Madame Bovary as Social Commentary
In Madame Bovary, Flaubert depicted an entire segment of society and unmercifully analyzed its people. He created unforgettable characters from whom our own age can learn valuable and essential lessons. Moreover, he took a mundane story and, thanks to his skill as a writer, demonstrated the potentialities of everyday life as a source of art. He was a leader in the trend towards realism in Western literature. Before Flaubert, the novel was often rambling and discursive, but he helped to give it a definite structure and purpose and to make it acceptable in the canons of formal literature. There are faults in his work, for his characters are often not solid enough to bear the weight of their symbolic meanings, and Flaubert's extreme pessimism prevented him from being truly objective or fair in his evaluations and characterizations. Nonetheless, Madame Bovary is one of the greatest of novels and stands among the most treasured items in our living cultural heritage.