Tag Archives: The Awakening

A Little Book Told Me So…3

28th April 2012

Dear Picky Girl:

I like to read in bed before I go to sleep, but my husband would rather watch TV. Unfortunately, my short attention span will not allow me to concentrate on my reading while there is TV on in the background. Pray tell what is the solution? (The solution would be for hubs to be a reader but he just isn’t…)


Anonymous…in Bed


Dear Anonymous…in Bed:

You married a non-reader?!? Can’t….compute.

Ok, so I’m guessing you love him very much to have gotten past this character flaw. Either that, or he’s great in the… kitchen. How can we make this work? The opening of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening has always amused me. Mr. Pontellier is trying to read his newspaper, but the birds outside his door will not stop squawking. As Chopin says, “the parrot and the mockingbird…had the right to make all the noise they wished. Mr. Pontellier had the privilege of quitting their society when they ceased to be entertaining.”

Am I calling your husband an annoying parrot? In a roundabout way I guess I am, but I’m sure he’s a very colorful annoying parrot. He certainly has the right to watch TV before bed, just as the parrot has a right to repeat whatever random bits of languages he has picked up. However, unlike Mr. Pontellier, you probably do not care to leave the comfort of your bedroom and bed. Being in bed and…reading is, at least for yours truly, a distinct luxury.

What to do, what to do?

  • Though this is not at all a literary answer, I think the solution is quite simple. For this you’ll need to go to a specialty shop for adults. You know, like Best Buy. Either buy him a good pair of headphones or buy yourself some cheapo earplugs. Bada bing. Problem solved. Am I genius or what?
  • Not sold on it? Have you considered listening to audiobooks with headphones while he is watching TV? This would also leave your hands free for whatever you wish them for in bed…like knitting.
  • If all else fails, let me introduce you to a phenomenon called closed captioning. It is not just for the hearing impaired. Far from it, if the aforementioned husband is unwilling to experiment in the bedroom by wearing headphones for the television, perhaps he would concede and put closed captioning on and mute the television.

Anonymous, use your womanly wiles. Present him with his options…in bed, and hopefully your textual life will be that much more rewarding.

Hugs and Air Kisses,

The Picky Girl

 Have a question for The Picky Girl? Leave it in the comments, or email your query to thepickygirlblog@gmail.com… No, now…. No, do it now. You’re already on the computer. Hurry!

A Little Book Told Me So…1

A Little Book Told Me So…2

Madame Bovary, Part Two

21st October 2010

I am sorry for posting this a bit late. I meant to do it early this morning, but A. I had a lot going on and B. I had no idea what I planned to write. I was tempted to write: “Emma, shut up and stop bitching” but thought surely I could come up with something more literary than that.

I have stewed most of the day about it and have come to a conclusion. The older Emma gets, the more angry she becomes. Her anger bubbles over, and she snaps at her child, her husband, her maid, everyone around her (that’s not the conclusion part). Frances focuses on the web of lies Flaubert spins for his characters, and though I think it’s a significant part of the book, I think the worst lie is the abstract one Emma focuses on. Emma thinks the world has lied to her, and she hates life because of it (there it is).

Life isn’t supposed to be like this, she thinks. Every moment leading up to her marriage, she lived in anticipation of that fulfillment, that idea of love she has carried around. She tries to discover “just what was meant, in life, by the words “bliss,” “passion,” and “intoxication,” which had seemed so beautiful to her in books.” Tucked away in a convent as a young girl where she is rewarded for her spiritual ardor, all the while sneaking highly-romanticized novels, Emma lives in an alternate reality. It is a mystical place, and Emma embraces it fully. When her mother dies, she writes a letter to her father, and the contents of the letter so worry him, he visits her, and

Emma was inwardly satisfied to feel that she had, at her first attempt, reached that rare ideal of pallid lives, which mediocre hearts will never attain. And so she allowed herself to slip into Lamartinean meanderings, listened to harps on lakes, to the song of every dying swan, to the falling of every leaf … [until] [s]he became bored with this, did not want to admit it … and was at last surprised to find … that there was no more sadness in her heart than there were wrinkles on her forehead.

Her dramatic nature has never been curbed, and through the ever-disappointed Emma and her love of novels, Flaubert swiftly eviscerates romanticism and its dangers. Emma acts her life; she doesn’t live it. When she attempts to be a good mother and wife, it’s draining, yet she feels better having almost (at least on pretext) been a loving wife and mother. Flaubert does not allow the reader any illusions, though. When Emma pushes her daughter Berthe away from her and Berthe cuts her cheek, Emma seems suddenly maternal. She insists on remaining with the child, but in her quiet moment she looks at

a few large teardrops … gathered in the corners of her half-closed eyelids, through whose lashes one could glimpse two pale, sunken pupils; the adhesive plaster, stuck to her cheek, pulled the stretched skin to one side.

“How strange,” though Emma. “The child is so ugly!”

She is detached, even in that second, and cannot make herself feel as she should. She is an actress, never fully involved in her own life and therefore, she is unable to enjoy it as well. Upon receiving a letter from her father, she becomes nostalgic, and again, it’s almost as if she’s viewing her life on a stage:

How happy those days had been! How free! How full of hope! How rich in illusions! There were none left now! She had spent them in all the different adventures of her soul, in all those successive stages she had gone through, in her virginity, her marriage, and her love; — losing them continuously as her life went on, like a traveler who leaves some part of his wealth at every inn along his road.

But what was making her so unhappy? Where was the extraordinary catastrophe that had overturned her life? And she lifted her head and looked around, as though seeking the cause of what hurt her so.

Here she recognizes the illusion and in almost the same instant, pushes the blame away from herself, looking around to identify who or what is to blame for her intense displeasure. Finding no one, she places the blame squarely on her husband, who, to her, represents her entrapment. Flaubert tells us, though, to be prepared for this. In Part One, he describes Emma as

Accustomed to the calm aspect of things, she turned, instead, toward the more tumultuous. She loved the sea only for its storms, and greenery only when it grew up here and there among ruins. She needed to derive from things a sort of personal gain; and she rejected as useless everything that did not contribute to the immediate gratification of her heart, — being by temperament more sentimental than artistic, in search of emotions and not landscapes.

Emma seeks something fleeting, something on the air she cannot quite grasp. I fear it will remain ever elusive and that Emma’s hatred of her life and the world can only turn inward.

*But that’s just what I think. Check out Frances at nonsuch book and all the other links to see what other readers thought of Part 2. And thanks, Frances! I am finding the conversation most interesting.