Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
Historical and Cultural Context
Madame Bovary was first published in 1857 during the French Second Empire (1852-1870), under the reign of Napoleon III. This was a time of economic growth and modernisation in France.
Despite these advances, French society was deeply stratified with clearly defined classes: aristocracy, bourgeoisie (middle class), and working class. Flaubert, critical of bourgeois attitudes, presents these social divisions through his characters.
The rural setting of the novel reflects the prevalent rural life in France during this period. This contrasts with the increasing urbanisation happening in Paris and other major French cities.
The book reflects the significant role of the Catholic Church in French society. Flaubert critiques its hypocrisy, as seen in the character of the priest in the novel.
The status of women in mid-19th century France is a crucial aspect of the novel's background. Women were largely confined to domestic roles and had limited personal and economic freedom.