A 2007 Time poll places Madame Bovary at the forefront of classic novels in world literature (along with Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina). And, it's no wonder. The novel offers something for everyone: a coming of age story, a whirlwind "romance" with a doctor, and (well) a whole series of other events that really throws the novel into the ranks of banned literature. Who could love a woman who dreams outside of her accepted role? And, who could appreciate the dolt of a husband who tirelessly accompanies her through the pages of Madame Bovary?
Her actions could be considered idiotic, romanticized, and careless--her adultery and eventual escape throws the lives of those around her into utter chaos, destroying the very ones she "should" have loved. Her goals seemed so simple, so clear. All she wanted was the dream. She wanted the man from her novels. She wanted the life promised in those stories. Even Charles seemed to fit into her dream: "She compared and likened him to the characters in the books. But the circle of which he was the centre, gradually enlarged around him, and the aureole which encompassed him withdrew farther and farther from him, to shed its light on other dreams."
But, here's the real question... Do novels encourage us to dream unreasonably? Have you ever wished you could transport yourself into the pages of your favorite novel--to live the dream, to walk down those golden, garden paths, to experience everything with the characters? Have you wished that you could meet (and love?) a character from a book? How "real" does literature become? Even if you have a clear delineation between fiction and "reality," books leave marks on all of us--often in ways we may not even realize. Perhaps you're looking for your Mr. Darcy. Perhaps, you're just wishing for sisters like in Little Women; or a bosom friend like in Anne of Green Gables.
Many of our most secret and dear wishes have been explored in literature: love, friendship, mystery, adventure, and beyond!