As a provocative tale of passion and complacency, ideals and self-delusions, Madame Bovary (1857) remains a milestone in European fiction. In telling his story of Emma Bovarya farmers daughter who, with girlhood dreams fuelled by sensational novels, marries a provincial doctorFlaubert inaugurated a literary mode that would be called Realism. But so exacting were Flauberts standards of authenticity that his portrayal of the breakdown of Emmas marriage, and the frankness with which he treats her adulterous liaisons, scandalized many of his contemporaries.
Yet to others, the mix of painful introspection, emotional blindness, and cynical self-seeking that distinguishes his characters made the novel instantly recognizable as a work of genius. It is a novel fixed upon the idea of romanceof the need for Romancein the face of day-to-day banalities. It is a theme that is ironic insofar as the exquisite clarity of Flauberts prose serves to hauntingly underline the futility of the heroines ultimate tragedy.