Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert Gustave Flaubert[2†]

Gustave Flaubert, born on December 12, 1821, in Rouen, France, is regarded as a leading exponent of literary realism in his country and abroad[1†][2†]. He is best known for his debut novel, Madame Bovary (1857), a realistic portrayal of bourgeois life, which led to a trial on charges of the novel’s alleged immorality[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Gustave Flaubert was born on December 12, 1821, in Rouen, France, to Achille Cléophas Flaubert, a chief surgeon, and Anne Justine Caroline, a doctor’s daughter[1†][3†]. He was the second son in the family, and he spent most of his childhood struggling with illnesses[1†][3†]. His family lived in a house located right next to the hospital where his father worked[1†][3†].

Flaubert showed an early interest in literature, beginning to write at the tender age of eight[1†][3†][4†]. He produced some intellectual work at the age of fourteen[1†][3†]. His first published work, Song of Death, appeared in the review Le Colibri in 1837[1†][5†]. He and his friends acted in plays he had written when he was only 11[1†][5†].

Despite his interest in literature, Flaubert honored his parents’ wishes and reluctantly began law school in Paris upon receiving his baccalaureate[1†][4†]. However, his studies were disrupted in 1844 when he experienced the first attack of what is now believed to have been epilepsy[1†][4†][6†]. After his father’s death in 1846, Flaubert received a significant inheritance, which he used to relocate to the family estate in Croisset[1†][3†].

Career Development and Achievements

Gustave Flaubert’s career as a writer began early, with his first published work appearing in a small review, Le Colibri, in 1837[1†][2†]. Despite his early start, Flaubert’s writing career truly took off with the publication of his debut novel, Madame Bovary, in 1857[1†][2†][7†]. This novel, a realistic portrayal of bourgeois life, is considered a masterpiece of literary realism and is still widely read and studied today[1†][2†][7†].

Flaubert’s writing career, though it spanned barely a decade, was prolific. He wrote some 300 short stories, three plays, six novels, and hundreds of newspaper articles[1†][8†]. His works, including Madame Bovary and L’Éducation sentimentale (1869), offer a realistic view of life in his native Normandy and Paris[1†][7†]. His scrupulous devotion to his style and aesthetics is evident in his works[1†][2†].

Flaubert’s other notable works include Salammbô (1862), a historical novel set in ancient Carthage, and Bouvard et Pécuchet (1881), a satirical depiction of two Parisian copy-clerks[1†][2†]. His last work, Three Tales (1877), is a collection of three short stories that showcase his storytelling prowess[1†][2†].

The commercial success of his writing made Flaubert famous and independently wealthy[1†][8†]. Despite the brevity of his career, Flaubert’s impact on literature was profound. His meticulous attention to detail, his commitment to realism, and his innovative narrative techniques influenced a generation of writers, including his protégé, the celebrated short story writer Guy de Maupassant[1†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Gustave Flaubert’s literary career is marked by his meticulous attention to detail and his pursuit of formal perfection[2†]. His works have had a profound influence on many other writers, and he is often regarded as the first “modernist” writer[2†][9†].

Flaubert’s works are celebrated for their vivid and realistic portrayal of characters and society[2†][9†]. His attention to detail and his pursuit of formal perfection have earned him a place among the world’s greatest writers[2†][9†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Gustave Flaubert’s work is characterized by his meticulous attention to detail and his pursuit of formal perfection[7†]. His novels, particularly “Madame Bovary”, have been celebrated for their vivid and realistic portrayal of characters and society[7†][10†]. His detailed documentation of the society in which his characters lived emphasized the hypocrisy endemic in that society[7†]. Careful control of physical description delineated the personalities of the various characters and created a style that has strongly influenced subsequent writers[7†].

Flaubert’s realistic compositions form only one aspect of his literary production. His other works, closer to the romantic tradition of the historical novel, testify to his depth and versatility[7†]. His psychological realism, as noted by Charles Baudelaire in an early review, clearly strikes a new note in the development of the novel and is one of Flaubert’s major contributions to the genre[7†][10†]. This realism is, nevertheless, tempered by some elements of Romanticism[7†][10†].

Flaubert, a Romantic by nature, became a realist and a classicist by discipline[7†][10†]. His novels often end with a sense of disillusionment attendant on the recognition that Romantic ideals themselves are untenable[7†][10†]. This sense is usually dominant in the endings of Flaubert’s novels, endings that are supremely important in adjusting the reader’s perspective[7†][10†].

Flaubert’s intentions and the circumstances of his life have figured significantly in the interpretation and evaluation of his fiction[7†][10†]. One useful way of thinking about his work as a writer and the writing he produced is to consider his life and work spent in the service of art, a demanding art that provided a refuge from the world of ordinary provincial and urban affairs[7†][10†].

Personal Life

Gustave Flaubert’s personal life was as intriguing as his professional one. From 1846 to 1854, Flaubert had a relationship with the poet Louise Colet[2†]. His letters to her have survived, providing a unique insight into Flaubert’s life and times[2†]. After leaving Paris, he returned to Croisset, near the Seine, close to Rouen, and lived there for the rest of his life[2†].

Flaubert was known for his relationships with prostitutes[2†][3†]. Despite these relationships, he never married[2†][3†]. He devoted his life to taking care of his mother and niece[2†][3†]. He suffered from epilepsy, a condition that affected him throughout his life[2†][3†].

Flaubert also had close friendships with other literary figures, including George Sand[2†][11†]. He faced health and financial difficulties later in life[2†][11†]. Flaubert died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1880[2†][11†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Gustave Flaubert, who passed away on May 8, 1880, left an indelible mark on the literary world[2†]. He is remembered primarily for his debut novel, “Madame Bovary”, and his scrupulous devotion to his style and aesthetics[2†][4†][12†]. His work, particularly “Madame Bovary”, has had a profound influence on many writers and is still widely studied and read today[2†].

Flaubert’s meticulous attention to detail and his dispassionate rendering of psychological detail in his works have made him a leading exponent of literary realism in his country and abroad[2†][4†][12†]. His influence extends beyond France, shaping the works of numerous writers around the world[2†].

Flaubert’s legacy is not just confined to his novels. His correspondence, particularly his letters to Louise Colet, provide a unique insight into his life and times[2†]. These letters are considered an important part of his oeuvre and are studied for their literary value[2†].

Despite the controversies during his lifetime, including a trial on charges of the alleged immorality of “Madame Bovary”, Flaubert’s work continues to be celebrated for its stylistic precision and its realistic portrayal of life[2†][1†][13†]. His commitment to presenting reality in a neutral manner, emphasizing the values and importance of style as an objective method of presenting reality, has earned him a place among the greats of literature[2†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Gustave Flaubert: French author [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Gustave Flaubert [website] - link
  3. The Famous People - Gustave Flaubert Biography [website] - link
  4. Encyclopedia.com - Flaubert, Gustave [website] - link
  5. Britannica Kids - Gustave Flaubert [website] - link
  6. GradeSaver - Gustave Flaubert Biography [website] - link
  7. eNotes - Gustave Flaubert Analysis [website] - link
  8. ThoughtCo - Biography of Guy de Maupassant, Father of the Short Story [website] - link
  9. Publishers Weekly - Gustave Flaubert's Works, Ranked [website] - link
  10. eNotes - Gustave Flaubert Long Fiction Analysis [website] - link
  11. On This Day - Gustave Flaubert (Novelist) [website] - link
  12. Gale - Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) [website] - link
  13. Britannica - Gustave Flaubert summary [website] - link
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