In Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, there are many symbols and details about windows and the wedding. Throughout the novel Emma Bovary, Charles’ wife, is trapped inside a life that she does not long to have. Emma had fantasies of how she wanted her life to be so she rushes into marriage hoping to fulfill that desire but she becomes trapped in marriage as her dreams are not coming out to what she hoped for. Life is not just about being married to satisfy those wishes, you also have to be able to find those desires within the man you are marrying which Emma did not do.
Charles was not the man she could have to fulfill her romantic desires. The windows are a symbol to demonstrate Emma’s entrapment. She is always staring out of the windows, looking at people as they stare back, or looking into the town. As she stares into the town she thinks about the freedom she wants and longs for. When she moves into the parlor after the cold weather starts, she tied a small white piece of paper to the blind to let Rodolphe know that she needed to see him but Rodolphe ended their relationship.
The blind that she used to communicate with Rodolphe is a source that blocks the light from Emma. The blind that blocks the light could be related to Emma being torn or blocked from Rodolphe. After Emma receives this letter from Rodolphe breaking off their affair, she attempts to jump out of the attic window until Charles calls for her. This shows Emma’s desire to escape from her marriage or even life because she cannot stand the dull life she is living. She tried to use the window to escape from her dissatisfaction with the world.
Although the windows represent a lot of how Emma is being trapped and how she tries to escape, the windows also contributed to Emma’s recovery later on in the novel. Emma would sit by the window with the light shining in and think about her lovers. They would push her chair over by the window as to her satisfaction. She would imagine things such as people dancing to a waltz. The windows can have a positive effect by helping her through some failed experiences and by helping her recover, but they mainly represent Emma’s failed attempts to be free. Next is the wedding.
The wedding was in the far off pasture of their farm. Her dress is a symbolic piece in the wedding. “Emma’s dress, too long, trailed on the ground a little; she would stop now and then to pull it up and daintily pick off the coarse blades of grass and thistle spikes with her gloved fingers while Charles stood by empty-handed, waiting for her to finish. ” (pg. 23) This immediately shows the struggles Emma will face. The spikes could represent hardships she will face and that she would overcome them by herself just as she did when she picked the thistles off of her dress by herself.
Also, her dress being too long shows what a drag it is to have to wear a dress getting caught in the weeds and demonstrates the problems she will face later on. Then, Charles should have made their wedding day special and by standing at the side, just watching her, he made it uncomfortable and also demonstrated a beginning struggle. Emma wanted a man that could treat her well and make her feel special. Without Charles relating to her fantasies, the dress shows a loss of freedom for Emma. Emma wanted someone who would come up and help her clean the grass off her dress and Rodolphe is a good example. Tall ferns growing along the path kept catching in Emma’s stirrup. Rodolphe leaned down and pulled them out as she rode. ” (pg. 137) The sentence represents what Emma longed for and how Charles would not be the man in her fantasies. It shows this as something that she would expect according to her fantasies because she is fond of Rodolphe. The way he seduces her is the same as you would see in a film or read in a book which shows her fantasies were magical based. Then again, Emma is in a dress at her funeral. The dress is supposed to symbolize purity but should not be described in that manner because of Emma’s affairs.
When Charles is staring at her in her dress as she lay in bed, he says that she is lost beneath her dress. This symbolizes that the dress could be holding her back or weighing her down such as suffocating her just as she was in her marriage. She was worn down by her marriage and wanted a way out of the suffocating entrapment. The dried wedding bouquet is also a symbol related to the wedding. Emma finds Charles’ first and deceased wife, Heloise’s, bouquet on the desk near the window. Charles then just picks them up and throws them away. This shows how women were portrayed as “flowers” being easily replaced.
A promise is obtained within the flowers about the dreams marriage should have given her according to her dreams. Emma begins to think about her flowers and what would happen to them if she were to die. Emma bringing up death in the beginning of the novel foreshadows the events later on in the novel when she dies. Emma even throws her own bouquet in the fire after pricking her finger on the wire of that bouquet. Emma burning her bouquet could be seen as a way to rid of memories of her marriage or as a rebellion because of her dull marriage.
Emma is seen as an object, even by Charles, as he focuses on the slightest details of Emma’s physical appearance. She is demonstrating herself as powerless which is fully evident when she uses her sexual appearance as power. She was gazed upon as an object and in the end shows herself as an object when she begs for money to pay back her debts. She desperately needed money and was willing to reduce herself to an object. In order to get what she wants or needs, Emma in a way manipulates people by using sexual gestures and others love for her. Such as when Justin allows Emma access to the cupboard where the arsenic is.
These symbols express Emma’s desire to fulfill her own dreams by going behind Charles’ back instead of approaching him with facts. She loved Charles but not as a husband or someone to express desires with. She stayed married with Charles but had multiple affairs. She tried to escape the present feeling of depression and suffocation by being adventurous and giving into false statements. Emma’s entrapment and confinement, not only from Charles, but also coming from herself, is eventually what leads her to commit suicide and results in her death.