Compare and Contrast Madame Bovary and Hedda Gabler Term Paper

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Hedda Gabler and Madame Bovary

Nineteenth century literature from Europe is lined with exploration of the nature of human existence and one area of particular interest to literalists had been the female gender. It had been a period of the beginning of the feminist movement and the society's appreciation of women's existence. For this reason authors such as Flaubert, Ibsen and Henry James make up female characters to express their concerns about the many dimensions of female existence that have remained obscured from the society. In the works Madame Bovary by Flaubert and Hedda Gabler by Ibsen they portrayed the spiritual side of the female characters in such a manner that has never been explored before.


In Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempts to portray the scientific aspect of the reason why Emma, his central character act the way she does. First he introduces the non-spiritual environment and continues to set Emma in a society that is unconscious and unaware of human needs. Flaubert tries to present the message that it is the society which creates good and bad people, the moral and unmoral, and the aware and unaware. Emma remains unconscious of her surrounding because society treats people like her as a "mastodon" and the product of mindless insistence.
In the initial stages of the book her existence is characterized by social orders and how she conforms to it; she is unaware of her spiritual self. But as Flaubert works towards the transcendence, he instills in Emma the gradual awareness of the spiritual world and consequently she rediscovers herself in the spirituality of God (Lee 2001). Ibsen's Hedda is similar in the sense that she too is privy to the social trappings of brutalizing human existence and the dehumanizing process that the Tesman's society exert on her. Although she is considered to be charming, witty and a socialite but she is at the same time proud, banal and materialistic. Like Emma she is enamored by the social trappings so that she becomes lost in the materialistic side of society (Norseng, 1999).

Another issue that has come forward when considering the work of Flaubert is Emma's inclination towards God and religion. It seems that Flaubert in the midst of the 19th century chaos finds it important to create objectivity among the people by addressing the importance of spiritual pursuit especially among women. Emma for example in the novel is attracted to the house of God when….....

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