Flaubert's Use of Irony in Madame Bovary.
Madame Bovary is the story of a young peasant woman who grew up in a convent, marries a dull man and commits adultery. Her first adultery is with a ruthless philander and then with a spineless younger man. Overwhelmed by debts hidden from her unsuspicious husband, faced by sudden demands for repayment, disillusioned in love, rejected by everybody who might help her, she commits suicide by poisoning herself with arsenic. In Madame Bovary Flaubert's use of irony is exceptionally vivid. Flaubert's use of irony contributes to the character development of Madame Bovary and other characters in the novel. By combining ironic romanticism and literal realistic narration, Flaubert captures his characters and their struggles more than he would be able to by relying mostly on the literal or the romantic.
Gustave Flaubert once said, "Madame Bovary c"est moi" ("Madame Bovary is me"). First off this might seem ridiculous; the situations of Flaubert's life have nothing in common with those he created for his most famous character. Emma Bovary's father is an uneducated farmer, whereas Flaubert's father was a respected and wealthy doctor. Also, Emma dreams of becoming sophisticated and cosmopolitan, while Flaubert moved in the highest literacy circles in Paris. Last, Emma endures and unhappy marriage and seeks out lovers. On the contrary, the reclusive Flaubert spent most of his time living in solitude. Their dissimilar lives represent irony, but because they are so different Flaubert's comment probably meant that he and his character shared many of the same wants and struggles. Emma Bovary becomes obsessed with an idealized version of romantic love. Similarly, Flaubert became fixated at a young age upon an older woman, with whom he fantasized about having a romantic relationship for many years. Emma suffers from ill health and a nervous condition; Flaubert also suffered from poor health and may have had epilepsy.