Madame Bovary

Continually Thwarted: A Minor Character Analysis of Berthe Bovary

Berthe appears only a few times in Flaubert's Madame Bovary and is too young to contribute much to the novel by her speech or actions, but she is nevertheless extremely important to the story. Emma's lack of maternal aptitude and weakness of moral character are made evident by Berthe's presence. Because of Berthe's young age and innocence, she is able to act as a foil to contrast with Emma's lifestyle of immorality and self-gratification. Berthe's primary functions in the novel are to bring to light Emma's character flaws as well as the consequences of her actions and to serve as a symbol of Emma's union with Charles.

The first reason for the inclusion of Berthe in the novel is that Berthe's presence exposes Emma's maternal ineptitude. Flaubert makes it apparent from the beginning that Emma Bovary is far from being the ideal mother. Although she is not altogether against the idea of having a child, Emma views motherhood simply as a way to try something new and fuel the romantic fire within her. She cares little for her relationship with her child. At the beginning of her pregnancy, Emma showed little interest in becoming a mother. Charles, however, convinced her by his continual enthusiasm...

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