Madame Bovary Outside the Window

The critics, notably Jean Rousset and Victor Brombert, have defined the optics of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary as essentially that of the view looking out of the window and down. Brombert analyzes the window also as a symbol of both imprisonment and liberation. The novel includes an additional optic that is almost equally important, that of Emma outside the window. Examples include that of Emma outside the shuttered windows of the abandoned pavilion near Tostes when she first asks herself why she married Charles. A second takes place during the ball at La Vaubyessard when a servant breaks a window to let in air and Emma notices the peasant faces outside the window. Another is that of Emma after the ball looking out a window but looking at the other closed window of the chateau. Other characters including Léon, Rodolphe (he claims), and Père Rouault but not Charles share this optic with Emma, an optic at once romantic and realistic. The romantic finds himself on the outside hoping to get in while the realist knows that we most frequently find ourselves outside the window of our own desires. In her refusal of this truth Emma loses all and sacrifices her daughter, the only innocent character in the novel. (FCS)

St. Aubyn, F. C
Volume 1973 Winter; 1(2): 105-11.