This movie pictures Gustave Flaubert as a victim: he’s being sued by the French Government for the publication of “Madame Bovary.” The book is considered an attempt against the moral fabric of French society (“outrage à la morale publique et religieuse e aux bonnes moeurs”). According to the prosecution, reading his book would send the wrong message to French women. Enters Flaubert: he defends himself by turning the prosecution case into an indictment against Emma Bovary (i.e., all “weak” French women), the book’s main character. (I never read the court records, so don’t know how accurate the movie is.) Flaubert affirms that the negative aspects of his book (Emma’s weaknesses and sexual escapades, dislike for societal rules and morals, etc.) would be viewed as something women should not do. Yet, at the same time, and in Emma’s defense, he argues that the romantic books she read when young put romantic ideas in her mind, which helped twist her character. So, I guess while the immorality and weaknesses portrayed in his book would not influence women in a negative way, the romantic ideas from the books Emma read did influence her—and in a negative way. Well, I guess Flaubert wants to have it both ways, yet logic tells us he can’t!
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