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Representation of Feminist Theory in Madame Bovary

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What is feminism? It cannot just be called a political ideology but a mixture of social, economical and social equality for women.

It’s really hard to put the definition of feminism as ‘the movement against the patriarchal society’ because the level of suppression and anxiety which were faced by women was immense. Initially, the feminist movement was started in the west despite the ideology went globalised. As the Western traditions were the core objectives of letting them unleash the idea of feminism, so there are plenty of women writers who regulated the movement with deep-rootedughts and statements. Writers such as Marry Wollstonecraft, Marry Maclane, Lena Dunham, Simone De

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Beauvoir and so on. In these Marry Wollstonecraft was the prime writer to rise voice towards women in her book ”Vindication of the rights of the women’ was a prominent piece of work which discussed the subject of feminism, and it’s the foremost inspiration for the latter women writers. In her book, she specifically talked about the denial of rights for women and men’s prejudices towards women, without her work it wouldn’t be a possible task for a counterattack to Western ideology and tradition. Till the end of the late 19th century, women were compelled to cover their heads in public and wasn’t allowed to vote and other social participations. Since the modernism evolved feminism started to root in different branches and led feminism to categorise into three types which traditionally called ‘the Big Three’ which are the liberal feminism or the mainstream feminism, radical feminism and Marxist feminism. These types regulated the movement into three waves, the first wave was between the late 19th and early 20th century which talked about women’s rights and their social participation, the second was during 1970s which was about the gender equality and the third was about revising the last waves in a feminine perspective. As there are several works and novels which discuss feminism, among them, Simone De Beveouir’s ‘the second Sex’ she’s also best known for her metaphysical novels such as ‘Came to stay’ and ‘the Mandarins’. Her book ‘The second sex’ was written in 1949 and published in 1953 in English, this work helps us to analyse any text of literature which talks about women so as Madame Bovary be a best example of that.

‘ One is not born a woman but becomes one’ the very quote which clear cuts the core of ‘The second sex’. It mainly focuses on the social construction on women as the ‘other’, this is the very label which fits for the character Emma (Madame Bovary). At every level, men suppress women with the label as ‘Other’ especially is opposition to men. De Beveouir pens the notion as men take the role of ‘self or subject’ whereas women were placed on the role of ‘Object’.

Simone De Beveouir draws her feminist ideology with an ultimate question, that how ‘female humans’ come to occupy the subordinate position in the society? and she also answers the question with three disciplines, as she refers with biology, psychoanalysis and historical materialism. The way De Beveouir used to expose her idea was very close similar and reliable to the way that how Flubert portrayed the chainitiationEmma’. Simone De Beveouir traces the female development through the stages of childhood, youth and sexual initiation, with these stages De Beveouir, comes to prove that ”the woman’ was not born a woman was made by thousands of external processes, as Madame Bovary depicts the character of Emma with these stages, as Emma during her childhood days she was institutionalised within the four walls, as she was born to an upper-middle-class family she was tending to follow certain etiquette, where they were tended to be curious of becoming ‘a lady’, once they became a lady they will be pushed to become a doll for men’s attraction where their dresses, words, manners etc, which were counted by men. In a way, Gustave Flubert holds the credit for portraying a typical French woman in the modern era. In every force of the society women’s subjectivity has been deprived and flattened to be an ‘object’. These external factors push women to only cope with childbearing, housework and sexual slavishness, so as Emma recounts her realisation to break the conventions of this situation. Simone De Beveouir also insists the impossibility of comparing the character of men and women without considering in their situation as she strengthens the topic on her book 2 as ‘Women’s Life Today’, on the other hand Flubert handles a softest method for examining the differences of situations among men and women. In the novel Madame Bovary all the male characters take up an unique quality which differs from one another throughout the novel but at the same time those qualities were not their real personality for example, the character Leon (the law clerk) who shows himself a romantic fellow in front of Emma but he’s not whereas at the latter half of the novel he gives up his love for Emma for the sake of complaints and gossips that he gets from his workplace and the character Radophle who’s actually rich and royal for what Emma gone admired by but when she seeks him for helping her to cure the debts he refuses shockingly, with these characterization Flubert imposes the truth of men in the modern era, where men invest their act subsequently women suffers with their unprofitable love and by later they realize that they were objectified. That is how Flubert proves the statement of De Beveoir on women an object. As the modern society gives men the plurality or the variety to shape their subjects whereas women stuck in a black hole of ‘objectivity’ . This is how the conditions and the practices followed in modern society to push women into the four walls.

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Representation of Feminist Theory in Madame Bovary. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from
“Representation of Feminist Theory in Madame Bovary.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
Representation of Feminist Theory in Madame Bovary. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Sept. 2023].
Representation of Feminist Theory in Madame Bovary [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2023 Sept 24]. Available from:
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