Can You Identify These Famous Fictional Physicians?

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


August 06, 2018

The Doddering Physician

Image from Folio

As the title suggests, Madame Bovary is the main character in Gustave Flaubert's (1821-1880) classic 1856 novel. Her husband Charles Bovary, a plodding, provincial doctor in a small French town, is devoted to his wife and to the simple joys of life. Soon after their marriage, Emma Bovary discovers that she has little in common with her husband. Bored with married life, she turns to extramarital affairs and other dalliances, craving urban life, excitement, and expensive clothing. She borrows money to support her extravagant lifestyle; when she is unable to repay her debts, she commits suicide, shifting the financial burden to Charles.

Charles cherishes the memory of his deceased wife until he discovers love letters from her suitors. Unlike most physicians in literature, Charles Bovary is portrayed as being weak, unassertive, and lacking in imagination, a man who is barely able to function as a doctor.

A note about the other characters listed in this question: Monsieur Homais is the apothecary in Madame Bovary who helps Charles to establish himself in his town, and Rodolphe Boulanger appears as Emma's first lover.


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