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The perversity of human nature cannot truly be called into question. Since before writing existed there have been entire tales that try to do justice to the awful extremes to which men and women will go to satisfy their own desires. Through literature we can explore and classify the exact perversion which our thoughts undergo, and so begin to understand them better, and maybe prevent ourselves from committing the same mistakes in our own lives. We can see in Madame Bovary the weakness of the human soul, the frailty of our morals when it stands in the way of possible happiness. In Madame Bovary the themes of deception, greed, naiveté and prodigality and materialism are explored, and through this exploration we attain an understanding of what exactly people will do to reach the aims they have in life.
Deception is a theme present throughout the entire novel, and Emma's entire nature becomes deceptive as she repeatedly lies to and hides the truth from her husband. She continually lies to him so she may see other men and sate her desire for romance and a break from monotony. First she fabricates to be with Rodolphe, who she even meets with near her own house; and later with Leon, with whom she makes frequent rendezvous when she goes to town, supposedly to take the in truth non-existent piano lessons she convinced Charles to pay for her. When Charles discovers an irregularity in her stories, she lies even more, as humans are wont to do, to cover up the first fibs she told. Eventually Emma's entire life becomes a series of made-up tales, one after the other, and she spins herself a web of lies that she is unable to keep up until the end of the novel.
Emma's deceit would have never worked, however, if it was not for the extreme naiveté of her husband. Charles does not see anything at all, even when Emma and Leon spend inordinate amounts of time talking flirtingly in front of him; even when she constantly finds any excuse to run to town, despite having talked to the person who is supposedly teaching her piano and found out she does not even have knowledge of his wife. Charles Bovary is so lost in the happiness of having found a "perfect" wife that he does not believe she would do the things she does, even though she does it right to his face; possibly part of him realizes she is unfaithful and yet ignores the fact so that he may be happy. Another demonstration of naiveté in the novel, this time by Madame Bovary herself, is her dream of the future, a fantastic one where she has the perfect man who never loses his allure, and they embark on a passionate life together, living in wealth and style. This childish and unreal bubble is popped when she realizes the monotony of her life, and she sees that passion does not go on forever. Nonetheless she continues to pursue that ideal, with men other than her husband, and so ruins her entire life.
One of the more colourful characters we encounter in the novel is Monsieur L'heureux, a man who embodies both deception and greed. He continually convinces Emma to buy from him on credit, driving the Bovary household further and further into debt, all to satisfy his own greedy desires. L'heureux desires money so much, he does not even hesitate to destroy a marriage and cause the bankruptcy of an honest, working doctor. He uses an incredible amount of guile to persuade Emma to buy extremely expensive items, fully aware she does not in fact possess the money to pay for all of it. He then has the gall to face Monsieur Bovary and show him bills for things he never actually delivered when Emma becomes bedridden, and talks her, when she recovers, into obtaining power of attorney over Charles' riches, just so she can pay for objects that were never necessary. L'heureux is, by and large, the greediest character in the entire novel.
None of L'heureux's antics would be possible, however, if it was not for the prodigality and materialism that Emma exhibits in the novel. Throughout the novel she digs herself a financial hole as she buys more and more unnecessary items, sinking into debt. The extent to which she goes for material goods is such that even when she realizes she is in debt, she sells a house that belonged to her husband's father and continues buying objects and furniture she does not need. She seems to believe that the flow of Charles' money is never ending and never expanding, that she may purchase and purchase on and on and that there will never be consequences, that there will always be money to pay for them. Her unquenchable thirst for material fancies seems to be the product of the fantasies she had of her life, of living in complete luxury, not just never wanting for anything, but also with all the possessions that would mar her as a member of the "high society". Emma's materialistic desires, coupled with her unfaithfulness, are what cause her eventual downfall at her own hands.
The depths to which human beings will sink to satisfy their wants are explored through the complementary themes of greed and prodigality and materialism, and naiveté and deception. The fulfilment of one person's greed is only possible because the never ending desire for material goods of another; the deceptions carried out by one person would not work if not for the naiveté of the one whom they are trying to deceive. All of the circumstances we find in "Madame Bovary" cause the unravelling of a truly perverse and intricate set of interests, and give us an insight into the despicableness of human nature. Gustave Flaubert effectively shows us how, because of these interests, a person's life can be destroyed, and in the process those of the ones close to that person. Emma Bovary demolishes a perfectly good and potentially happy life, just for the sake of satisfying the desires she got when reading about fairy tale happy endings and breath taking love stories. Through the pursuit of more happiness, she destroyed that which she already had and made those close to her suffer.