According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term realism can be defined as, "an inclination or attachment to what is real; tendency to regard things as they really are; any view or system contrasted with idealism." In literature, realism is an approach that attempts to describe life without idealization or romantic subjectivity. It is most often associated with the literary movement arising in France during the nineteenth century; primarily, it is a reaction against Romanticism's idealism ad subjectivity. The French writer Gustave Flaubert and Leo Tolstoy from Russia are examples of Realist writers. Realists wanted a true representation in literature of reality of contemporary life and manners (Lawall 837). In order for Realist writers to be objective, "the personality of the author was to be suppressed or was at least to recede into the background, since reality was to be seen as is'"(Lawall 837). For that reason, realism has been chiefly preoccupied with the commonplaces of everyday life among the middle classes. Characters were no longer represented as heroes or mythological figures; instead, they had the traits of ordinary, middle class people. In addition, themes in realist literature are mundane and ugly such as prostitution, political corruption, and poverty. .
Written by Gustave Flaubert during the 1850s, the novel Madame Bovary is an example of realist literature. Through character, plot and style, Flaubert emphasizes several realist values and sensibilities. In the novel, the protagonist, Charles Bovary's wife, Emma Bovary, is trapped inside the life that she lives along her husband because she is obsessed with the idealized vision of romantic love. In the end of the novel, Emma Bovary's stress led her to commit suicide. .
One way that Flaubert asserts Realist values in Madame Bovary is through Charles Bovary's character. Charles is a real character with simple desires. He has no worldly ambition or status.