Teaching Students About Madame Bovary: Engaging the Next Generation in Classic Literature
Madame Bovary, written by Gustave Flaubert in 1856, is considered a masterpiece of French literature. It tells the tragic story of Emma Bovary, a young woman who becomes disillusioned with her life and seeks excitement through romantic affairs and excessive spending. Teaching this novel to students offers an opportunity to engage them in a captivating narrative while opening up discussions about societal expectations, personal values, and the consequences of choices.
1. Understanding the Context: Life in 19th-century France
Begin by providing students with an understanding of 19th-century France, its social structure, and norms. Discuss the impact of the French Revolution on the development of the modern French state, and the role that literature played during this time. Give students an idea about Flaubert’s place among French writers of the era.
2. The Significance of Realism in Literature
Introduce students to realism as a literary movement that aimed to depict life without idealization or romanticization. Encourage discussion on how Madame Bovary reflects these realist characteristics by portraying ordinary life without glorification while tackling issues like adultery and debt. This allows for deeper exploration of the motives behind individual literary elements.
3. Character Analysis: Emma Bovary and Others
Teach students the importance of character development by analyzing Emma Bovary’s growth throughout the novel. This could include discussing her desires for escapism, her dissatisfaction with her marriage and life, and exploring whether or not she is a sympathetic character.
In addition to Emma, analyze key figures such as Charles Bovary (Emma’s passive husband) and secondary characters like Léon Dupuis (Emma’s lover), Rodolphe Boulanger (her other lover), Homais (the pharmacist), and Monsieur Lheureux (the merchant). This can lead to discussions on how these characters contribute to the novel’s themes and lessons.
4. Literary Techniques: How Flaubert Tells the Story
Demonstrate the significance of Flaubert’s unique narrative style in Madame Bovary. Discuss his use of Irony, vivid descriptions, and emotional detachment as tools to convey the story effectively. Encourage students to identify and analyze examples in the text while guiding them through the development of critical thinking skills.
5. Themes: Unraveling What Lies Beneath
Inspire classroom conversations about various themes present in Madame Bovary, such as:
– The pursuit of happiness: What does happiness look like in the novel, and are the characters successful or unsuccessful in achieving it?
– Romance vs. reality: How do Flaubert’s characters confront the gap between their romantic desires and bitter realities?
– Femininity and societal expectations: How do Emma’s struggles with gender roles shape her decisions?
6. The Lasting Legacy of Madame Bovary
Conclude by discussing how the novel has influenced literature since its publication, including its impact on feminist writing, censorship controversies, and its status as a classic text studied worldwide.
Teaching students about Madame Bovary presents opportunities to explore a wealth of topics within historical context, literary movements, character development, literary techniques, themes, and its legacy. By incorporating these aspects into your curriculum, you can captivate students’ attention while providing a thorough understanding of classic French literature.