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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

Madame Bovary is composed of three parts:

Part I - 9 chapters - Exposition
Part II - 15 chapters - Rising Action
PartIII - 11 chapters - Climax, Falling Action, Catastrophe.

Part I fits neatly into the traditional expository mold of the novel, where the two major characters, Emma and Charles, are introduced. The main theme is foreshadowed as Emma becomes disillusioned with marriage soon after the wedding. Charles' clumsiness and coarseness greatly disappoints her, and she soon yearns for the romantic notions she has encountered in books. This pattern of expectation met with disillusionment will appear in each of the remaining sections of the novel.


Part II begins with a realistic description of the boring village of Yonville. It is clearly a duplicate of the drudgery and boredom of Tostes. All the other major characters, Leon, Rodolphe, Homais and Lheureux, are quickly introduced in this section. Although Emma and Leon are attracted to each other, their relationship does not develop here; instead, the Emma-Rodolphe affair holds center- stage throughout most of Part II. In a climactic moment, Emma is deserted by Rodolphe and she falls seriously ill. Her recovery is slow but she seems to turn a new leaf. But chapter 15 of part II reintroduces Leon, thus foreshadowing the Emma-Leon relationship that develops in the last section.

Part III borders on the tragic, as the degeneracy of Emma's lifestyle is evident. Her lover, Leon, tires of her, the way Rodolphe had done previously. Her financial affairs are in shambles. Slowly but surely, Emma is brought to the brink of destruction. Unable to cope with failure and disappointment, she escapes by poisoning herself. The last three chapters of the book depict the tragic decline of Charles and the lives of those who knew Emma. Emma's lovers are not in the least affected by her death.

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