Predicament of Female in Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina

Veena Vijaya


This article probes the concept of ‘femme fatale’ widely discussed in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary(1857) and Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina(1877), the two world classics in English literature and masterpieces of all time. These novels echo the social context of the nineteenth century in countries of its setting and authorship. Both Flaubert and Tolstoy belong to the realistic tradition of writing. They have succeeded in their mission of portraying their contemporary society, culture, and tradition with minute details. Flaubert’s representation of French society and Tolstoy’s depiction of Russian society in their respective novels, and the wonderful plot sketch and characterization have left a perennial influence in the mind of their readers. The most relevant theme usually identified and widely discussed regarding the novel is its concept of ‘femme fatale.’However, the discussion here aims at re-imagining this concept in a new vision, focusing on the influence of society in making the protagonists of Flaubert and Tolstoy, Emma and Anna, victims of gender and class representations. This novel reading intends to delve deep into the concept of ‘homme fatale’ in opposition to ‘femme fatale.’The role of men in making women a ‘femme fatale’ is also discussed in detail.


‘femme fatale’, ‘homme fatale’, romanticism, realistic, gender, class.

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