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Let me to come out with what really struck me in Mme Bovary – perhaps a small spotlight on a less explored area.
My heart just broke for little Berthe. The way Emma treats her is indicative of the degree of her fallenness. When Berthe is born, it’s a shock to her: “It’s a girl!” said Charles. She turned away and fainted.
Later, she turns her head away again: “Speak to us!” said Charles. “Speak to us! Pull yourself together! It’s me, your Charles, who loves you! Do you recognize me? Look, here’s your little girl – give her a kiss!” She even abuses the child: “I told you to leave me alone!” said Emma, shoving her away with her elbow. She thinks Berthe is ugly: It’s amazing how ugly that child is!” thought Emma. (I thought grrr! You miserable so-and-so!)
And then Emma’s final and worst act of abandonment: her suicide. Little Berthe ends up as a child laborer. And Charles makes the only philosopical statement of his life: Only fate is to blame.
The worst is that we’re all fallen, so I wouldn’t even be able to join the crowd that should have stoned her, for fear of the Master telling me: “Then you pick up the first stone …”