So the reason why Madame Bovary is a masterpiece throughout the years is because it is so plausible. As much as this has remained, everything else since that simpler time has evolved greatly.
For example, Emma covets a velvet horse and carriage the same way a modern-day woman covets a Ferrari. The same way a carriage in its garage of sorts would reek of horse dung, a Ferrari’s exhaust pipes probably force birds to fly south.
The book, true to its middle-class theme, describes the townsmen’s religious piety, a concept that today in most towns is seen as being quite old-fashioned. This is not the result of governmental secularism, for at the time of Madame Bovary the French government did not have an established national religion. It’s actually due to increased diversity, even in places like modern-day France, which has a growing North African and Middle Eastern population. In Madame Bovary every single character is pure Frankish, but if it were to be set in modern France, there would indubitably be an Iranian version of Homais the pharmacist or a Turkish oil magnate substituting for the glamorous Rudolphe. This, and the power of the nihilists and existentialists in the 19th and early 20th centuries, has made France more secular. This has both a beneficial and detrimental side-the beneficial side being a positive variation to the culture, music and cuisine of France, and the detrimental side being the blase attitude many French Catholics have adopted in neglecting to practice their religion.
Additionally, mainstream culture in itself has changed. Charles and Emma visit the opera in one scene the same way as a modern couple might treat themselves to a Christmas party or to a cruise. In America, blackface music (a type of musical comedy/theater where white performers would put on black makeup and create racist portrayals of African-Americans for their audiences) was at its heyday, and now we are under the second term of our first African-American president. Romance novels are no longer seen as improper or taboo, and women have over time gradually left them to their teenage daughters as they sit glued to Law and Order. There is also the invention of electronics such as iPods, television, and computers-now, if Emma got bored with Charles, there are a few dating sites she could have surfed, and as part of her moping sessions she could have listened to John Mayer on her iPod.
Not to mention, with the recent addition of reality TV to the jurisdiction of television, we no longer worship the rich and famous. Instead, we laugh at them. Should Emma be seized with the despair of her own bourgeois lifestyle, she could just flip to TLC, watch 10 seconds of the Kardashians, and all of a sudden feel a heck of a lot better.
But essentially, even to the modern woman Madame Bovary is more terrifying than a horror movie. Why? Because it is human nature, and human nature never changes, and the downfall of Madame Bovary could be the downfall of any woman on earth.
Even if it had been written today, Madame Bovary would have similarly enthralled and appalled its readers. Why? Because the title character, as aforementioned, symbolizes the epitome of a fallen angel. Many women dread the day they see as inevitable, the day devoid of glamour, the day (or rather, sequence of years) that they become soccer moms. To phrase it simply, Madame Bovary’s downfall was her naive contempt of the middle-class world she lived in. Unlike other French writers at the time, who constantly bemoaned their hatred of bourgeois society, Gustave Flaubert’s heroine fell from grace and died as a result of her infatuation with all things glamorous and unattainable. What she did not realize, and what many men and women of this day and age don’t realize, is that glamour is a gilded cage, and its coating may not be that of true joy.