Destiny vs Fate

Destiny: the seemingly inevitable succession of events.1
Is this definition true, or do we, as people in real life or characters in novels,
control our own destiny? Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary exemplifies how we hold destiny in our
own hands, molding it with the actions we take and the choices we make. Flaubert uses Emma Bovary,
the main character of his novel, to demonstrate this. Throughout her life, Emma makes many
decisions, each one of them affecting her fate and by analyzing these decisions one could see
from the beginning that Emma is destined to suffer. However, one can also pinpoint such decisions
making events as her marriage, her daughter’s birth, her adulterous relationship with Leon and her
taking the poison, as times when, if she had made a different decision, her life would not have
ended as tragically.
When we first meet Emma, the future Madame Bovary, we perceive her as being a woman who is
refined perhaps a bit more than the average peasant girl living on a farm. We conclude this
because she attended a boarding school where she was taught “dancing, geography, needlework and
piano.” (p.15) Charles, on the other hand, gives her more credit than she deserves. He regards
her as well very educated, sophisticated, sensitive and loving, with the last characteristic
being the one she lacks most. Soon after Emma marries Charles we see her unhappiness, and we are
faced with a dilemma, why did she marry him? There are numerous possible answers to this, but
the end conclusion is the same: if she had not married him it would have been better for both of
them. Emma would not have been so miserable and depressed throughout her life and Charles would
have found someone who would return his love and who would appreciate him. Throughout the novel
Emma never expresses her appreciation for her husband. On the contrary, she often expresses her
loathing for him - “Charles never seemed so disagreeable to her, his fingers never seemed so
blunt, his mind so dull of his manners so crude--.” (p.161)
However, Emma and Charles were married. An uneventful year passed and Emma reached yet
another fork in the road of life - should she have a baby now, or wait until later? She reasoned
that it would bring excitement to her life so she decided to go ahead and have the baby. She
wished for a boy because he would have the freedom to “explore the whole range of the passions,
go wherever he likes, overcome obstacles and savor the most exotic pleasures.” (p.76) The baby
was a girl. Emma “turned her head away and fainted” (p. 77) upon hearing this news. She felt let
down by the world, as she saw her hopes and dreams shatter before her eyes. Yet again we are
faced with a dilemma: why did she chose to have a baby? Was it only for selfish reasons? And yes,
there are many answers, but the conclusion remains the same, if she had not had this baby girl,
her destiny and that of her husband and her daughter would have been greatly altered. Emma would
not have had the chance to cause so much suffering to a little girl through her thoughtless
Why did Emma choose to have to commit adultery and sleep with Leon when she had already
experienced first hand the consequences ? This question leads to the third major event in her
life, one that could have easily changed the outcome of her life if it had been approached
differently. Emma had had and affair previously that had devastated her in the end. She recovered
from the pain and the emptiness she felt at the end of this affair, only to begin the cycle
again with Leon. If she had taken only a few minutes of her time to analyze the situation she
would have realized that an affair only brings happiness for a time and then it only brings
misery. Her affair with Leon is the cause of many of her later problems, such as her debt, her
sickness, her depression and her eventual death.
Death. This brings us to the final fork in the road of Emma’s life. She chooses to take