Fantasy vs. Reality, Bella Swan Meet Emma Bovary

December 14, 2009 at 1:28 am (Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I just finished reading Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert, yet another piece of literature addressing the theme of fantasy versus reality.  This piece of work should join the ranks of Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Austen’s Northanger Abbey as all the main characters read novel after novel and for some reason become all goofy stupid because of it.  Don Quixote is quite funny, though annoying, in all his follies and delusions; Catherine visits the Abbey and acts quite the silly little girl.  Emma Bovary on the other hand is a different kind of delusional altogether, she is not funny in her silliness, there is no part of her antics that bring any kind of nostalgic giggle to my heart.  Emma Bovary has confused the fruitless passion of romance novels with what she wants for her life, and unfortunately for all involved, that kind of love is not realistic, long-lasting, or even truly desirable.  There is so much more to love than what she sells herself short for.

Kristen Stewart, actress, as Bella Swan in the Twilight Saga movies

While reading Madame Bovary and coming to these conclusions, I couldn’t help but compare this theme to the realities of today – to the fad that is known as the Twilight Saga.  Since I first read Stephenie Meyer’s books I have told people the story-line of the Twilight Saga is terribly frustrating because it sets unrealistic and pitiful standards on the beautiful thing that is love.   Not to say the books are inherently bad, they were entertaining and held my attention until the end, but there are so many things young men and women should understand when sitting down to read these novels.  Well, one thing specifically: Edward is not real.  Jacob is not real.  These boys do not exist, they will never exist.  And truth be told, they don’t act like real men, and in the end, even if they did exist, you would be unsatisfied.  Beware of expecting the wrong things and becoming the next Madame Bovary, wench of all wenches.

Below is a review of Twilight my sister Nikki Dawn Bratton wrote:

As a woman, I am captivated by the emotional suspense that Stephanie Meyer artfully crafts as this classic romance unfolds.
Classic, you say? Falling in love with a vampire? Yes, classic. As Bella Swan’s desperate desire builds and unravels, it is increasingly clear that the imminent danger in this novel is not so specifically falling in love with a “vampire”. If it were, then the plot would be too fictional to strike so much fear in my heart. It would be too fictional to draw in so many female fanatics ready to ride the thrilling emotional roller coaster.

No, vampires don’t make this story scary – it’s the classic romance driven by the understanding that love is some uncontrollable force that you “fall” into. A young reader being shaped and impacted by this novel will gain the following detrimental (and false) insights on life and love:

True love is uncontrollable. Like Romeo and Juliet, Edward and Bella are drawn to each other. For Bella the mystery behind Edward Cullen is so intriguing that she cannot help but be drawn to him. By the time she finds out who he really is, she states simply “It doesn’t matter” because she is already hooked.

Love is about risk; therefore, the greater your willingness to risk, the greater the love. Bella’s desire to be close to Edward supersedes all her inhibitions. The danger he presents becomes irrelevant to her.

A woman’s emotional attraction and sensual stimulation are the best tools she has for determining how much risk is right for her to take. This is the only determining factor in how much she should “love” a man who has caught her attention. Bella seeks no counsel from her family, her friends, or anyone else. Her response to Edward is purely and solely based on her own inward thoughts, desires, and emotions.

The understanding that it is right for a woman to give as much as she deems correct. Bella constantly reminds Edward that it is her choice and her desire to be with him despite the danger. To this end, Edward concedes.

The scariest thing about this book is that it is shaping the hearts of young readers because culture largely already agrees with the underlying elements of classic romance novels. When you break it all down, it’s another story of an ordinary girl who notices something extraordinary in a man and offers him her whole heart for the desperate desire to be something other than ordinary to him – regardless of the cost. There is nothing fictional about such a scenario. Just the happy ending that satisfies our feminine longings.

The problem with this is what those insights lead to:

Women being unprotected and willing to enter secret relationships when they are captivated by something they see as extraordinary.

In this “fictional” love story, Bella’s inside information and personal experiences with Edward, unknown to all others, play out thrillingly. However, real life rarely packs the same sort of thrills. Just as Bella’s life hangs on Edward’s ability to control his own temptations, so are the lives of so many young ladies. They secretly place their hearts in the hands of young men who are struggling with their own secret addictions and temptations.

Men taking advantage of young girls willing to give themselves away out of emotional desire.

Although Edward knows and states that he is not good for her, she insists on being with him regardless of what logic or self-preservation dictate. Although our fictional hero, Edward, is able to resist the temptations that he feels, this is often not the case in the real world.

Women who cannot be satisfied with a real man, full of all the human flaws, not crafted on the pages of a romance novel. With this picture of romance in her head, will any man every really be worthy of a woman’s life long devotion? Edward’s captivating smile and chiseled body are immortal. Edward’s emotional attraction to her is a mirror of her own feelings. The total package is not reproducible outside the pages of a fictional romance.

Therefore, your chief concern when analyzing the cultural impact of Twilight should not be teens intrigued by vampires. It’s the “love” story that will eat them alive.

In short, read Twilight and New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn to your hearts content.  Inwardly swoon all you want, but please, please, please, read Flaubert’s Madame Bovary as soon as you do.  Get acquainted with Emma Bovary and understand her weakness for all affairs and selfishness, and remember that is not a road you want to take.  Real love, real passionate and blissful love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not rude or self-seeking, is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrong.  It’s also a daily choice and a lot of hard work.   Do it right and you will see the fruits of your labors.  Do not expect butterflies and tingles every time you look at the object of your affection, but don’t be so certain that they ever completely desist either.

I love my fantasies, but I know I cannot be so involved in them to find reality boring.  Books are awesome, but real life is the ultimate treat.

Buy Madame Bovary from

(And for fun, because I love this guy…


  1. Nicole said,

    Great review!

  2. Anakalian Whims said,

    This was posted on Book Riot today. I thought anyone interested in reading MY post would also be interested in reading THIS post:

  3. In Response to Book Riot – A Bella Swan Post | Anakalian Whims said,

    […] Many moons ago, I posted this. […]

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