The central theme of A Simple Heart is realism since the main protagonist in the story is a maid and not a boss as it is the case in most of the stories. At the heart of the story, though there are several themes that are intertwined, the issue of society and class dominates and it has been expressed through the lead characters, Felicite Barette who is a maid, and her mistress Madame Aubain (Flaubert & McDowall 1). The two extremes in as far as the social class has been brought out by both characters, Felicite representing the lower class, and Aubain representing the high class. There various norms that are set by the society with regards to how the two groups or perhaps any other social group in the novel's context apply. For purposes of this essay, an analysis of society and class will be the key focus, and it will be based on the relationship that both the mistress and her maid had as well as the perception of the society in general.
The first chapter of the novel introduces two extremes with regards to the subject of social classes. Felicite is from a poor background who survives from doing menial jobs such as the one she was holding in madam Aubains residence. On the other hand, Madam Aubain belongs to the upper class where she is defined to be leaving in a mansion together with her children. The two extremes play out well with regards to the relationship that the two have. Additionally, in the wider spectrum, the society is at the center of the norms of dictating the course of the relationship that exists between classes.
Before Felicite moves into Aubain's house as a maid, she was dating a Theodore, and she was deeply in love with him. However, she was not able to marry him since at it turned out her boyfriend decided to marry an old rich woman to avoid being drafted into the army. The new of him marrying the old rich woman hurt her so much to the point that she left her job and she took up Aubain's one. From this part of the story, Theodore was to be drafted into the army because he had no powers to refuse the move, on a deeper analysis it will emerge that he was also from a lower class. To safe himself from the army, the only protection that he had was to marry an old rich woman and in turn acquire the upper-class status which gives him immunity into joining the army.
Another part of the story which has huge significance into the topic of the essay is the relationship between the lead characters. At the beginning of her stay in Aubains place, Felicite does not receive a good treatment that befits a good employee; instead, she is treated with a lot of contempt and disregard. A good example when she lost her nephew John, an incident that happened almost at the same time when her boss, Aubain, lost her daughter, Virginie. Even though both are distraught and hurt by the loss of Virginie, it is only Felicite who is hurt by her Nephew, Johns death.
At some point her boss ushers her to stop mourning john so that they can mourn Virginie. As it turns out from the treatment of both death incidences, the death of those in the upper class ought to be mourned by all classes while on the other hand, a demise of a poor person ought to be mourned by members of their fellow class the poor. On the same note; the lower class is disregarded, underprivileged, and lack good jobs. From the jobs that Felicite held to the job that John held and the supposed job for her boyfriend, it leads to a logical conclusion that they are underprivileged because they are from the social class.
While still on the issue of underprivileged; Felicite works in Aubain's house, and she is given as task of taking Aubain's children to school to learn, her only learning is from the Geography book that Paul showed her. She also learns Catechism lessons on her own while she waits for Aubain's children to be taught in a formal class. There are many instances that the issue of society and social classes played in the story of A simple Heart.'
In summary, the social structure as it was in the days of the writing of the novel was characterized by deprivation and underprivileged lower class and privileged and lavish upper class. Those who were in the lower class served those the upper class in their homes where they were subjected to all manner of prejudice from their bosses and the society. The upper class had various privileges such as the ability to take their children to school as well as lavishness that characterized life in their mansions. The lower class served in the whims of the upper class.
Flaubert, G., & McDowall, A. (1996). A simple heart. New York: New Directions Bibelot.
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