Critical Essays Symbolism in Madame Bovary


Flaubert also made extensive use of symbolism in his novel. Symbolic things are those which have an objective and limited function but which can be interpreted also to embody a wider and more profound meaning in regard to the things around them. In such a painstakingly constructed novel as Madame Bovary, it is rewarding to search for additional layers of meaning wherever the omission of a particular detail would not have affected the objective narration of the story. For instance, the complicated description of Charles' hat in the first chapter is not necessary to a realistic account of his school days, but has been shown to symbolize many aspects of his personality and future development. Other examples of symbols include the blind beggar, the wedding bouquet of Charles' first wife, and Emma's pet greyhound. Critics have pointed out that even the names of the characters in Madame Bovary have symbolic meanings — for example, Bovary is indeed bovine.