The Influence of Reading on Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary


Reading provides an escape for people from the ordinariness of everyday
life. Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, dissatisfied with their lives pursued
their dreams of ecstasy and love through reading. At the beginning of both
novels Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary made active decisions about their future
although these decisions were not always rational. As their lives started to
disintegrate Emma and Anna sought to live out their dreams and fantasies through
reading. Reading served as morphine allowing them to escape the pain of everyday
life, but reading like morphine closed them off from the rest of the world
preventing them from making rational decisions. It was Anna and Emma\'s loss of
reasoning and isolation that propelled them toward their downfall.
Emma at the beginning of the novel was someone who made active
decisions about what she wanted. She saw herself as the master of her destiny.
Her affair with Rudolphe was made after her decision to live out her fantasies
and escape the ordinariness of her life and her marriage to Charles. Emma\'s
active decisions though were based increasingly as the novel progresses on her
fantasies. The lechery to which she falls victim is a product of the
debilitating adventures her mind takes. These adventures are feed by the novels
that she reads.
They were filled with love affairs, lovers, mistresses, persecuted
ladies fainting in lonely country houses, postriders killed at every relay,
horses ridden to death on every page, dark forests, palpitating hearts, vows,
sobs, tears and kisses, skiffs in the moonlight, nightingales in thickets, and
gentlemen brave as lions gentle as lambs, virtuous as none really is, and always
ready to shed floods of tears.(Flaubert 31.)Footnote1
Emma\'s already impaired reasoning and disappointing marriage to Charles
caused Emma to withdraw into reading books, she fashioning herself a life based
not in reality but in fantasy.
Anna Karenina at the begging of Tolstoy\'s novel was a bright and
energetic women. When Tolstoy first introduces us to Anna she appears as the
paragon of virtue, a women in charge of her own destiny.
He felt that he had to have another look at her- not because she was
very beautiful not because of her elegance and unassuming grace which was
evident in her whole figure but because their was something specially sweet and
tender in the expression of her lovely face as she passed him. (Tolstoy
76.)Footnote2
In the next chapter Anna seems to fulfill expectations Tolstoy has
aroused in the reader when she mends Dolly and Oblonskys marriage. But Anna like
Emma has a defect in her reasoning, she has an inability to remain content with
the ordinariness of her life: her marriage to Karenin, the social festivities,
and housekeeping. Anna longs to live out the same kind of romantic vision of
life that Emma also read and fantasized about.
Anna read and understood everything, but she found no pleasure in
reading, that is to say in following the reflection in other people\'s lives. She
was to eager to live herself. When she read how a heroine of a novel nursed a
sick man, she wanted to move about the sick room with noiseless steps herself.
When she read how Lady Mary rode to hounds and teased her sister-in-law,
astonishing everyone by her daring, she would have liked to do the same.
(Tolstoy 114.)
Anna Karenina was a romantic who tried to make her fantasies a reality.
It was for this reason she had an affair with Vronsky. Like Emma her decisions
were driven by impulsiveness and when the consequences caught up with her latter
in the novel she secluded herself from her friends, Vronsky, and even her
children. Anna and Emma both had character flaws that made them view the world
as fantasy so that when their fantasy crumbled they resorted to creating a new
fantasy by living their lives through the books they read.
Books allowed Emma Bovary to withdraw from her deteriorating life. They
allowed her to pursue her dreams of love, affairs, and knights; from the
wreckage of her marriage with Charles. Emma\'s, experience at La Vaubyessard
became a source of absurd fantasy for Emma, and ingrained in her mind that the
world that the novel\'s she read depicted was with in her reach.
She devoured without skipping a word, every article about first nights
in the theater, horse races and soirees; she was interested in the debut of
every new sing, the opening of every new shop. She new the dress of the latest
fashions and the