Critical Essays Irony and Contrast in Madame Bovary


Flaubert made use of irony and contrast on many planes, always with the intention of heightening his meaning and directing the reader's attention to his main themes. Each part of the novel contains pairs of contrasting scenes which clarify the reactions of the participants and the point of the story through their interaction. In Part I, these scenes are those describing the Bovarys' rustic wedding and the Marquis' grand ball. There are many other uses of irony, as in the contrast between the speeches of the Prefect's representative and Rodolphe at the Agricultural Show. The interrelationship of different episodes in the novel is shown at the end of Part II, where Emma develops an interest in the tenor Lagardy, emotionally preparing her and the reader for the unexpected entrance of Leon.

In terms of the entire novel, Charles had two wives who contrasted with each other. Emma had two lovers who are about as opposite as two people can be. But the greatest thematic contrast remains the contrast between Emma's idealized, fictionalized world and the realistic dull world in which she lives. This contrast embodies the differences between her hopes and her achievements. This is finally brought to an ugly conclusion when she desired a beautiful peaceful death, but instead suffered great agonies and endured great pain for hours before death finally came.