A Simple Heart


Gustave Flaubert

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Themes and Colors
Faith and Virtue  Theme Icon
Classism and Class Disparity Theme Icon
Cruelty vs Compassion  Theme Icon
Love, Loss, and Death Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Simple Heart, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Faith and Virtue

“A Simple Heart” follows the life of protagonist Félicité, a poor domestic servant in nineteenth-century France, as she endures seemingly unending tragedy and is given every reason to become both bitter about her lot in life and cautious in her relationships with others. However, even in the midst of sickening heartbreak—after her only love abandons her for a wealthy woman, and even when she’s abused by cruel employers—Félicité never wavers from her ethical principles…

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Classism and Class Disparity

“A Simple Heart” is set in nineteenth-century France, a period of time in French history in which wealth disparity and class conflict were deeply woven into France’s social fabric. Flaubert’s protagonist, Félicité, is born into the French working class, where she remains for the entirety of her life. Through the character of Félicité, Flaubert highlights how the disadvantages of poverty are wide-reaching and affect every area of a person’s life. He also points out…

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Cruelty vs Compassion

Though many characters in Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart” are members of seemingly polite society in nineteenth-century France, the story often demonstrates ways in which they are considerably impolite—and even outright cruel—to one another. Their cruelty stands in marked contrast to Félicité’s compassion, which never wavers throughout the narrative. By contrasting cruel and compassionate moments throughout the novella, Flaubert demonstrates that all people—regardless of their station in life—are provided with many opportunities to choose cruelty or…

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Love, Loss, and Death

Flaubert’s protagonist in “A Simple Heart,” a domestic servant named Félicité, experiences the significant loss of a loved one during every period of her life. Her first love, Théodore, abandons her while escaping from military service, her parents both pass away during her childhood, and her mistress’s daughter Virginie, her nephew Victor, her parrot Loulou, and her mistress Madame Aubain die during her adulthood. Though Flaubert’s narrative and the life…

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