomes bored with her life, and how did she come under the influence of these tenets?
The romantic principles that fueled her fantasies stressed following one's own heart, mixed eroticism with transcendence, and emphasized escape. She found these romantic ideas dramatized in the novels she smuggled into the convent and read incessantly as a schoolgirl.
5. How do Emma Bovary's romantic fantasies become a reality? Describe Rodolphe Boulanger, mentioning some of the calculated methods he employs to win her over.
Emma Bovary's fantasies become a reality when she takes a lover, Rodolphe Boulanger. He is a local aristocrat who meets Emma by chance and sees that she's starved for love. He's confident he can successfully seduce her with gallant gestures and romantic clichés such as “We should answer only to our feelings.”
6. At the end of the novel, plagued by debts and loss, Emma runs out of escape routes. What is her “final flawed romantic gesture,” her last resort?
As her final gesture, Emma takes arsenic, joining a succession of heroines who have paid the ultimate price for their transgressions.