The Novel pp 126-146 | Cite as

The Language of Scandal

Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary


Maître Ernest Pinard, the prosecutor in the trial of Gustave Flaubert on charges of ‘offenses à la morale publique et à la religion’, gave an eloquent performance in his denunciation of the novel’s seductive style. His attack focused on four narrative clusters: Emma’s relationship with Rodolphe and her first ‘fall’; her recourse to religion afterwards; the affair with Léon; and her death. But throughout the learned man’s diatribe it is clear that his concern is not, primarily, the incidents as such, but the style of their presentation. Maître Pinard himself rises to a considerable height of eloquence when he describes Emma’s emotional reaction to her first extramarital relationship:

Ainsi dès cette première faute, dès cette première chute, elle fait la glorification de l’adultère, elle chante la cantique de l’adultère, sa poésie, ses voluptés. Voilà, messieurs, qui pour moi est bien plus dangereux, bien plus immoral que la chute elle-même! [Thus from the moment of this first mistake, this first fall, she begins to glorify adultery, to sing the hymn of adultery, its poetry, its voluptuous pleasures. This, gentlemen, I find much more dangerous, much more immoral, than the fall itself!]. (Faubert 1987:623, my translation)1


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© André Brink 1998

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