Madame Bovary Color Symbolism Essay

2405 WordsMay 26, 201410 Pages
“A Flower For My Love: Color Symbolism in Madame Bovary” Thomas J. Tobin Introduction Many critics have raised the issue of Gustave Flaubert’s sense of structure and style in Madame Bovary, Elaine Showalter foremost among them. Showalter argues in Sexual Anarchy that Flaubert’s novel is a great stylistic achievement, in that Flaubert is a feminist writer, even though a man in the decidedly phallocentric Nineteenth Century (175). A side-note of her argument, one which she posits and then leaves as unprofitable, is that Flaubert “built, rather than wrote, Madame Bovary, so artfully is it put together” (176). Each part of the novel has its place; each chapter can stand as a whole. The book is, therefore, a string of connected vignettes. Showalter leaves it at that--that the novel is a unit in its entirety--and returns to her critique. I wish to pursue the argument left undeveloped by Showalter; what exactly is the thread which holds these chapters together, aside from their being about the same group of characters? I find that this thread comes in many colors; it is, in fact, the symbolism of color and its effects throughout the novel that creates parallels between episodes otherwise disconnected. The same sorts of colors appear in the same sorts of situations, and indicate characters’ moods. Much has been said, especially by Stephen Heath in his 1992 study of Madame Bovary, about the omnipresence of the color yellow in the novel. However, Flaubert also used other colors--red and green, especially--to signal general changes in mood and tone. More particularly, Flaubert uses flowers as the vehicle for his color symbolism, anticipating in 1856 the theories of the Impressionist painters who would begin to “build” their paintings in France in the 1870s. Wherever flowers appear in Madame Bovary, their color and place of appearance reliably indicate the general mood

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