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Bovary and Avocado


Reading Flaubert’s Madame Bovary seemed like a task—a molecajete coupled with a bag of fatty fruit that needed to be squashed—but in time the novel unveiled a filling appetizer that left sensual yet contrasting tastes on my tongue and a fullness in my stomach. A perfected and surprisingly relatable concoction of Realism, Madame Bovary was a bowl of guacamole, guiltily devoured by a lone invitee.


The contained capsule of Madame Bovary is seamlessly cut into a work of Realism, uniformly ripened into an experience as pure as a Hass avocado. The flavor, or plot, is not composed of extremely foreign ingredients or occurrences, but is heartily substituted with the simple creamy richness of emotion. Within Madame Bovary’s life, “she rejected as useless all that did not contribute to the immediate desires of her heart, being of a temperament more sentimental than artistic, looking for emotions, not landscapes” (Flaubert 37). The landscape is not difficult to understand, a woman trapped by her position in society, and more so, by her own restlessness, leads to her unruly decay. It is not the unexpected that makes Madame Bovary satisfying, but the existence of a life smashed by daily events that are ruled by the urge to savor the uncut. Madame Bovary’s restlessness driven with thrilling searches of passion and lust, over love and security, make her a flightless bird, incapable to fly up and swallow the fruit, merely able to strain and peck at the remnants of leathery skins and stems of avocado and herbs.


Chopped cilantro and chives, scallions and crushed garlic cloves, fresh details mix in to form the overall pronounced taste. The meticulous writing style of Flaubert adds a subtle but decadent crunch, a necessary zing to the overall work. Nature metaphors, such as love being, “a hurricane of the skies, which falls upon life, revolutionies it, roots up the will like a leaf, and sweeps the whole heart into the abyss,” took my breath away and provided Madame Bovary’s raw desires a sense of beauty (97). From calm open waters to roaring tidal waves, a comparison between Charles and Madame Bovary, I greatly admired Chef Flaubert’s cooking of an extended metaphor describing a person’s yearnings as a stirring sea. A sense of unpredictability and power, the sea is universal along the shore with its rolling waves; it’s changing of tides—like the rhythmic smashing of avocado, the emptying of a bowl and filling of a stomach—only to be repeated again in the next helping. With a bag of chips, the bowl of guac deepens as it was hollowed out by my own roaring stomach.  Growl. Burp. Exhale. Dip. Crunch.


Acid. There are moments where I caught myself, when I was consciously aware of the sting along my cracked lips and fingertips while consuming Madame Bovary. To not only be unfaithful to her husband, but to invest in hotel visits and material items to the extent of bankruptcy. To lie and mope. To give her daughter a melancholy path she will have to face alone. Yet, it is the lime juice that keeps the guacamole from browning. Without the plunging hand into the arsenic, Madame Bovary’s acts were her undoing, her payback and final escape. She acts to feel; and she felt both passion and disaster at their upmost extremes.


But tucked away, sitting in the corner of the room alone, there are moments while scraping along the edge of the bowl, obsessive, when I felt terms of empathy for the considerably wretched woman. Madame Bovary wanted to live, to feel. Dissatisfied with her life, I admire that she took action rather than remaining stagnant. I understand and pity her for the imposed barriers placed on women in French society during the 19th century. Madame Bovary lacked choice, but she was a hungry pessimist exposed to temptation and therefore became blind to the outside world. Bovary takes on a self-burden of piling trinkets and hotel visits. The combined elements of an alternative world of luxury and a fantastical enchantment of running-away with a lover bring a heavy weight onto her shoulders. Combined with the opposing gravity of society, Madame Bovary seeks to take one step at a time rather than striding to look back and be appreciative of what she already has. Such straining focus on the crescendo of current the stride destroys the temple of her peripheral vision, leaving Madame Bovary unable to see the consequences of her paved route to destruction and the heavy stares of others as they watch her go. Her thirst becomes her madness and greed, two expansive black eyes that swallow her, two remaining seed pits of the avocados after the fat has been scraped away by a heavy, metal spoon. But perhaps she does not want to see the skewed reflection in the face of the spoon, the lone footprints in the sand; the disfigurement would only add to her internal suffering, another wrinkle to add to her aging complexion. As the journey carries on, I wonder if this is the case.  


Looking into my own spoon when I am finished, I consider all I have just read, what I have just eaten. Relatable, realistic, precise. An internal mess is left to be cleaned up: the rough avocado skins of passion—will I ever feel this way? The fragmented citrus peels of mercy—shall I continue to feel a stinging guilt for my compassion? Sprinkles of appreciation, cloves of historical literary greatness.

And two avocado seeds, washed and ready to be planted in the garden of Hope.


Thank-you for this appetizer, it was quite scrumptious. 



- Karaghen Hudson, September 2013

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