A Simple Heart

by

Gustave Flaubert

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Madame Aubain Character Analysis

A well-off, middle-aged woman who is Félicité’s employer for the majority of the story. She is “by nature, very reserved” and possesses “a certain haughtiness about her.” At the beginning of the story, her husband has died and left her a large amount of debt. After selling off many of her assets, she moves with her two children—Paul and Virginie—to a smaller home, and she hires Félicité as a housemaid. Madame Aubain is not as cruel as Félicité’s former employers, but she demonstrates a clear commitment to social hierarchy and the values of the bourgeoisie. In a particularly inhumane moment, she remarks that Félicité’s nephew’s life is less valuable than Virginie’s because he is a poor “scrounger” who works at sea. After Madame Aubain learns that her friend and property manager Monsieur Bourais has committed suicide after embezzling money and fathering an illegitimate child, Madame Aubain goes through a period of depression and subsequently dies from pneumonia. Though Madame Aubain does not significantly evolve as a character throughout the course of the narrative, she does exhibit a degree of affection for Félicité, particularly while the two are grieving Virginie’s death, and she even leaves Félicité a small income in her will.

Madame Aubain Quotes in A Simple Heart

The A Simple Heart quotes below are all either spoken by Madame Aubain or refer to Madame Aubain. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of A Simple Heart published in 2005.
Chapter 1 Quotes

On the first floor, there was Madame’s bedroom, a very large room, decorated with pale, flowery wallpaper and containing a picture of ‘Monsieur’ dressed up in the fanciful attire that was fashionable at the time. This room led directly to a smaller bedroom which housed two children’s beds, each with the mattress removed. Next came the parlour, which was always kept locked and was full of furniture draped in dust-sheets. […] The two end panels of this bookcase were covered in line drawings, landscapes in gouache and etchings by Audran, a reminder of better days and of more expensive tastes that were now a thing of the past.

Related Characters: Madame Aubain, Monsieur Aubain
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

For lunch she served a sirloin of beef, along with tripe, black pudding, a fricassee of chicken, sparkling cider, a fruit tart and plums in brandy, all accompanied by a stream of compliments…not forgetting their dear departed grandparents whom the Liébards had known personally, having been in service to the family for several generations. The farm, like the Liébard’s themselves, had an old-world feel to it. The beams in the ceiling were pitted with woodworm, the walls blackened with smoke, the window panes grey with dust.

Page Number: 11-12
Explanation and Analysis:

Félicité became very attached to them. She bought them a blanket, some shirts and a cooking stove. They were obviously out to take advantage of her. Madame Aubain was annoyed that Félicité was not more firm with them. She also took objection to the familiar way in which the nephew spoke to Paul.”

Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Although Félicité had been fed such rough treatment since she was a child, she felt very offended by Madame Aubain. But she soon got over it. After all, it was to be expected that Madame should get upset about her own daughter. For Félicité, the two children were of equal importance; they were bound together by her love for them and it seemed right that they should share the same fate.

Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

They found a little chestnut-coloured hat made of long-piled plush, but it had been completely destroyed by the moths. Félicité asked if she might have it as a keepsake. The two women looked at each other and their eyes filled with tears. Madame Aubain opened her arms and Félicité threw herself into them. Mistress and servant embraced each other, uniting their grief in a kiss which made them equal.

Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

He thoroughly irritated Madame Aubain and so she gave him to Félicité to look after. She decided she would teach him to speak and he was very soon able to say, ‘Pretty boy!’, ‘Your servant, sir!’ and ‘Hail Mary!’ She put him near the front door and a number of visitors were surprised that he would not answer to the name ‘Polly’ […] Some people said he looked more like a turkey or called him a blockhead. Félicité found their jibes very hurtful. There was a curious stubborn streak in Loulou which never ceased to amaze Félicité; he would refuse to talk the minute anyone looked at him! Even so, there was no doubt that he appreciated company.

Related Characters: Félicité Barette, Madame Aubain
Related Symbols: Loulou the Parrot
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Félicité wept for her in a way that servants rarely weep for their masters. That Madame should die before her disturbed her whole way of thinking; it seemed to go against the natural order of things; it was something unacceptable and unreal.

Related Characters: Félicité Barette, Madame Aubain
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

Ten days later, just as soon as they could get there from Besançon, the heirs arrived on the scene. Madame Aubain’s daughter-in-law went through all the drawers, chose a few pieces of furniture for herself and sold what was left. […] On the walls, yellow patches marked the places where pictures had once hung. They had taken away the children’s beds, along with their mattresses, and the cupboard had been cleared of all Virginie’s things. Félicité went from room to room, heartbroken.

Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
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Madame Aubain Character Timeline in A Simple Heart

The timeline below shows where the character Madame Aubain appears in A Simple Heart. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
...for little pay as housemaid of Aubain household. What’s more, she’s loyal to her mistress, Madame Aubain , who is “not the easiest of people to get on with.” (full context)
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Madame Aubain , Félicité’s employer, is forced to confront her husband’s “substantial debts” after his death. In... (full context)
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Madame Aubain ’s home in Pont-L’Eveque contains “reminders of better days and of more expensive tastes”—that is,... (full context)
Chapter 2
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Cruelty vs Compassion  Theme Icon
Love, Loss, and Death Theme Icon
...Félicité leaves her employment at the farm and travels to Pont-l’Eveque, where she happens upon Madame Aubain and is hired as a cook. (full context)
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
Love, Loss, and Death Theme Icon
...her duties at the Aubain household. She easily develops a strong and abiding affection for Madame Aubain ’s children, Paul and Virginie, and finds that caring for them brings her a great... (full context)
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Cruelty vs Compassion  Theme Icon
...spends lots of time with Nastasie and her family, even buying gifts for them. However, Madame Aubain does not trust them. She believes that the Leroux family is trying to take advantage... (full context)
Chapter 3
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Madame Aubain sends Virginie to an Ursuline convent school so that she can receive lessons in subjects... (full context)
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
Love, Loss, and Death Theme Icon
...God. She considers stopping by the convent to visit Virginie, but decides not to annoy Madame Aubain by returning home late. (full context)
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Cruelty vs Compassion  Theme Icon
...Meanwhile, the nuns at the convent report that Virginie’s health is somewhat delicate again, and Madame Aubain becomes increasingly anxious about her poor condition. When Félicité expresses her own anxieties about her... (full context)
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
Love, Loss, and Death Theme Icon
...becomes clear that she likely has pneumonia and may not live. As she rushes with Madame Aubain to Virginie’s bedside at the Ursuline convent, Félicité suddenly remembers that she has left the... (full context)
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Years pass. Monsieur Bourais “mysteriously” leaves town, as do most of Madame Aubain ’s old friends. The Baron de Larsonniere, a former American consul appointed to a local... (full context)
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Cruelty vs Compassion  Theme Icon
Love, Loss, and Death Theme Icon
Madame Aubain and Félicité continue to mourn the loss of Virginie and discuss her frequently, even many... (full context)
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
...promoted, and his family prepares to leave Pont-L’Eveque, his wife gives her parrot Loulou to Madame Aubain as a gift. Félicité has always been interested in the parrot, in part because it... (full context)
Chapter 4
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Cruelty vs Compassion  Theme Icon
Finding Loulou to be an annoyance, Madame Aubain gives him to a grateful Félicité. Visitors to the Aubain house also seem to find... (full context)
Love, Loss, and Death Theme Icon
...only to find him back in the Aubains’ garden when she sits down to tell Madame Aubain about his disappearance. The physical exertion of the day, as well as the exposure to... (full context)
Love, Loss, and Death Theme Icon
...that Fabu—the local “butcher’s boy”—has killed him. Félicité is so distraught by Loulou’s death that Madame Aubain suggests that she get the parrot stuffed by a taxidermist. (full context)
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
Love, Loss, and Death Theme Icon
Félicité takes Madame Aubain ’s suggestion and hires a taxidermist named Monsieur Fellacher to stuff Loulou’s body. Félicité is... (full context)
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Cruelty vs Compassion  Theme Icon
Love, Loss, and Death Theme Icon
...the daughter of a colleague. The colleague promises him a promotion in the department. Meanwhile, Madame Aubain learns that her friend and manager, Monsieur Bourais, has committed suicide, and that he has... (full context)
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Cruelty vs Compassion  Theme Icon
Love, Loss, and Death Theme Icon
After Madame Aubain ’s death, Paul Aubain and his new wife strip the house of its décor and... (full context)
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
...falls into disrepair. She is afraid to ask for assistance with its upkeep because, while Madame Aubain left her a small income, she is living in the home illegally. Her only real... (full context)