Powerlessness of Women
The author takes several opportunities to demonstrate the struggles and challenges women faced during this time. Emma hopes her baby will be a boy because she believes that “a woman is always hampered”. Throughout this novel, readers will see how the men in Emmas life, including Charles, have the power to change her life in both good and bad ways. She herself does not have this power. Charles' incompetence keeps him from moving ahead to a higher social level that could possibly make Emma happier and satisfy her desires for the finer things in life. His laziness keeps him from being a better doctor. Because of this, Emma is trapped in a country town with little money.
Rodolphe is a wealthy man with much financial power and able to take Emma from her current life into one she strongly desires, but he leaves her. Being a woman, she is not capable of leaving on her own. Leon initially seems to share Emmas' feelings about being dissatisfied with country life. Both Leon and Emma want to flee to bigger and better things. However, since Leon is a man, he is able to actually flee to the city to fulfill his dream, while Emma has to remain in Yonville, chained to her child and her husband.
Ultimately, Madame Bovary's moral structure forces Emma to take responsibility for her actions. She simply cannot blame all that is wrong in her life on the men she surrounds herself with. Emma chose to cheat on Charles and this choice results in him being fatally wounded in the end. However, Emmas' only two choices were to remain faithful to Charles regardless of how dull their marriage was or commit adultery. Emma chose adultery because it gave her the chance to fully have power and control over her own destiny. The men during this time had property and wealth, but as a woman, Emma only had her body to influence others, a form of power she can only use in secret where the price is shame and deception.
When Emma desperately begged men for money so that she could pay off debts, the men would give her the money, but only in exchange for sexual favors. She eventually tries tries to convince Rodolphe to pay her debts in exchange for her being his lover. Her suicide was even made possible through her using her physical charms, which were aimed at Justin, who permits Emma to get into the cupboard where the arsenic is. For Emma to even take her own life, she had to use her sexual power in order to convince Justin that if he truly loves her, he will give her what she wants.