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"A Simple Heart"

Gustave Flaubert wrote "A Simple Heart" near the end of his life and the short story provides some interesting parallels between the life of Flaubert, one of the greatest writers of the nineteenth century, and a simple, uneducated servant named Félicité. Flaubert (1821-1880) was born into a doctor's family in the provincial town of Rouen in Normandy, France. As a boy he found the life of the town conventional, dull, and stifling and throughout his writing career this beginning portion of his life affected his fiction. When he was young Flaubert would escape from this depressing reality in two ways. One was in writing down lists of received ideas as a way to "mock the banality of bourgeois life" (1017). The other means of escape was "writing exotic romantic stories" (1017). As an adult Flaubert wrote five novels and several short pieces of fiction and they were either quite realistic, like Madame Bovary, or completely romantic, like Salammbo. Thus in his mature work the escape routes he used as a boy were still his main means of expressing himself. In a story such as "A Simple Heart," the connections between Flaubert's own life and that of the servant Félicité do not seem very strong. But when Flaubert's method of writing is considered and the story is analyzed, it becomes clear how much the life of the pathetic Félicité was related to Flaubert's own story.

Flaubert escaped from the town that he hated by going to Paris as a law student. But Flaubert failed his examinations and, after he became very ill from a nervous breakdown, he was forced to return to Rouen. From 1846 until he died in 1880 Flaubert took a few trips to Paris, to North Africa and the Middle East but he spent the rest of his life "living uneventfully and writing in Normandy," the place that had seemed so conventional and even "diseased" when he was young (1017).

When he began writing his novel Madame Bovary, which was based on a true incident th...

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"A Simple Heart". (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:23, December 06, 2021, from