The inevitable realities of marriage seldom play well for the husband or wife who, like Gustave Flaubert's Emma in Madame Bovary, desire the endless bliss, passion, and ecstasy that seem so beautiful and real in fairy tales. In the end, Emma's serial adulteries all too quickly become ordinary and leave her devastated. Her efforts to escape the boredom, pain, and harsh challenges of marriage through adultery left her, in the words of Flaubert, "as sick of him as he was weary of her."
Nathan Schlueter poignantly assesses the damage and in an astute piece of cultural analysis: "Emma's extravagant expectation of happiness, her vagrant homelessness and boredom, her alternating states of misery and euphoria, her promiscuity, her addictive consumerism, and her suicide all follow a pattern that is familiar to careful observers of popular modern American life. We have become a nation populated by Madame Bovarys."