Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary exposes the extent to which social image, public persona, and wealth played a significant role in the everyday lives of French society in the mid-1800s.
Though he embodies neither wealth nor a lavish persona, Charles Bovary - a somewhat established doctor - takes a chance in marrying the young, vibrant, and ambitious farm girl Emma Rouault. At first, Emma is delighted to be married and away from her father's farm, but her thirst for the rich and ornate lifestyle that she witnesses other people living soon drives her away from her husband and into the arms of various suitors.
Blinded with the promise of riches, Emma makes some drastic miscalculations, which sends her, and consequently her husband, into debt, eventually amassing to the point that she cannot repay.
Combining romance with heartache and deception, Madame Bovary will have an eternal place in the list of classics. It is a sometimes sorrowful, sometimes joyous representation of how love and lust can move us to make radical decisions, and how individuals deal with the consequences of these actions.