In Gustave Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary, Emma Bovary outwardly conforms and inwardly questions her relationship with her husband, Charles. Emma’s actions and thoughts cause a tension which she realizes affects the other characters in the novel. Although she knows her actions are not moral, she continues with her affairs. Also, knowing Charles stupidity, she continues to lie to him while spending all of his money without his knowledge. All these factors contribute to the meaning of the book.
Emma Bovary inwardly questions from the beginning of the novel, when she first marries Charles, saying, “Oh, why, dear God, did I marry him? ” (Flaubert 41). From the moment Emma moves into Charles’ home, she feels dissatisfied with her life. She constantly questions why her marriage does not bring her the bliss as in the romantic novel she reads. This becomes the beginning of several imperfections she finds in the perfect marriage she expected. Later, while on their honeymoon, Emma attempts to love Charles but he continues to disappoint her.
Emma trying to love Charles, proves she conforms outwardly to the societies beliefs of staying faithful to a spouse. While pretending to love Charles, Emma meets Monsieur Leon. They learn they share many of the same interest, the two feel an instant closeness. Emma again questions her life with Charles, and hope Leon will make her happy. The town begins to suspect an affair between the two. Although Emma wants Leon over Charles, she still pretends to love Charles for the sake of rumors, but at home blames Charles for her unhappiness.
Even Charles conforms outwardly against the rumors of the town. Emma conforms outwardly in her affair with Rodolphe. She believes since he has money, their relationship will be one such as in the romantic novels. This creates Emma to start spending all of Charles’ money, and even more than he has. She makes herself what seems as happiness by buying all of the material items she wants. Not only does this cause Charles and Emma to go into debt but; it also causes Emma to question whether or not material items bring her happiness.
By outwardly conforming to Rodolphe’s life style, she inwardly questions her happiness. After Rodolphe begins to tire of her, he leaves her, and also leaves her in debt. Throughout the novel, Emma Bovary constantly conforms to the men she loves, and also to what society considers moral. Emma questions her life with Charles, pretending she loves him. She realizes her wrong doings, but continues to do wrong. She eventually commits suicide due to the confusion in her life. When conforming to everyone’s ways of life, and questioning herself and life also, it became too much to handle, ending in death.