"Madame Bovary"

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Emma Bovary is the second wife of a country doctor, a man she believes will give her the life of romantic bliss that is the stuff of her daydreams, formed from novels, art and music rather than from any observation of real life. Her story is a tragedy, as it must be. Daydreams are perfection, and none of us get that.

Emma finds her husband dull and their life monotonous. She isn't living the romantic fantasy she wants, so she looks around for something more interesting. She believes she could be happy if only she loved someone passionately, if she was admired and danced attendance upon and showered with  gifts, if she was entertained and given new and exciting experiences on a regular basis. She is delusional enough to think such a life is actually an option.

She has two affairs, managing to hide both from her husband, who for some reason adores her. She financially ruins him and neglects their daughter, leaving her to be raised by a servant.

Emma's biggest problem is Emma. It must have been the condition of her times that made her feel happiness should be handed to her. She had no concept of it being something you build from the materials you have available. She was doomed from the beginning, and in the end she had to face reality. "She now knew the smallness of the passions that art exaggerated." She commits suicide, and even that turns out to be a disappointment. It's supposed to be a dramatically romantic end to the life of a young beautiful woman; instead, it takes a long time to die, and it is painful and ugly. Not the impression she wanted to leave at all.

If I was supposed to feel sympathy for Emma, I'm afraid I failed. I felt for her husband and child, both of whom loved her to the end no matter how she treated them. Life with them may have been dull, but she did choose it. She never outgrew her childish need for immediate gratification and her selfishness ruined all their lives. It's a tragedy, not just for Emma, but for the entire Bovary family.

In spite of my dislike for Emma, I did enjoy the reading - most of the time. There were a few passages that ran on but on the whole it was good. It was meant to be a statement about the reality of boredom and monotony in the average marriage and the average life, and Flaubert succeeded at that. I found this quote particularly poignant: "Besides, nothing was worth the trouble of seeking it; everything was a lie. Every smile hid a yawn of boredom, every joy a curse, all pleasure satiety, and the sweetest kisses left upon your lips only the unattainable desire for a greater delight." Still, I didn't at any point feel any connection with Emma. She was intolerably shallow; I lost patience with her early on and never got it back.

One of my pet peeves with nineteenth century novels is the exaggerated drama and there was plenty of it here. At one point Emma is sitting near a window in her home when she sees a carriage go by. In it is the man with whom she has just broken off an affair. Now, it's natural that seeing him would have some effect on her emotions, but Emma's reaction...? "Emma uttered a cry and fell back rigid to the ground." Then, "brain-fever set in". She was bed-ridden for weeks, weak, unable to eat and almost dying. Either this is ridiculously over dramatic, or women of that time were so frail that it's a wonder they ever survived serious stress....like say, childbirth. 

I am glad I read it. For one thing I found a quote that puts into words a thought I've tried in vain to express since my father died 15 years ago: "There is always after the death of anyone a kind of stupefaction; so difficult is it to grasp this advent of nothingness and to resign ourselves to believe in it." For another, I'll understand references to it in other writings, and best of all, it's one more title I can cross off my Guilt List! Yay!

Shooter Caught and In Custody

In the very early hours of this morning, the gunman was located and taken into custody. The arrest was made without weapons being fired and we are all grateful there was no further injury or loss of life.

For most of us life will gradually return to normal now. It will take time for us to regain a feeling of safety and security in our little city, and maybe we'll never quite get back to where we were. We may be a little more careful about locking our doors and walking in dark places at night. It will be a longer process for families and especially children who were in the lockdown zone and had to stay in basement bathrooms and closets and couldn't leave their houses for 28 hours. Those children will need help feeling safe in their own backyards again. It will take a while to forget the sight of armoured vehicles and guns outside their homes. But in time they too will return to normal, going to school and playing in those same yards and streets with their friends.

But for the Officers of the RCMP in our community, there will be no returning to normal. Two are recovering from serious injuries. Three of them are gone, and are never coming back. Their spouses, their children, their parents, siblings and co-workers will have to live with the loss for the rest of their lives. It still amazes me to think that each one of them knew the risks when they signed up and still, they signed up willingly. They wanted to serve and protect the rest of us. How can any of us possibly say "thank-you" for such a sacrifice? Our words won't change the tragedy that has come to their families. We can only hope that in time some bit of comfort or encouragement will come from knowing that so many are so grateful.

Thank you to all the RCMP officers from our own community and those who came in to help from other places. Thank you to their families for giving them the freedom to serve and protect, even knowing the risk. God bless you all with peace and comfort in this terrible time and may He lead you though the dark days ahead into a new normal that will allow you, in time, to live again.  

Tragedy Tonight in My City

Tonight my city is on lock down and in mourning as police search for a 24 yr old man who has shot five police officers, killing three. The man is, or was, on foot and carrying two high powered rifles, a knife and crossbow. A large area of town has been told to lock their doors, take their families into one room in their basement and stay there till they get the all clear. Many families tonight are huddled into small bathrooms, closets, etc trying to keep their children calm through the night. 

I have two nieces and their families living in the lock down zone. Another friend with three small children lives there as well. Traffic is closed off in some areas, and the hospital is locked down and on alert in case of possible mass casualties. Police from other areas are coming in to assist in the manhunt. There will be little sleep had in this city till the gunman is caught.

We are praying for the families of the lost officers, for the injured officers, for the safety of the residents of the locked-down neighborhoods and for the protection of all who are out on the streets trying to stop this madman. God bless you for your selfless service to  our community. We pray this will end quickly and without further injury or loss of life. 

Anxiously waiting.