Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Madame Bovary, C'est Moi or Non?

I spent a good chunk of the afternoon reading Madame Bovary and watching Sex and the City (not simultaneously). So it got me thinking about women and what we really want and what it really means to be a woman and if that is even a worthy question to ask. Though women's lit professors will I'm sure spend much of their careers lamenting over these questions, and it was my women's lit. professor in college who really inspired me to be an English major...I remember debating the linguistics of the word woman, how the word man was part of it. And then we threw out other words, girl (too diminishing), female (same issue as woman), etc. and then played with subverting the text womyn (but that just looks weird and though doesn't have man in it, still sounds the same). So getting back to Bovary, though I'm only a little over a 100 pages into it, how she yearns for "somthing"---something perhaps beyond her reach, she's looking for a way to become more of herself---whether through material luxuries, books, horseback riding, housekeeping, religion, passion and nothing seems to live up to her expectations. So she walks around her house feeling aloof and unsatiated by anything or works herself into a frenzy over any new thing, only to discard it when it fails to live up to her expectations. Perhaps I see a bit of myself in her. It is dangerous indeed to be Madame Bovary, when the love of wanting is your raison d'etre, because there will always be wanting, more so than having, for a love of having will always end up sating you in some way. So how does one find one's own happiness? I suppose there are plenty of self help books for that, try yoga, changing your attitude, taking time to smell the flowers and love those around you. But exactly how does one do that? There are so many heroines in literature who are not happy--many who end up taking their lives because there is no way for them to carve a life for themselves. And myself, lately (besides being a little under the weather) have been brimming with excitement: the book, the teaching, the bartending, the boyfriend, the ira i just opened (see women's lit. taught me how to take care of myself). I feel almost too sunny--perhaps the karma of being slightly under the weather and a day of relaxing at home is my reward for all of this. Poor Mrs. Bovary, and the society that prohibited her from being in more control over her destiny. And how everyone calls her that instead of her name which is Emma---ah even the patriarchy of naming. I remember tossing that word around so much too. Blame it on the patriarchy, which would have been a catchy Weird Al song, if only he had gotten in touch with his feminine side.

1 comment:

Caroline Skrong said...

I enjoyed that book - I actually read it when I was in Piotr's class, lol. When I read the book I both despised her and pitied her. I think because I also saw some of her in me. We identify with being restricted as women, we identify with her desire and passion, and we despise her recklessness. I think if she had the freedom to live her life outside of the confines (from her view) of marriage and children, then she would have developed in a different way. However she was simply left to desire in ignorance which ultimately led to suffering. I always thought that book had Buddhist undertones, lol. I also want to say don't wait for the other shoe to drop hon (oh crap, I really am a Baltimorean now, lol). You deserve and have a right to every good thing that is happening in your life. I think one way to happines is to simply live in the moment - not in an irresponsible fashion but to appreciate and honor today. I think our society always focuses on yesterday and tomorrow. Appreciate the moment and focus on creating more happy moments than sad ones. And congrats on the IRA because you know how I feel about financial planning, lol.