Purpose: Using a famous scene by Flaubert, change the POV (twice) to practice writing in different POV’s and to learn advantages, disadvantages, and restrictions each point of view presents. Be aware:
Change in POV may change impact of irony.
1st person POV is limited in psychic and physical distance from the action and requires special skill to maintain credibility of character and story.
3rd person and narrator POVs allow more story information, setting, and emotions (and desires) to be presented objectively.
The choice of POV for a story should have a purpose that relates to story effectiveness and reader understanding and enjoyment.
Read: Scene from Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Part three, Chapter four. (For complete online text, click here.) 510 words. Predominantly narrator POV, with 3rd person POV sometimes used or suggested.
1) Dialogue writing, 2) Improving dialogue, 3) 1st person POV, 4) Overuse of 1st person.
Passage for revision
It was about this time, that is to say, the beginning of winter, that she seemed seized with great musical fervour.
One evening when Charles was listening to her, she began the same piece four times over, each time with much vexation, while he, not noticing any difference, cried–
“Bravo! Very goodl You are wrong to stop. Go on!”
“Oh, no; it is execrable! My fingers are quite rusty.”
The next day he begged her to play him something again.
“Very well; to please you!”
And Charles confessed she had gone off a little. She played wrong notes and blundered; then, stopping short–
“Ah! it is no use. I ought to take some lessons; but–” She bit her lips and added, “Twenty francs a lesson, that’s too dear!”
“Yes, so it is–rather,” said Charles, giggling stupidly. “But it seems to me that one might be able to do it for less; for there are artists of no reputation, and who are often better than the celebrities.”
“Find them!” said Emma.
The next day when he came home he looked at her shyly, and at last could no longer keep back the words.
“How obstinate you are sometimes! I went to Barfucheres today. Well, Madame Liegard assured me that her three young ladies who are at La Misericorde have lessons at fifty sous apiece, and that from an excellent mistress!”
She shrugged her shoulders and did not open her piano again. But when she passed by it (if Bovary were there), she sighed–
“Ah! my poor piano!”
And when anyone came to see her, she did not fail to inform them she had given up music, and could not begin again now for important reasons. Then people commiserated her–
“What a pity! she had so much talent!”
They even spoke to Bovary about it. They put him to shame, and especially the chemist.
“You are wrong. One should never let any of the faculties of nature lie fallow. Besides, just think, my good friend, that by inducing madame to study; you are economising on the subsequent musical education of your child. For my own part, I think that mothers ought themselves to instruct their children. That is an idea of Rousseau’s, still rather new perhaps, but that will end by triumphing, I am certain of it, like mothers nursing their own children and vaccination.”
So Charles returned once more to this question of the piano. Emma replied bitterly that it would be better to sell it. This poor piano that had given her vanity so much satisfaction–to see it go was to Bovary like the indefinable suicide of a part of herself.
“If you liked,” he said, “a lesson from time to time, that wouldn’t after all be very ruinous.”
“But lessons,” she replied, “are only of use when followed up.”
And thus it was she set about obtaining her husband’s permission to go to town once a week to see her lover. At the end of a month she was even considered to have made considerable progress.⇑click here to hide text
Timeline: a few days. Conflict: Charles is not thrilled with Emma’s desire for piano lessons and is unaware she wants to be with her lover. Style: mainly dialogue.
1. Rewrite the passage in Emma’s first person POV. Keep the same timeline and conflict. As you change pronouns, be sure dialogue and text are reasonable for this point of view. Also, some of the ideation, and credibility, in third person may not be reasonable in first person; note especially some of the expressions of commiseration, which Emma might not know about, especially in the detail presented, unless heard directly. Adjustments may be needed; try to figure a way to deliver it effectively. Note how the adverb “bitterly” near the end pushes the point of view slightly toward Emma from the narrator . . . subtle but can be important for clarity and style in revision.
Note how the effect of a line such as “But lessons,” she replied, “are only of use when followed up.” changes in different points of view. From the narrator’s view, there is irony. From Charles’s view, there is no irony for him but dramatic irony for the reader. From Emma’s view, it seems merely manipulation with little irony.
2. Rewrite the passage in Charles’s POV. Consider the same issues. Make it fluid; do not loose the pacing; keep story momentum as Flaubert has delivered it; maintain credibility, that is, that this character could be real (important for significant meaning, irony, and reader knowing scene’s purpose; and to challenge you as you work in new points of view). Try not to lose the humor of this passage. Keep the story line clear.
500 word limit for each POV revision, TOTAL WORD LIMIT 1000.
Your work is excellent. You’ve comprehended the purpose of the exercise well. And it is difficult!
There are many things to be done that can be defined as your individual style without changing the story significantly. We can, for example make the character dialogue specific in third person. We do this in third person by specifically creating dialogue segments that we imagine from how the character is being with their own individual.
For a change to 1st person for a story, the objective is the same but limited. In first person, the protagonist (“I” character’s) dialogue will predominate, but other characters’ dialogue, for best effect, can be, and probably should be in most good storytelling, created by the author as to who that character is and how they would speak. Some of the suggestions I’ve made will reflect this attitude. (The same is for internalized thought, that is writing though as the character would think, not the narrate or author.)
1st person it’s straight forward. Everything in the writing is but more subtle. All fiction stories are created by the author, told by a narrator, and acted out by the character(s). (At times the narrator and character in first person are the same. All this is tricky and requires careful writing.) The point is, in most literary stories it is an advantage to create a character and not have the reader think it’s the author with memoir or autobiographical phrases and thinking. A 1st person character needs to seem on the page in a literary story different from the author in their own unique way. We could do that in this story by changing to a more contemporary vocabulary and ideation. Syntax is important. Story content is important too.
The fervor for music always seizes me at the beginning of winter.
The other evening, Charles didn’t notice that I had started the same piece four times, nor had
myincreasing vexation at my mistakes.
“Bravo! Very good! You are wrong to stop. Go on!” he cried aloud.
“Oh, no; it is execrable! My fingers are quite rusty.” I replied.
The next day he begged me to play something again, I told him that I was playing just to please him, that is when he confessed that he had noticed my mistakes the night before. [Excellent]
I played wrong notes blundering them on purpose. I stopped, telling him as I bit my lips that it was useless, that I needed lessons
but twenty-francs was a high expense. [Here we have to be sure of the logic. Would Emma be the one to think lessons were too expensive. All she wants to see is her lover, and costs of lessons would be totally out of her thinking.]
agreed thatsaid they were too expensive. He added that someone would teach for less, such as artists of no reputation, which often are better than celebrities.
I told him to find them, then.
The next day when he came home, by the way he was acting, I knew that the was trying to keep something from me. [“By the way Charles was acting when he came home the next day, I knew he was keeping something from me.” Just a suggestion on syntax to make the sentence flow without disturbing Flaubert’s style.] He couldn’t hold it any longer and told me that due to me being so obstinate, he went to Barfucheres and talked to Madame Liegard. Her three young ladies who are at La Misericorde taking lessons at fifty sous apiece from an excellent mistress.
I shrugged my shoulders and did not open her [my] piano again. When he was around, I
wouldsighed as I passed the piano –
“Ah! my poor piano!” I
would saysaid aloud.
I would tell anyone who came to visit that I had given up music and couldn’t begin again because of important reasons.
I knew that they sympathize with me due to my sacrifice of giving up music.
“What a pity! she had so much talent!” I would hear them say.
Some talked to Bovary, shaming him, especially the chemist.
The chemist told him that he was wrong. That one should never let any of the faculties o nature lie fallow. He added that by inducing me to study, he would be economizing on the subsequent musical education of our children. That he believed in mothers instructing their children and vaccinating them was the same. This was a new idea of Rousseau, but that it would catch on.
One time when Charles talked to me about the piano, with the outmost bitterness in my voice. I suggested that we should sell it.
I knew that I gotten through to him when he told me:
“If you liked, a lesson from time to time, that wouldn’t after all be very ruinous.”
I took a chance and told him that lessons are useless unless they are followed up. He finally granted me permission to go into town and take lessons. By the end of the month [he expressed repeatedly that] I had made considerable progress. (You want to keep the irony of his thinking her trips to town were for piano when she was committing adultery.)
I have notice that at the beginning of winter, a great musical fervour seems to seize Emma.
One evening when she was playing, I caught errors she made, but remain quiet seeing that she was becoming increasingly vexed, therefore I ignored them and cried aloud:
“Bravo! Very good! You are wrong to stop. Go on!”
“Oh, no; it is execrable! My fingers are quite rusty,” she replied.
The next day I begged her to play something again.
“Very well; to please you!” she told me.
I confessed that I had noticed about her going off a little. She played wrong notes and blundering them, then stopped –
“Ah! it is no use. I ought to take some lessons; but–” She bit her lips and added, “Twenty francs a lesson, that’s too dear!” She said.
I giggled and told her that yes, twenty francs sounded expensive but that it would be possible to find someone to do it for less; adding that there are artists of no reputation who often are better than celebrities.
Emma’s response was to find them.
The next day when I came home, I tried to keep it from her but I couldn’t keep silent any longer and told her that I visited Barfucheres.
I continued to tell her that Madame Liegard assured me that her three young ladies who are at La Misericorde have lessons at fifty sous apiece, from an excellent mistress.
She responded by shrugging her shoulders and not opening the piano again, sighing every time she would pass by it, exclaiming “ “Ah! my poor piano!”
And when anyone came to see her, she did not fail to inform them she had given up music, and could not begin again now for important reasons. The people commiserated her–
“What a pity! she had so much talent!” they would say.
Some spoke to me about, putting me to shame especially the chemist who proceeded to tell me that I was wrong. That one should never let any of the faculties of nature lie fallow. He added that by inducing her to study; I would be economizing in the future musical education of our children. He told me that he believed that mothers ought to instruct their children. That was Rousseau’s idea which had not caught yet, but it would. He compared mothers teaching their children as important as vaccination.
I brought up the idea of piano lessons to Emma. She replied with a bitter tone that it would be better to sell it since one lesson wouldn’t improve the situation.
I told her that we wouldn’t be ruined if she would take lessons from time to time. But she wasn’t satisfied, therefore I agreed for her to go into town once a week
to take lessons.
It was with the greatest satisfaction that I
havenoticed Emma’s improvement, and only after after one month!
Very good work!
Best regards, WHC