Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Madame Bovary, Flaubert’s first published novel, is arguably his greatest. Emma Bovary has become one of the most famous characters in world literature, and critics continue to debate and interpret her life, which, in its depiction of the conflict between idealism and reality, remains every bit as relevant today as it did when first published.
Formally divided into three parts, each one corresponding to a stage in Emma’s life, the novel opens with Charles Bovary’s youth and ends after Emma’s death, making Charles, as it were, a set of parentheses that enclose Emma’s life. Each section corresponds to an important stage in the narrative. The first part ends with the move to Yonville and the news that Emma is pregnant, thus presenting optimism at the prospect of change. As the reader suspects, however, the change does not bring happiness, and Emma quickly becomes dissatisfied once again. In her search for happiness, she turns to adultery with the rakish and unabashedly exploitative Rodolphe, whom Emma persists in seeing as a romantic hero. Emma plans to elope with him, but he balks at the last minute, and Emma is thrust into a depression that ends the second part of the novel. In the final section, Emma engages in yet another adulterous affair, this time with Léon, using the pretext of music lessons as the cover for her regular visits to nearby Rouen. The affair quickly becomes a routine, however, and a typical day sees Emma lying ever...
(The entire section is 818 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Charles Bovary is a student of medicine who marries for his own advancement a woman much older than himself. She makes his life miserable with her nagging and groundless suspicions. One day, Charles is called to the bedside of Monsieur Rouault, who has a broken leg, and there he meets the farmer’s daughter, Emma, a beautiful but restless young woman whose early education in a French convent has given her an overwhelming thirst for broader experience. Charles finds his patient an excellent excuse to see Emma, whose charm and grace has captivated him.
Charles’s whining wife, Héloise, however, soon suspects the true reason for his visits to the Rouault farm. She hears rumors that in spite of Emma’s peasant background, the girl conducts herself like a gentlewoman. Angry and tearful, Héloise makes Charles swear that he will not visit the Rouault home again. Unexpectedly, Héloise’s fortune is found to be nonexistent. There is a violent quarrel over her deception, followed by a stormy scene between her and Charles’s parents, which brings on an attack of an old illness. Héloise dies quickly and quietly.
Charles feels guilty because he has so few regrets at his wife’s death. At old Rouault’s invitation, he returns once more to the farm and again falls under the spell of Emma’s charms. As old Rouault watches Charles fall more deeply in love with his daughter, he decides that the young doctor is dependable and perfectly respectable....
(The entire section is 1513 words.)
The narrative begins from the perspective of a French schoolboy, who records Charles Bovary’s first day in his class. Everyone stares at Charles, the fifteen-year-old “new boy” from the country, who enters with an exceedingly embarrassed manner. His classmates soon begin to tease him, ostracizing him for his country manner and dress. The teacher also ridicules him when he can’t understand Charles’s pronunciation of his name and makes him sit on a dunce stool near him.
Charles is an average student, but others note that “he had not the least elegance of style.” After his parents determine that he would make a fine doctor, he enrolls in medical school, where he becomes a mediocre student. He soon begins to enjoy his freedom at college, frequenting the tavern and playing dominos, which develops into “an initiation into the world, the introduction to forbidden pleasures.” As a result, he fails his medical examinations. Later, he returns to school and, through careful memorization of the questions, retakes the exams and passes. Soon after, he moves to Tostes to begin his practice. When his mother decides he must marry, she finds him a forty-five-year-old wealthy widow. Charles finds Héloïse ugly and thin. After they marry, she takes control of the household and complains incessantly of health problems.
One night Charles is called away to a farmhouse to set a farmer’s broken leg. The farmer, Monsieur Rouault, is a widower with...
(The entire section is 1304 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary
Madame Bovary begins on Charles Bovary’s first day at a boarding school. At fifteen, Charles is much older than most boys when they first leave home, but his parents have waited to enroll him in school to save money. He is placed in a class with younger students who ridicule him. Because of this, he remains aloof. He concentrates on his schoolwork and forms no close friendships.
Charles has grown up in the countryside. His father is a surly, superior man who failed at several occupations in his young adulthood and is now resigned to a life of discontent and idleness. Charles’s mother, who married her husband mainly because she thought him handsome, does all the work of running the household. It is she who has pushed Charles’s reluctant father into paying for an education for the boy. Charles himself would prefer to stay at home and live a simple country life forever, but nobody asks his opinion.
After a few years at the boarding school, Charles’s parents pull him out and send him to a medical college. They make this choice to save money, figuring that he can study on his own to make up anything he has missed. However, the work at medical school is far too difficult for Charles. At first he tries very hard to master it, but eventually he gives up. He falls into a habit of drinking and gambling. When he fails his exams, he seeks out his mother and confesses everything to her. Afterward he redoubles his efforts at the medical college. He passes his exams on his second attempt.
When Charles is finally a doctor, his mother sets him up in private medical practice at a town called Tostes. At this point, Charles thinks he can finally do what he likes. However, his mother soon finds him a wife, an old, ugly widow whose only attractive quality is her wealth. Many men want to marry her because of her money, and Charles’s mother engages in a great deal of scheming and manipulation to get this woman for her son.
Adulthood is not the life of freedom that Charles had imagined. His new wife, Heloise, expects him to obey her as he used to obey his mother. She dictates what Charles eats, what he wears, and how he spends his money. Constantly sick, she demands his medical attentions all the time. Emotionally needy, she also demands more love than he is able to give.
(The entire section is 416 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary
One night Charles receives a note saying that Monsieur Rouault, a farmer who lives about twenty miles away, has broken his leg. Early the next morning, Charles rides out to Les Bertaux, Monsieur Rouault’s farm. There he meets Mademoiselle Emma Rouault, the farmer's daughter.
Mademoiselle Rouault seems quite charming to Charles. Her eyes look brown or black in different lights. After he finishes setting her father’s broken leg, Charles eats dinner with her. She complains about how much she hates living in the country, and as he listens, he privately admires her beauty.
When Charles is getting ready to leave, he realizes that he has misplaced his riding crop. He and Mademoiselle Rouault eventually find it on the floor. They both attempt to pick it up at the same time, and he accidentally touches her back. This causes her to blush in a way he finds very sweet.
Charles has promised to return to Les Bertaux in three days to check the leg—but he returns sooner. He visits the farm often over the next couple of months, even though Monsieur Rouault is healing well and requires little medical attention. Charles loves the pretty farm, and he is only dimly aware that he feels this way because of the farmer’s pretty daughter.
Heloise, Charles’s wife, notices that he is always cheerful on the days he visits Les Bertaux. She soon deduces that he is in love. She flings accusations at him and frequently mocks Mademoiselle Rouault in his hearing. After Monsieur Rouault’s leg heals, Heloise makes Charles promise not to go to Les Bertaux anymore. Charles agrees, but he misses Mademoiselle Rouault. Privately, he decides to allow himself to love her from afar.
In the spring after his marriage, Charles learns that Heloise is not nearly as wealthy as she has always claimed. She has lied about her money in order to attract a husband. When Charles’s parents hear this news, they come to Tostes to confront her. In the terrible scene that ensues, Charles’s father smashes a chair and accuses his own wife of pushing their son into a pointless marriage with an "ancient nag." Heloise cries and demands that Charles defend her; he obeys.
About a week after this fight, Heloise begins coughing up blood. She is ill for just one day, and then she suddenly falls dead. Charles holds a funeral quickly. He returns to his empty house, where he looks at an old dress of hers and feels sad. The woman who...
(The entire section is 427 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary
Shortly after Heloise dies, Monsieur Rouault stops at Charles’s house for a visit. After paying the medical bill for his broken leg, he offers a few words of comfort to the young widower. Monsieur Rouault is a widower himself, and he says that the grief of losing one’s love can last a long time. He adds that grieving is necessary but that one must not give up on life just because a loved one is gone.
Monsieur Rouault asks Charles to visit Les Bartaux, and Charles soon acts on the invitation. His host is very kind. Charles casually takes every opportunity to talk with Mademoiselle Rouault at Bartaux; they chat about their school experiences, their mothers, the funerals they have attended, and other topics of mutual interest. Mademoiselle Rouault is a highly expressive girl who goes through frequent, intense shifts in mood. One moment she is excited, and the next she is bored. To Charles, she is always fascinating. As time passes, he begins to call her by her first name, Emma.
At home, Charles finds himself unable to get his mind off of Emma. Eventually it dawns on him that he is single again and thus free to marry. Emma seems impossibly glamorous to him, but he resolves to ask her to marry him. He then finds it difficult to work up the courage to act on this decision.
Monsieur Rouault notices Charles’s behavior toward Emma and, after thinking it over, decides that it would be all right for her to marry the young doctor. Emma is not very useful on the farm, and Monsieur Rouault would not mind giving up the cost of keeping her. Charles is “a bit of a namby-pamby, not his dream of a son-in-law,” but the young man has a good reputation and is unlikely to push for a huge dowry.
In October, after a visit to Les Bartaux, Charles shyly tries to ask Monsieur Rouault for permission to marry Emma. Monsieur Rouault interrupts the young man’s hesitant stuttering to say it is a fine idea. He offers to ask Emma himself while Charles waits outside. If she says yes, Monsieur Rouault promises to slam open a window shutter as a signal. Charles agrees to this plan and hides nervously in the garden. He is forced to wait a long time, but eventually the window shutter opens with a bang.
Since the couple cannot get married too soon after the death of Charles’s first wife, a spring wedding date is set. The winter is spent making arrangements for the ceremony. Emma wants a romantic midnight festival,...
(The entire section is 446 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary
The wedding guests include the couple's families, as well as many of the people who live in the nearby towns. The guests all dress in their finest—which, given the provincial setting where they live, is not very fine at all. However, the procession is colorful as everyone walks from the church to the mayor’s office and back to Les Bartaux for the wedding feast. Emma frequently stops on the way to pick grass and thorns out of her gown. Charles’s mother walks arm-in-arm with Monsieur Rouault. Charles’s father watches the activities with an air of superiority, but he is not above flirting with the pretty young girls.
The wedding feast is abundant, with many different kinds of meat, baked goods, cider, and wine. The caterer, new in the area, has made a magnificent wedding cake to impress the guests. People eat and drink until midnight, sometimes pausing to take walks or play games. Many of the guests stay at the farm all night. Their children sleep on the floor, while some of the adults stay awake and keep drinking.
Emma knows that drunken wedding guests often play practical jokes on the bride, and she has asked her father to protect her from this treatment. After she and Charles retire for the night, Monsieur Rouault finds a cousin spitting water through the keyhole of their bedroom door. Monsieur Rouault stops this, saying that Charles is too distinguished to receive such treatment. This annoys the cousin, who spends the rest of the night sitting with a small group of other unhappy guests.
Charles’s mother does not enjoy the wedding. She is offended because nobody bothered to ask her opinions in planning it. She holds herself aloof, refusing to speak very often with other guests. She goes to bed early while her husband stays up late, drinking and smoking without her.
The morning after the wedding, Charles is very cheerful, as if he were the one who “lost his virginity overnight.” For her part, Emma seems totally composed, almost bored. People find her behavior strange, but Charles does not appear to notice. He follows his new wife around and frequently asks where she is if she leaves his sight even for a moment.
After another day passes, Emma and Charles go to his house in Tostes. When they leave, Monsieur Rouault feels sad. He reminisces about his own marriage and his now deceased wife. Meanwhile, the young couple arrives at Tostes, and Emma begins a tour of her new home....
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary
Charles’s unassuming little brick house fronts the main road that runs through Tostes. Its dining room is also the sitting room. The office where he sees medical patients is next to the kitchen; sounds and smells drift back and forth between the two. Upstairs there is a guest room and a master bedroom. Upon entering the latter for the first time, Emma immediately notices a bridal bouquet that belonged to Charles’s first wife. He grabs it and takes it up to the attic, leaving Emma to wonder what will happen to her bouquet when she dies.
For a few days, Emma makes minor changes in the house. She replaces the wallpaper, repaints a few rooms, and effects other improvements. She asks neighbors how to install a little fountain and pond in the yard. Charles buys her a used buggy so that they can go for drives.
Throughout these honeymoon days, Charles is deliriously happy. He takes constant enjoyment in little aspects of life that he never noticed before, merely because Emma is there to share them with him. At odd moments, he finds himself just staring at her—especially at her eyes, which seem to change color according to the light and Emma's mood. He is so smitten that he often misses her when he is driving around town to see patients. When he feels this way, he rushes home and sneaks up behind her to kiss her.
Never before has Charles known what it is to be happy. At his boarding school, students made fun of him continually. In medical school, he had to study too much, and he never had enough money. During his first marriage, he was forced to put up with a bossy old woman who had “feet . . . like icicles.” Now he has freedom and a wife he adores.
Charles’s love for Emma borders on obsession. When she is not in the room, he cannot stop himself from touching her jewelry and combs. When she is with him, he often smothers her with kisses until “half amused, half annoyed, she. . . [pushes] him away like an importunate child.”
Emma is not nearly as thrilled with her new husband as he is with her. Before she married Charles, she thought she was in love with him. However, the bliss she thinks love should bring has eluded her. She thinks she must have been wrong about her feelings. Privately, she craves the experience of real love.
(The entire section is 410 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary
Chapter Six of Madame Bovary details Emma’s childhood and explains the origin of her romantic aspirations. Unlike Charles, Emma had a relatively happy life when she was young. At thirteen, her father sent her to school in a convent. A quick learner, she excelled in her classes. A naturally sensuous person, she was impressed by the dramatic setting and the beautiful religious images she saw at the convent. She even liked going to confession; sometimes she made up sins just to prolong the experience of telling them to the priest.
In school, Emma’s reading material was primarily religious. If she had been from the city, she might have liked the romantic descriptions of beautiful countryside that the nuns read for fun. However, being from the country, Emma was too well acquainted with the dullness of pastoral life to have been impressed by descriptions of it. She was more impressed by writing that expresses deep emotion.
Emma became immersed in romantic literature at the convent. An old spinster who did the weekly washing for the nuns and the students sometimes lent her romantic novels to the older girls. The content of Emma's reading at this time is captured in a passage from Chapter Six:
. . . gloomy forests, broken hearts, vows, sobs, tears and kisses, skiffs in the moonlight, nightingales in thickets; the noblemen [are] all as brave as lions, gentle as lambs, incredibly virtuous, always beautifully dressed, and [weep] copiously on every occasion.
Emma drank in such romantic stories, and she loved sentimental songs and images, as well. These early influences formed her emotional life. Thus, when her mother died, she fell into the kind of melancholy that typically afflicts the grieving heroines of the books she had read. Her mourning held a perverse enjoyment for her, and she continued out of habit to act depressed long after her genuine grief dissipated.
Eventually Emma realized that life in the convent was not right for her. She loved the music, poetry, and religious images, but she was not greatly moved by religion itself. Her emotionally fickle nature made her somewhat difficult, so in spite of her brilliance as a student, the nuns were relieved when her father took her home. Although she was only in her teens, Emma returned home feeling strongly "that she [was] cured of illusions—that she [had] nothing more to learn, and no great emotions...
(The entire section is 453 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 7 Summary
Emma tries to tell herself that she is currently living the best part of her life—the life of a newlywed. Nevertheless, she feels bored and depressed. She imagines that her new marriage would be better if she and Charles were honeymooning in a romantic place in the mountains or at the sea. In a vague way, she thinks that happiness can flourish in beautiful settings but not in the drab village of Tostes.
Emma is unable confide in Charles. He is so deeply immersed in his own contentment that he simply assumes she feels the same happiness. Furthermore, he is an unimaginative, incurious person who shows no interest in people, places, or activities outside his home. Emma soon grows resentful of him, even to the point of feeling annoyed at the happiness she so obviously makes him feel.
Emma is an accomplished woman and wife. She can draw and play piano. She is a good manager of the household funds, and she makes her home pretty and inviting. Guests are obviously impressed by her. Charles is proud of her and of himself for having married a woman who does him such credit.
Charles’s mother is accustomed to being the most important person in his life, and she feels slighted by her son’s shift in loyalties. Every time she visits, she spends her time lecturing Emma on how to run the household. Emma listens but insists on doing as she pleases. Both women always end up angry, which is confusing to Charles. Because he thinks his wife and mother are both perfect, he cannot figure out how it is possible for them to disagree.
Throughout her first months of marriage, Emma tries to make herself feel love. She tries being romantic, reciting love poetry in the moonlight to Charles or serenading him with romantic songs, but she feels nothing. Moreover, such activities confuse Charles, leaving him unsure how to act. Emma soon stops trying.
Emma gets a dog, a little greyhound named Djali, that she sometimes takes out on walks. On these occasions, she tells Djali that she wishes she had never married Charles. She invents imaginary lives for herself with better husbands who take her to live in exciting places. When she returns home after these outings, she turns gloomy and sluggish.
One day Emma receives an invitation from one of Charles’s wealthiest patients, the Marquis d’Andervilliers. They have a chance to spend a night at La Vaubyessard, the marquis’ chateau, and attend a ball the...
(The entire section is 440 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary
The ball is exactly the kind of experience Emma has been craving, and she loves every moment of it. She gets to taste champagne, pineapple, and many other unfamiliar delicacies. She dines with the marquis and his guests. During the meal, she is especially impressed as she watches the marquis’ father-in-law, an aging man who, in his youth, lived at the royal court and supposedly had an affair with Marie-Antoinette.
After dinner, Emma carefully readies herself for the ball. After she gets dressed, she refuses to let Charles touch her in case he might clumsily ruin her appearance. She also forbids him to dance, advising him that dancing would be improper behavior for a doctor.
Emma herself dances a great deal. The music is exciting, as are her dance partners—wealthy young men who look and behave as though they own the world. The people around her hold exciting conversations about mysterious topics she does not always understand. Near the end of the ball, she waltzes with a young nobleman who is called by his title, vicomte. The spinning dance leaves her dizzy and breathless. The vicomte soon moves on to dance with a different partner, but the few moments he spends with Emma are the highlight of her evening.
Charles spends the evening standing by the card tables watching people play whist, a game he does not understand. When the party is over, he complains that his feet hurt. He quickly readies himself for bed and falls asleep. Emma remains awake as long as she can, reliving the evening in her mind, trying to savor the luxury all around her.
Morning comes too quickly, and Emma and Charles set out for home not long after breakfast. During their drive, Charles finds a beautiful embroidered cigar case on the ground. He takes it home with him and tries to smoke one of the fancy cigars, but he just makes himself sick.
Now that the most exciting experience of Emma’s life is over, her mood grows foul. Shortly after arriving home, she fires her maid for failing to get dinner ready on time. When Charles is not looking, she takes his beautiful cigar case for herself as a keepsake. By the next morning, the ball already seems like an event of the distant past. Her memories fade, but her desire to relive them does not. Her one “contact with luxury” has left her hungry for more.
(The entire section is 406 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 9 Summary
Emma often looks at the beautiful, richly embroidered cigar case from the marquis’s ball. In comparison, all of her own possessions seem drab. Her life seems drab too, entirely unlike the lives of the people she met at the marquis's chateau.
Eager to learn more about the lives of the wealthy, Emma subscribes to several women’s magazines and reads them voraciously. She learns all about the fashionable people in Paris, and she does her best to re-create bits and pieces of their lives for herself in Tostes. Charles is charmed by the many pretty embellishments she makes to their home and to her clothing. Emma considers them insufficient and constantly longs for more.
Charles has developed a good reputation as a local doctor, but Emma is annoyed that he does not distinguish himself as one of the top men in his field. As he settles further into life with her, he grows ever less refined in his habits. She finds this disgusting. She frequently straightens his tie or throws away his worn-out clothing. He likes this, thinking that she is doing it to help him—but really she is doing it for herself. She is ashamed of his apparent contentment with himself when he is obviously ordinary and imperfect.
About nine months after the ball, Emma begins to wonder if she will be invited to another. She waits anxiously for an invitation, but none comes. This disappoints her badly, and as the days pass—every one of them the same—she slowly loses her interest in the world. She stops playing the piano, telling herself that it is stupid to practice music when she knows full well that she will never play in a concert. She stops drawing, sewing, and beautifying her home because these efforts produce only poor imitations of the good life. Sometimes she even fails to get dressed in the morning.
Seeing this change in his wife’s behavior, Charles grows worried. He consults another doctor, who suggests that the climate in Tostes may not agree with her. Charles likes Tostes, but he does not want Emma to suffer. He searches for jobs in a region with a better climate. Eventually he decides to replace a newly retired physician in a town called Yonville-l’Abbaye.
Emma is thrilled to be moving. One day while she is packing, she finds her bridal bouquet in a drawer. She throws it into the fire and watches it burn. Soon after this, she and Charles set out for Yonville-l’Abbaye. By the time they leave, Emma is...
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary
Yonville-l’Abbaye is a one-street market town surrounded by pastures and farmland. It is located on the borders of several of France’s most important provincial regions, but it has not absorbed much of the character of any of them. The accents and traditions of the area lack flavor and personality.
In 1835, a good-quality road was built to Yonville-l’Abbaye, but the town has not grown or profited much from this development. It has remained a humble place of thatched huts, plebeian businesses, and unimaginative people. A few important residents have large houses. There is a church, a hotel, and a small covered market area. The most remarkable building is the pharmacy, with its well-lit windows full of colored glass jars.
The hotel in Yonville is busy on the night the Bovarys are supposed to arrive. Madame Lefrançois, the owner of the hotel, rushes around preparing dinner for the Bovarys and her regular guests. As she works, she barks orders at her staff and chats with the town pharmacist, Monsieur Homais.
Monsieur Homais, an opinionated man, complains about Madame Lefrançois’s unwillingness to buy a new billiards table. When she shrugs him off, he grumbles about a rude tax collector who always eats dinner at the hotel, and about a priest who stops by to ask a question but refuses to sit down and have a drink. In Monsieur Homais’s opinion, this proves that the priest is a hypocrite. After all, everyone knows that members of the clergy drink heavily in private.
Monsieur Homais’s comments anger Madame Lefrançois, who accuses him of having “no respect for religion.” Monsieur Homais insists that he believes in God on a philosophical level but has “no use for” the God of the Bible. In his mind, it is ridiculous to worship a divine being who performs miracles, punishes people, and comes back to life after death. As Monsieur Homais waxes eloquent on this topic, he imagines that he has a large, attentive audience. However, Madame Lefrançois is the only person present, and she is too busy to bother listening.
The Bovarys arrive later than expected. The townspeople all go out to meet the coach driver, Hivert, who often carries messages and makes deliveries for them. He explains that Emma’s dog got loose on the way to Yonville and that they stopped to try to chase it down. Emma cried a great deal when they gave up the search, and the other passengers tried to cheer her up by...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary
Emma climbs out of the coach, and the other passengers follow. Charles has fallen asleep, and somebody has to wake him up. Monsieur Homais greets the Bovarys and explains that he will join them for dinner at the hotel. They are also joined by a clerk named Monsieur Léon Dupuis, an educated young man who feels bored and stifled in Yonville.
During the meal, Monsieur Homais tells the Bovarys all about their new town. In particular, he tells them about the wonderful climate in great detail. He compares the local atmosphere to that of other regions and lists off the town’s high and low yearly temperatures according to three different scales of measurement.
Neither Monsieur Léon nor Emma Bovary shows the slightest interest in Monsieur Homais’s impromptu climate lecture. They chat separately, bemoaning the annoyance of living in small, boring towns. They agree that they would both prefer to live in mountains or near the sea. As their conversation progresses, they find that they share similar taste in music and books.
Emma ends up talking animatedly with Monsieur Léon for two hours. They exclaim about how the characters of books can transport them to whole other worlds and be, in Monsieur Léon’s words, “a refuge from life’s disillusionments.” During this conversation, Monsieur Léon grows so comfortable with Emma—whom he calls Madame Bovary—that he places his foot on a rung of her chair.
Meanwhile, Monsieur Homais and Monsieur Bovary converse in a very different manner. Monsieur Homais continually drones on about dry facts, attempting to impress everyone else with his vast knowledge. When he hears that Emma likes books, he immediately offers to loan her his. He lists off the titles of the books he owns, but his personal library does not include the romantic titles Emma prefers. Monsieur Bovary pipes up now and then to tell Monsieur Homais about his work or his wife. When he talks about Emma, he does so in the third person, as if she is not sitting right next to him.
After the meal, the Bovarys walk across the dark street to their new home. It is larger than their old house, but it is also chilly and unwelcoming. The movers have dumped all of their possessions haphazardly on the floor. Still, Emma goes to bed feeling hopeful:
She refused to believe that things could be the same in different places; and since what had gone before was so bad, what...
(The entire section is 424 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary
People in Yonville respect Monsieur Léon because he is educated, quiet, respectful, and artistic. In spite of this, he dislikes the dusty little town. His life is dull, so dull that the dinner with the Bovarys feels like “a notable event.” To him, Emma is a real lady, far different and far more fascinating than the other women of Yonville. He is disappointed when he learns that they are not planning to eat with him at the hotel every night.
The pharmacist, Monsieur Homais, helps the Bovarys as much as he can during their transition. He makes this effort not out of kindness, but because he needs to be on Monsieur Bovary’s good side. Monsieur Homais frequently practices medicine without a license, seeing patients in his back room and prescribing medicine for their ailments. He has been legally reprimanded for these activities in the past, and he is not eager to suffer such consequences again. He hopes that Monsieur Bovary will become a good friend and will forgive any misdemeanors he happens to notice taking place in the pharmacy’s back room.
At first, Charles cannot seem to attract any patients in Yonville. He worries a great deal about money, but he is very happy about his wife’s pregnancy. Emma does not exactly relish the idea of becoming a mother, but she does warm to the idea over time. She hopes that the child will be a boy because boys have more freedom; she dislikes the idea of bringing someone into the world who will have no control over her own happiness.
The child turns out to be a girl. After the birth, the people of Yonville congratulate the Bovarys. Monsieur Homais, who is chosen as the child’s godfather, brings gifts of sweets from the pharmacy. Charles’s parents come for a long visit, and Emma finds out that she enjoys the company of the elder Monsieur Bovary.
The baby, Berthe, is sent to live with a wet nurse at the edge of town. One day Emma decides to go see the child. She is still convalescing from giving birth, and she feels weak on the walk. She meets Monsieur Léon on the way, and he ends up joining her to let her lean on him as she walks. The townspeople notice this and gossip about it.
On the way home, Emma and Monsieur Léon walk along the river, talking little but feeling an emotional connection they do not dare to speak aloud. At the Bovary house, Emma runs inside. After she is gone, Monsieur Léon cannot bring himself to work for the rest of the...
(The entire section is 494 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary
Emma watches the street out her window every day, and she always sees Monsieur Léon walking to and from work. It becomes a part of her routine to take note of his passing, and she does not question it. Often she waits until after he goes by in the evening before she orders the maid to set the table for dinner.
While Emma and Charles eat in the evenings, Monsieur Homais often comes to chat. He asks about Charles’s patients and relates the news from the day’s paper. He also delivers long lectures on the foods they are eating, explaining about the healthful qualities of the spices and advising Emma which pieces of meat are the most tender.
On Sundays, Charles and Emma usually visit the Homais household to play games and chat in the parlor. Monsieur Léon always attends these gatherings. After playing cards with Monsieur Homais for a while, Emma usually sits with Monsieur Léon, reading magazines or poetry. The pharmacist and the doctor usually drop off to sleep, and then Emma and Monsieur Léon get to talk quietly in relative privacy. In this way, they develop a close friendship.
Charles is not jealous of his wife’s new friendship. In truth, Monsieur Léon acts like a good friend to both of them. He gives Charles a phrenological head for his birthday and often picks up odds and ends for the couple on travels out of town. On one occasion, he hears that exotic plants are in fashion in Paris, and he gives Emma a gift of a few potted cacti. She responds by giving him a beautifully embroidered blanket.
Monsieur Léon talks about Madame Bovary all the time and shows his blanket proudly to everyone in town. This raises suspicions, and the gossips speculate that the two friends must be having an affair. To them, this is the only imaginable reason why a young wife would give a handmade present to a male friend.
For months, Monsieur Léon spends most of his time agonizing about whether and how he should speak his feelings aloud to Emma. In the end, he is not brave enough to speak at all. For her part, Emma assumes that love, if she felt it, would hit her “like a blinding flash of lightning.” She has never experienced such a feeling, so it does not occur to her that she may be in love with Monsieur Léon or he with her.
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 5 Summary
One snowy day in February, the Bovarys and several friends make a day trip to see a new flax mill that is under construction. This turns out to be a highly boring destination, and Monsieur Homais, who is in attendance, drones on incessantly about how much flax will be processed and how much impact the mill will have on the region’s economy. Monsieur Léon has come along, and during the afternoon Emma happens to make a mental comparison between her dull, badly dressed husband on the one hand, and the better looking and more interesting young clerk on the other.
Afterward, Emma sits at home alone while Charles goes to visit Monsieur Homais. She cannot stop thinking of Monsieur Léon, who looks like a young man in love. She wonders whom he loves, and suddenly she realizes that he loves her. Briefly, she feels full of warmth and joy. But this happy moment is followed quickly by her usual melancholy. After all, this love has entered her life too late for her to act upon it.
For some time after this, Emma acts the part of the perfect wife, returning to the same cheery habits that she had when she was first married. She warms Charles’s slippers for him in the evenings, makes her house as pretty as she can, and refuses to make petty splurges at the dry goods store. When she sees Monsieur Léon, she acts cold. For a while, she feels happy and invigorated by her resolution to take the moral path and adhere to her marriage vows.
Monsieur Léon notices Emma’s behavior and grows convinced that she does not love him. He falls into despair, berating himself for having hoped that she might develop feelings for him. He retreats from her life somewhat, never guessing that Emma’s sudden coldness is her confused response to loving him.
Emma’s moral resolve fades quickly, and her outward composure hides an inner life “torn by wild desires, by rage, by hatred.” She hates Charles because he does not understand how much she suffers for the sake of their marriage. In her mind, he becomes “the obstacle to every kind of happiness.”
Soon, seeing the way Monsieur Léon pulls away from her, Emma grows convinced that he has stopped loving her. Her grief increases, and she wonders why she did not do what she wanted when she had the chance. One day the maid, Félicité, finds Emma sobbing and asks if she is ill. She says that it is just nerves, and Félicité replies that she once knew a girl who...
(The entire section is 464 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary
One day Emma hears church bells ringing and remembers her school years at the convent. Hoping to quiet her inner turmoil, she resolves to speak to the priest about her troubles. She walks to the churchyard, where she finds a group of boys who have come for a catechism class.
The priest, Bournisien, appears shortly. The boys go into the church, and Bournisien remains outside to greet Emma. She explains that she is “poorly,” and he advises her to seek medical advice from her husband. She says that she really needs spiritual guidance, but the priest does not listen. He launches into complaints about how hard priests have to work. Through the door of the church, he sees some boys misbehaving, and he rushes inside to slap them.
Emma follows Bournisien inside and asks a vague question about suffering. He pauses his disciplinary activities briefly and says that people suffer if they are poor, or hungry, or overworked. Emma tries to ask him about other kinds of suffering, but the priest cannot fathom how a doctor’s wife with plenty to eat could experience any feeling but contentment. Eventually Emma gets frustrated and leaves.
When Emma arrives home, her little daughter Berthe comes to her room, seeking attention. Emma tells the child to go to the maid, but Berthe refuses. In frustration, Emma shoves the child, who falls down and cuts her cheek. After this, Emma comforts Berthe and berates herself. When Charles arrives home, he tells her not to worry; children hurt themselves playing all the time. He performs first aid with supplies from Monsieur Homais.
Monsieur Léon is as deeply in love with Emma as ever, but he is tired of loving her from afar. He decides that he needs to change his life. He has long wanted to go to the city and complete his law degree, and he begins seriously to consider taking this step. He writes to his mother to ask her permission, and she grants it. However, he is reluctant to leave Yonville and Emma, so he lingers for a month over his preparations.
When he cannot delay his departure any longer, Monsieur Léon does move out of town. He says his goodbyes to his landlords and his employers. Just before he rides out, he stops by the Bovary home. He kisses Berthe and, after an awkward exchange of conversation about the weather, shakes Emma’s hand in parting.
After Monsieur Léon goes away, Monsieur Homais stops by. He and Charles discuss all the problems...
(The entire section is 480 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 7 Summary
Now that it is too late to change her mind, Emma regrets that she did not take action and declare her love for Monsieur Léon. She remembers the good times she had with him, and she sinks into a state of idle depression, as she did after she attended the marquis’s ball near Tostes. In hopes of cheering herself up, she makes extravagant purchases at Monsieur Lheureux’s dry goods store—but even shopping fails to lift her mood.
Desperate for help, Charles invites his mother to come for a visit and look after Emma. The older woman says that Emma should be forced to work. Charles points out that his wife stays busy, but his mother responds with scorn. She says that all Emma does is read novels, an idle behavior which promotes immoral thinking. Charles's mother not only suggests that he forbid his wife from reading such books, but she also personally undertakes the task of canceling Emma’s lending library subscription. Naturally, Emma resents this. The two women are barely speaking by the time Charles’s mother leaves. Soon after the older woman goes, Emma manages to reinstate her library subscription.
One Wednesday—market day in Yonville—the Bovarys receive a visit from a wealthy landowner named Monsieur Rodolphe Boulanger. One of Monsieur Rodolphe’s servants feels ill. Charles bleeds the ailing servant with help from Justin, Monsieur Homais's pharmacy apprentice. The servant and Justin both faint at the sight of the blood. The resulting scene is so chaotic that Emma is called in to help. She has no qualms about blood, and she is graceful and composed as she helps to revive the two fainting victims.
Monsieur Rodolphe is impressed by the doctor’s pretty wife. After he leaves, he reflects on her beauty and style. His impression of Charles is not nearly so favorable. Monsieur Rodolphe, a well-dressed rich man, has had a long series of affairs in his life. He has a talent for figuring out what goes on in women’s minds. He guesses that Emma is bored and unhappy in her relationship, and that she would be easy to seduce:
A compliment or two and she’d adore me, I’m positive. She’d be sweet! But—how would I get rid of her afterward?
This concern does not trouble him long. Monsieur Rodolphe’s current mistress no longer pleases him. Madame Bovary is far prettier and more exciting. He resolves to approach her right away, at the upcoming...
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 8 Summary
The Agricultural Show is a grand affair. People come from all over the surrounding countryside, and everyone dresses up for the occasion. As the event begins, Monsieur Homais stops by the hotel and brags to Madame Lefrançois, the hotel owner, that he is one of the judges. She is in a bad mood because a business from out of town was hired to cater for the occasion, so she asks how a pharmacist can judge farm products. This question earns her a long lecture from Monsieur Homais about how pharmacists, being educated in chemistry, actually know more about farm products than farmers do.
Outside, Rodolphe finds Emma and takes her on a walk to see the sights. He steers her skillfully away from Monsieur Homais and the other bores of Yonville. As he does so, he drops comments suggesting that Emma is superior to the simple country folk around her. Then he complains that he is a lonely man who cannot find anyone who understands him.
Emma and Rodolphe watch a parade together. Afterward, they climb to the top floor of the town hall, where a presentation about agriculture is beginning. Rodolphe draws her into the quietest part of the room. As a local official delivers a long-winded speech about French politics and the necessity of agriculture, Rodolphe whispers to Emma that he is falling for her. He says that society makes rules about morality only to stifle happiness, and that it is actually good and right for someone in an unhappy marriage to seek love elsewhere:
Our duty is to feel what is great and love what is beautiful—not to accept all the social conventions and the infamies they impose on us!
As Rodolphe makes this appeal to Emma, the speaker drones on about the effects of flax and apples on the political development of the French nation. He fancies that everyone is fascinated, but in fact, most of the audience is asleep. Rodolphe keeps up his whispering through a second official’s speech—this one about agriculture’s relation to religion and human development—and through a presentation of awards for farmers and farm products. Thus Rodolphe’s smooth declarations of love are punctuated by announcements about prize hogs and fertilizers.
After this ceremony, Emma joins her husband for a fireworks show. Rodolphe watches from afar as Charles and Emma stand arm in arm together. The show is quite amateurish. The fireworks have been stored improperly, and...
(The entire section is 501 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 9 Summary
For six weeks, Rodolphe avoids Emma, telling himself that her desire for him will grow in his absence. When he finally does go to see her, she at first acts annoyed. He has been hunting and traveling a great deal since he last saw her, but he claims that he has been pining after her constantly. He even says that he has often stood outside her house late at night, thinking about her. His romantic language impresses her, but she tries to resist his advances.
When Charles arrives home, Emma is having trouble controlling her confused emotions. Rodolphe says that she seems ill. He suggests that it would be healthy for her to go out horseback riding, and he offers his own horses for the purpose. Emma understands Rodolphe’s ulterior motives, so she refuses to go. Charles, who does not understand what is at stake, presses her to accept the offer. She protests that “it might look strange” but eventually gives in.
The following day, Emma goes out riding with Rodolphe. He takes her into the woods and declares his undying love for her. She continues to resist him for a while, but his poetic language and classic good looks are ultimately too tempting to her. Eventually she gives in, and the two of them make love.
When Emma arrives home, she is elated. She tells herself that she is finally experiencing love. She feels more beautiful and exciting than ever before—more like the heroine of a novel than herself. Charles is pleased by her improved mood, and he buys her a horse so that she can go for rides with Rodolphe more often.
After that, Emma and Rodolphe spend a great deal of time together. They also write letters to each other every day, whether they see each other or not. Emma resists taking risks at first, but soon she grows bolder. One morning when Charles goes out early to see a patient, she runs alone to Rodolphe’s chateau, La Huchette, and sneaks into his bedroom to wake him. He is obviously charmed that she has done this, so after that she makes a habit of sneaking to La Huchette every time she gets a chance. She loves being with him, and she always cries when she has to leave.
One day, when Emma makes one of these unexpected visits, Rodolphe looks displeased. She asks him what is wrong, and he says that he is worried. She is “risking her reputation” by sneaking out to see him so often.
(The entire section is 423 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 10 Summary
Emma soon realizes that Rodolphe is right; she needs to protect her reputation. After all, if she gets caught, she may not be able to see him anymore. One morning, on her way home from Rodolphe’s chateau, she meets Monsieur Binet, the local tax collector. He happens to be out duck hunting. They chat briefly, and she thinks he realizes her guilt. In fact, he is too busy worrying about his own guilt. He is breaking the local duck hunting laws, and he thinks she knows it.
After this encounter, Emma spends the day worrying that Monsieur Binet will tell someone what he has seen. She runs into him that afternoon at the pharmacist’s shop. In her nervousness, she grows so agitated that people think she is ill. But Monsieur Binet does not mention the morning’s encounter.
When this scare has passed, Rodolphe and Emma change their patterns. He travels to her house at night and meets her on a bench at the back of her garden. On colder nights, they meet in Charles’s medical consultation room instead. Once, when they are inside, they hear someone in the garden. Emma asks Rodolphe if he has his pistols, and he seems shocked that she would think he needed them. She is impressed that he is not afraid of Charles, whereas Rodolphe is perplexed by her assumption that he hates her husband enough to shoot him.
Emma's sentimentality annoys Rodolphe. She insists on exchanging locks of hair and making constant flowery declarations of love. That sort of thing was all right in the early days, when he was still trying to convince her to be with him—but now it is getting a bit old. However, he is enjoying his affair with her enough to continue it.
One day Emma receives a letter from her father, Monsieur Rouault, along with a gift of a turkey from his farm. His quaint misspellings and his simple statements about life on the farm fill her with nostalgia—not so much for farm life itself, which she never liked, but rather for the girlish innocence she once possessed. In her childhood, she was “rich in illusions” and did not know it. Now she is beginning to feel rather tired of her life. She does not quite understand why she is unhappy, but she is.
On her next few visits with Rodolphe, Emma acts cold and distant. She begins to suspect that she would be happier if only she worked to be a better wife and mother. She begins showing more affection toward her daughter, and she tries again to find a reason to...
(The entire section is 443 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 11 Summary
One day, Monsieur Homais reads about a new medical operation that can cure clubfoot, an inborn deformity that makes a person’s foot grow twisted. Eager to bring scientific advances to Yonville, Monsieur Homais pressures Charles to study this operation and try it out on Hippolyte, a clubfooted man who works as a horse groom at the local hotel. Emma, who feels that she could love Charles if he distinguished himself in his career, supports Monsieur Homais's plan.
Charles is at first reluctant to try operating on Hippolyte, who gets along fine in spite of his disability. However, Emma and Monsieur Homais make him think he can pull off the operation. Eventually he orders some medical books and begins studying the technique. Meanwhile, the whole town gets excited. Everyone works together to persuade Hippolyte to undergo the surgery. In the end, he agrees as well.
On the day of the operation, Charles feels terrified. He makes one small incision, and the surgery is finished. Hippolyte is amazed at how easy it was, and he thanks Charles profusely. Charles and Monsieur Homais then strap Hippolyte’s leg into a homemade box to keep it straight.
For a short time, Charles is the town hero. Monsieur Homais even writes a flowery newspaper article praising Charles for bringing advanced medical techniques to a rural town. In this article, Monsieur Homais predicts that Hippolyte will soon be seen among the dancers at village festivals.
Nothing of the sort occurs. Hippolyte develops gangrene in his leg, and the infection is impossible for Charles and Monsieur Homais to cure. They call in a more experienced doctor, Monsieur Canivet, from a nearby district. Monsieur Canivet shouts about the stupidity of trying “new-fangled ideas from Paris” on a man who was living a healthy and productive life. Then he amputates Hippolyte’s leg.
During the amputation, Charles is afraid to show his face in town. He and Emma sit at home by their unlit fireplace. Inwardly, Charles reflects that he did his absolute best to avoid a problem like this one, and that he had no way of predicting that Hippolyte would develop gangrene. Nevertheless, he is wracked by guilt and terrified that people will blame him for what has happened.
Meanwhile, Emma silently berates herself for having hoped that Charles could amount to anything. She cannot believe that she was actually considering giving up her love and trying to be...
(The entire section is 492 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 12 Summary
Emma constantly complains to Rodolphe that her life is horrible. One day when he snaps that he cannot do anything about it, she replies that he can. She begs him to take her away. He brushes her off, but she does not forget the idea.
Charles’s recent failure with the clubfoot operation has renewed Emma’s disgust for him. Her feelings for the two men have a curious connection to each other. The more she hates Charles, the more she loves Rodolphe. Every time she comes home after seeing Rodolphe, Charles seems worse than before.
Monsieur Lheureux, the owner of the dry goods store in Yonville, frequently lets Emma have pretty objects for herself on credit. He never bothers her about paying her bills, so she makes expensive purchases whenever she wants. One day she orders a fancy riding crop for Rodolphe, assuming that Monsieur Lheureux will allow her to have it on credit as usual. She is surprised when he begins pestering her to pay the bill.
One day Emma receives a large payment from one of Charles’s patients, and she gives almost the entire amount to Monsieur Lheureux to pay for the riding crop. He seems disappointed, and she feels nervous at having spent so much money on her lover. Nevertheless, she tells herself that Charles will never notice what she has done.
As Emma’s moral expectations for herself decline, she stops caring about other people’s morals as well. One day, when Charles’s mother is in town on one of her periodic visits, she walks in on the maid, Félicité, kissing a man in the kitchen. When Emma hears about this, she just laughs. Shocked, Charles’s mother insists that a woman in Emma’s position must watch over the moral behavior of her servants. Emma grows furious and orders her mother-in-law out of the room.
After this ugly scene, Charles persuades Emma to apologize to his mother. Emma does so, but she is humiliated. She immediately calls Rodolphe and begs him to take her away. In the heat of the moment, he agrees.
Buoyed by the promise of a different life, Emma begins acting happier and more respectful at home. She is polite to her mother-in-law and kind to Charles. Meanwhile she spends all of her time planning to run away. She orders a traveling cloak, a trunk, and a small bag from Monsieur Lheureux, who asks if she is planning a trip. She tells him she is not going anywhere. She instructs him not to send her packages to her house, but to...
(The entire section is 600 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 13 Summary
At home, Rodolphe rummages through a box of letters, trinkets, and locks of hair from women. As he examines the letters and keepsakes from Emma, he gets them mixed up with his souvenirs from his many other lovers. He ends up tossing everything back in the box, telling himself that relationships are all “nonsense.” He believes this. He has had so many mistresses and spent so much time lying and scheming to get them that he is no longer capable of the pure emotion of love.
Rodolphe writes Emma a long letter about how he fears he will ruin her life unless her breaks off their relationship. He says that he wishes he did not have to hurt her, but that she will surely regret running away if she goes through with it. He claims that he is leaving town in order to prevent himself from rushing out to see her one last time—but in reality, he wants to leave for a while to avoid further confrontation with Emma.
When this note is delivered, Emma panics. She rushes up to the attic to read it where nobody will disturb her. As she reads, she feels anger and remorse. Distraught, she steps to the window. She is just on the point of throwing herself out when Charles calls her to dinner.
Instead of killing herself, Emma goes downstairs and sits at the table. She tries to get through the meal without making Charles suspicious, but she fails. She cannot eat, and she repeatedly surprises him with her odd reactions to simple comments. After the meal, she glances outside and glimpses Rodolphe, who is indeed on his way out of town. This is too much for her, and she faints.
Charles calls out for help, and Monsieur Homais rushes over with vinegar to resuscitate Emma. As Charles doctors her and Berthe cries in fear, Monsieur Homais delivers a lecture about the possible causes of this fainting spell. Eventually Emma is carried up to her room, where she lies ill for weeks. Charles cares for her devotedly, refusing to leave her side even to do his work.
After many weeks of illness, Emma’s health slowly begins to improve. When she is finally able to go for a walk in the garden, he is thrilled. She is doing fine until he encourages her to sit on the bench where—unbeknownst to him—she used to meet Rodolphe at night. Her illness returns, and Charles begins to worry that she has cancer.
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 14-15 Summary
In addition to his problems with Emma, Charles experiences problems with money. He cannot pay Monsieur Homais for the medicines he uses in his medical practice. Expenses for household supplies add up faster now that the maid has control of them. Local shopkeepers, especially Monsieur Lheureux, keep trying to make him pay strange bills. Just when Emma’s illness is at its worst, Monsieur Lheureux shows up with a cloak, a trunk, and a bag. Charles swears that these were never ordered, but the shopkeeper demands payment anyway. The bills add up so much that Charles ends up having to borrow money from Monsieur Lheureux at a very bad interest rate.
Far from feeling angry at Emma for spending so much, Charles feels guilty for worrying about it. He thinks that he should focus all his worries on Emma—
as though his every thought were her property and he were filching something from her if he took his mind off her for a second.
Once again, Emma makes a slow recovery. When she begins to feel better, she acts like a different person. She takes comfort in witnessing the slow, boring routine of village life. She develops an obsession with religion. When the priest, Bournisien, comes to give her communion one day, she suddenly thinks she feels God’s pure love. She feeds on this feeling and becomes obsessed with doing small, charitable works such as feeding homeless people and knitting for orphans.
As Emma gets better, Charles feels happy. The people of the town rally around her. She receives many visits from the people of Yonville, even those who have speculated cruelly about her behavior behind her back. Monsieur Homais’s apprentice, Justin, comes more often than almost anyone else. Emma takes little notice of Justin’s growing crush on her. She is too obsessed with herself.
One evening after the priest, Bournisien, stops to visit Emma, he sits in the garden drinking cider with Charles and Monsieur Homais. Monsieur Homais suggests that Charles take Emma to the opera in the nearby town of Rouen, where a famous singer is going to perform. This comment is meant as bait for Bournisien, and Monsieur Homais soon bullies the priest into an argument about the Catholic church’s claim that theater is immoral. Monsieur Homais drones on about the hypocrisy of the church for a while, and Bournisien decides to leave.
Charles decides to follow Monsieur...
(The entire section is 919 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary
Ever since he left Yonvill, Léon has been studying and working hard. His good looks and his poetic streak have made him popular with women, so he has had a few romances. However, he is a relatively timid man who has not taken these relationships too far. Moreover, a ghost of his passion for Emma has always remained in the back of his mind.
Léon’s love for Emma returns in full force when he sees her in Rouen. She still strikes him as the perfect woman, but now that his experience has expanded somewhat, she does not seem quite so unapproachable. The morning after the opera, he goes to see her at her hotel. Charles has already left, so the two of them are able to talk alone. As they catch up, they both neglect to mention the love affairs they have had since they last saw each other. Instead, they both portray themselves as virtuous people who have struggled to behave rightly in spite of temptation.
After a while, Léon gathers his courage and admits out loud that he was “terribly in love” with Emma when he lived in Yonville. She tries but fails to conceal her happiness at hearing this. She tells him that it would not be proper for the two of them to act on their love, and then she asks him to go home.
Unwilling to give up so easily, Léon begs her to meet him the following day. She agrees at first, but as soon as he leaves, she decides it is a bad idea. She writes a long letter explaining why she cannot see him, but she is unable to send it because she does not know where he lives. She resolves to take it to their meeting, give it to him, and leave.
In the morning, Léon arrives early at the cathedral where he and Emma are supposed to meet. A verger offers a tour, but Léon refuses. When Emma arrives a while later, she finds that she is too weak to give him her letter. She sinks to her knees and prays for the strength to resist the urge to have another affair. The verger interrupts to offer a tour again, and she accepts, hoping that by the end of it she will have gathered the will to tell Léon that she cannot love him.
Emma’s strange, shifting behavior confuses and annoys Léon. Eventually he just takes her arm and leads her outside. Emma protests that she should not go with him, but Léon says, “Everybody does it in Paris.” This, for her, is “an irresistible and clinching argument.” Her resistance evaporates.
They find a cab. Léon tells the driver to take...
(The entire section is 542 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 2 Summary
Emma returns to Yonville, where she is met with a message asking her to stop by the Homais household before she returns home. She finds Monsieur Homais shouting at his assistant, Justin, for entering a room that contains a bottle of arsenic, a powerful poison. Emma hovers on the sidelines as Monsieur Homais berates the boy. When she manages to grab Monsieur Homais's attention, he informs her that her father-in-law is dead.
After hearing this bad news, Emma goes home and finds Charles distraught. She asks a few polite questions about his father. Then she falls silent, thinking of Léon. Charles assumes that she is being quiet because she is grieving. He continues in this assumption throughout his period of mourning.
Not long after this, the Bovarys receive a visit from Monsieur Lheureux, the shopkeeper who lent Charles money during Emma’s illness. He wants them to use some of the money from Charles’s inheritance to pay down their debts. Charles’s mother happens to be visiting at the time, and he is embarrassed to let her find out that he owes money. Instead of speaking with Monsieur Lheureux himself, Charles sends Emma to take care of the matter.
During the discussion of the Bovarys' debt, Monsieur Lheureux hints that Emma should obtain power of attorney so that she can make financial decisions regarding Charles’s inheritance. This way, Emma will be able to spend money however she wants without bothering her husband about it. Monsieur Lheureux's argument is smooth, but it is clear that he is manipulating her. He knows that Emma is less educated in money matters than her husband, and that it will be easier to convince her to continue borrowing money at bad interest rates.
Emma likes Monsieur Lheureux’s suggestion, and not only because it will allow her to spend money freely. She forms a manipulative plan of her own to convince her husband to let her visit Léon. She unfolds this plan slowly and carefully. While her mother-in-law remains in town, Emma acts sweet and thoughtful, pretending to care only about her husband’s loss of a father and not at all about the inheritance.
After Charles’s mother leaves town, Emma brings up the power of attorney. Charles always thinks well of her, so he agrees readily to sign the necessary papers. Emma says that the town notary is not very trustworthy. She suggests that she should make a trip to Rouen to visit Léon, who is certain to do the...
(The entire section is 445 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 3 Summary
Emma’s three days in Rouen are like “a real honeymoon.” She and Léon stay at a hotel by the river, where they spend most of the time shut up with all the doors locked. They fling flowers all over the room and order cold drinks whenever they feel like it. In the evenings they rent a boat to take them out to a small island, where they find a little restaurant. After eating dinner, they find a patch of grass and sit embracing each other in the cool night air. At these moments, they both wish that they could spend years on the island getaway, “like two Robinson Crusoes.” They are so lovesick that the trees and sky and water all seem more beautiful than ever before:
It was as though nature had not existed before, or had only begun to be beautiful with the slaking of their desires.
When it gets dark, Emma and Léon return to their rented boat and have the boatman row them back to Rouen. On one of these trips, Emma quietly sings a song to the moon. Léon sits across from her, watching and listening to the sweet sounds she makes. He thinks that she looks even more beautiful now than she ever has before.
Moments later, Léon notices a little piece of ribbon in the bottom of the boat. The boatman says it belonged to “a jolly lot” who rented his boat a few nights ago. In that group, even the girls acted raucous and drank champagne, but one particular man was the clear leader, funnier and livelier than anyone else. The boatman describes this reveler, and Emma realizes it was Rodolphe.
Thinking of her former lover, Emma shivers. Léon notices, but she plays it down, saying that she is just cold. The boatman comments that men like Rodolphe and Léon never have to worry about attracting women. He does not know that Emma has a history with both men; he merely means to compliment Léon for being good looking and well-dressed.
When Emma has to go back home to Yonville, she and Léon are both miserable. Emma gives him detailed instructions about how to send discrete letters. He is impressed by her ability to think strategically, unaware that she is experienced at extramarital affairs.
Before she leaves, Emma makes sure that the power of attorney is properly arranged. She boards a coach to drive away, and Léon walks off alone through the city. As he wanders, he wonders why she is so interested in having the power to manage her husband's money.
(The entire section is 440 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 4 Summary
Léon’s new relationship with Emma has bad effects on his behavior. He begins acting superior to the other clerks in his office. His work grows sloppy because he spends all of his time thinking about his lover and reading her letters. He writes to Emma constantly and grows steadily more obsessed with schemes to see her again. One day he gets fed up with missing her. He boards a coach and, a while later, arrives in Yonville for a surprise visit.
To Léon, Yonville looks even smaller and less significant than it did before. He regards the place with both nostalgia and superiority. The villagers welcome him like a hero returning home, exclaiming over his appearance and asking how he is doing. He eats dinner at the hotel, as he always used to do when he lived in town. Eventually he gathers his courage and knocks on the Bovarys’ door.
Charles seems happy to see Léon, as does Emma—although she is forced to behave with the cool distance of propriety while they are under the scrutiny of her husband and her town. During Léon’s visit, they find only one brief chance to meet alone. On that occasion, they cling to each other, and Emma promises to find a way to visit Rouen on a regular basis.
Soon after Léon leaves, Emma resumes her old hobby of playing piano. She constantly stops halfway through the music and complains that she makes too many mistakes. At first Charles just tells her that she is being too hard on herself. After that, she increases the number of mistakes she makes so that even he can hear how bad the music sounds.
Charles sees that Emma is unhappy with the state of her music education, so he urges her to take lessons. She waves off this suggestion, saying it is too expensive. He soon finds an inexpensive teacher, who is free to give her an occasional lesson. She replies that there is no point taking lessons only occasionally. Charles ultimately drops the idea.
Emma stops playing the piano for a while, and everyone in town notices. They all act sorry for her, and they grumble in Charles’s hearing that he is a cheapskate for refusing to pay for piano lessons for his wife. Eventually he suggests that Emma take regular weekly lessons, and she jumps at the idea. She makes arrangements for a weekly trip to Rouen—supposedly to study music, but really to see Léon. As soon as she begins these trips, her piano playing improves miraculously.
(The entire section is 434 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 5 Summary
Every Thursday morning, Emma gets up early and rushes to get ready to meet the coach to Rouen. She is always the first passenger to arrive. When it is time to leave, she takes her seat eagerly and watches out the window for the landmarks along the route.
Emma and Léon meet at the same hotel room every week. Inside their room, they hug and kiss eagerly. Then they tell each other everything that has happened to them since they last saw each other. After that, they retire to the bed. They enjoy every moment they spend together until they are forced to return to their normal lives.
Emma’s trip home is never as exciting as her trip to Rouen. On the way, she always feels sad and dreary. She watches the commuters around her fall asleep, and she sits all alone, feeling cold “like death.” When she arrives home, she is always in a terrible mood.
Soon Emma cannot imagine giving up her Thursdays with Léon. She finds it necessary to craft increasingly elaborate lies to keep her affair a secret. For example, she makes up fake receipts for her piano lessons and leaves them, as if accidentally, where Charles will find them. As she gains practice at lying, it becomes second nature to her.
One day, Monsieur Lheureux asks Emma to pay off some of the money she owes at his shop. She has no money, so he casually suggests that she sell a small property that Charles inherited from his father. She makes this sale with Monsieur Lheureux’s help and offers him all the money to pay her bill. Instead of taking the payment, he manipulates her into borrowing more money at a higher rate of interest than before.
Emma is suddenly flush with cash, which she spends on furnishings for her home and excursions with Léon. After that, she borrows more from Monsieur Lheureux whenever she pleases. She soon finds herself “getting a little mixed up in her arithmetic.” She cannot figure out exactly how much she owes, so she puts the whole issue out of her head. Charles remains almost totally ignorant of what she is doing.
As Emma grows freer with her money, she also grows freer about taking risks with Léon. One Thursday, she stays the night in Rouen instead of returning home to her husband. Charles grows worried and rushes out to look for her. When he finds her on Friday morning, she lies and says she suddenly took ill. He asks for details, and she acts annoyed that he is making a fuss. After that, she...
(The entire section is 510 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 6 Summary
Whenever Léon visits Yonville, he stops by the pharmacy to see Monsieur Homais, and they idly plan to have lunch in Rouen together sometime. One Thursday, when Léon and Emma are supposed to meet, Monsieur Homais suddenly shows up at Léon’s work. Léon sees no way out of the lunch invitation, so he goes along. He repeatedly tries to get away, claiming that he has to go back to work, but Monsieur Homais refuses to hear of it.
Monsieur Homais's visit goes on for hours. At one point, Léon manages to get away briefly to confer with Emma in secret. She orders him to get rid of the old bore and spend the rest of the day with her. He tries, but Monsieur Homais proves difficult to shake off. Emma waits most of the day, then grows furious and goes home.
After this incident, Emma and Léon never feel quite as close as before. Rather than accept this and go on with life, Emma does everything she can imagine to regain the initial excitement of their affair. In bed, she loses all her inhibitions. Léon is a bit scandalized.
One day, Emme learns that Monsieur Lheureux has sold some of her debt to a debt collector in Rouen. The debt collector’s swift legal demand for repayment comes as a shock to Emma, who rushes to Monsieur Lheureux’s store to complain. He says that he can do nothing to help her because he is short on money himself. Then he manipulates her into borrowing yet more money and also buying a length of expensive lace.
Now quite worried about money matters, Emma begins selling her old possessions and pressing her husband’s patients to pay their medical bills. She pays off a few debts here and there, but she always seems to end up spending more. Charles knows little about her financial missteps. When he finds out about a few of them, he attributes her errors to her frailty from her illness.
Meanwhile, Léon feels that his relationship with Emma is getting out of control. Rumors about him have reached his mother and his boss. His boss pressures him to break off the affair. Léon promises to do so, but he is too weak to follow through. He continues seeing Emma, although their affair is slowly becoming “as banal as marriage.”
One Thursday, Emma stays in Rouen and attends a masked ball with Léon. She dresses as a boy and stays out all night. Although initially excited by the novelty of this, Emma soon reconsiders her opinions. Everyone in her group is wearing a...
(The entire section is 568 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 7 Summary
The next day, a debt collector sends two men to take inventory of the Bovarys’ possessions. Emma watches them quietly as they add up the value of her kitchen pots and undergarments. She makes her maid, Félicité, watch for Charles, who has no idea that his wife’s spending has gotten so out of control.
The next day, Emma rushes to Rouen and sees several bankers, but they all refuse to lend her any money. In desperation, she knocks on Léon’s door and begs him to pay her debt for her. She tells him everything, but there is nothing he can do. He does not have such a huge sum of money. Emma demands that he get her a smaller amount, suggesting that he is either weak or uncharitable if he cannot help.
Léon reluctantly goes out and asks a few people for loans, but they refuse. Emma suggests that he steal from his office instead. She seems so desperate that he actually feels tempted. However, he cannot go that far. To put her off, he promises to ask for help from a wealthy friend who is coming to town soon. He says that he will come to her tomorrow by three o’clock to tell her what happens—but inwardly he reflects that he is not going to come.
After this conversation, Emma returns home and sees a crowd standing at her front gate, looking at a notice that says the courts are going to sell off all her possessions. She rushes to the town notary for help. The notary suggests that he will let her have three thousand francs in exchange for sex. Offended at the very idea of this, Emma storms out.
Emma tries to get help from the town tax collector, but he throws her out. After that, she cannot bring herself to go home again. She goes to see Madame Rollet, the nurse who breastfed Berthe in infancy. Emma flings herself on the poor woman’s bed and lies there in despair. Eventually she remembers Léon’s promise to come to her by three o’clock. She sends Madame Rollet to fetch him, but he never appears.
After learning that Léon has failed her, Emma looks for another savior. Eventually she thinks of Rodolphe. He is wealthy, and he has loved her in the past. Surely she can convince him to give her money—especially if she uses her womanly charms to persuade him. She sets out for Rodolphe’s chateau, unaware that she is turning herself into a prostitute.
(The entire section is 431 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 8 Summary
When Rodolphe sees Emma, his first thought is that she looks more beautiful than ever. She complains that he broke her heart, and she asks him to become her lover again. He seems ready to agree until she confesses that she needs money. Then he realizes that this is the only reason for her visit. He tells her that he does not have the money.
Emma grows furious. In an ugly outburst, she points out Rodolphe’s expensive possessions and reminds him of the money he spends on hobbies and vacations. Surely a man who spends so much on himself can spend a few thousand on a friend. Rodolphe grows angry, but he stays calm. He firmly tells her that he cannot help her. Inwardly, he reflects that if he had the money, he would probably give it to her.
Thwarted again, Emma returns to town in a daze. She does not really think about where she is going until she arrives at Monsieur Homais’s house. Remembering that he once mentioned where he keeps his arsenic, Emma bullies his apprentice, Justin, into unlocking the room. To Justin’s horror, she grabs the bottle and eats a large dose of the poison. Justin moves to call for help, but she scares him into silence, saying that he and Monsieur Homais will be blamed if anyone finds out where she got the poison.
Feeling peaceful now that her fate is sealed, Emma goes home. There she refuses to tell Charles how she managed to bankrupt him. Instead, she writes a letter, seals it, and instructs him to open it in the morning. Then she goes to bed and waits for the poison to take effect.
When Emma begins vomiting in the night, Charles grows worried. After trying and failing to help her, he opens her letter and learns that she has eaten arsenic. At this, his grief is so obvious and so intense that Emma realizes the force of his love for her. She recognizes at last that Charles’s love is far greater and purer than any other love she has experienced.
Charles calls Monsieur Homais, who makes a series of inept attempts to help Emma. Charles also issues emergency calls to the two most renowned doctors in his region. They both rush to Emma’s bedside and try to help. However, there is little they can do. They tell Charles that Emma is going to die, and then they leave for a few hours to let nature take its course.
Monsieur Homais is awestruck by the presence of these two famous doctors, so he invites them to his house for lunch. Justin and his wife hurry to...
(The entire section is 528 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 9 Summary
When his wife is dead, Charles sobs and clings to her body. Monsieur Homais tells him that this is all right; it is better to grieve now and get the feelings out. Returning home, Monsieur Homais rushes around to tell people the news and to write an article about Emma’s death. He invents a convenient fiction about accidental poisoning to cover up her suicide.
At first, Charles says he does not want a funeral for his wife. Monsieur Homais makes him see reason, and Charles demands an exorbitantly expensive burial, complete with three expensive coffins and a velvet shroud. Monsieur Homais argues against this as well, but this time Charles gets his way.
The evening before the funeral, many people drop by to visit the grieving widower. The gathering is boring, and everyone keeps waiting for someone else to leave so they can go, too. That night, Monsieur Homais and the priest, Bournisien, attempt to remain awake beside the body. They spend the hours arguing about their respective beliefs regarding God and religion. Charles comes in twice, but each time they send him off to bed, saying that they will watch over Emma while he rests.
Eventually, both Monsieur Homais and Bournisien fall asleep in their chairs. Charles comes into the room a third time, and this time he is free to grieve over his wife's body. She has been dressed in her wedding gown, with the veil lowered. This reminds him of the way she looked in her girlhood and on the day of their wedding. Suddenly he wants to see her face now, and he lifts the veil to look. The sight of Emma’s dead face proves too much for him, and he screams. The other two men wake up and take him out of the room to calm him down.
After this, Charles decides he wants a lock of Emma’s hair to keep. Monsieur Homais is given the job of cutting it, and he does so with shaking hands. Then he and the priest return to their wake. They eat and drink brandy together as they try to stay awake. Their longstanding dislike for each other evaporates as they fill their stomachs.
In the morning, workmen come to build the coffins and shut Emma’s body inside. When that task is complete, the house is opened, and the people of town come in. It is at this point that Monsieur Rouault, Emma’s father, arrives. When he sees the black cloth that symbolizes mourning for Emma’s death, he faints in the street.
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 10 Summary
Monsieur Rouault has ridden to Yonville without knowing for certain whether Emma is alive or dead. He received a letter from Monsieur Homais a few days ago, but the wording was so unclear that Monsieur Rouault was left with the impression that his daughter might only be very sick. Throughout his journey, he has been tormenting himself, alternately seeing death omens and inventing imaginary miracles. When he finally learns the truth, he is inconsolable.
The funeral is acted out properly, according to convention. Charles forces himself to be stoic throughout the ceremony and the burial. Privately he wishes he could throw everyone out and grieve alone, without regard for appearances—but instead he sits in a church pew and tries to force himself to feel religious. Monsieur Rouault manages to control his emotions as well.
The townspeople are all dressed up in their mourning clothes, and the priests and pallbearers wear grave expressions. Everyone makes small talk about how sad it is for such a young woman to die. During these conversations, all of the villagers seem to forget that they were the gossips who spread rumors about Emma and the debtors who conspired to ruin her. Whenever anyone will listen, Monsieur Homais points out how important he has been to Charles during this difficult time.
After the funeral, Monsieur Rouault says that he has no words of comfort for Charles. He leaves immediately, explaining that he is too upset to stay, and that he doubts he will want to see Charles or his granddaughter ever again. He hastens to add that he is not angry, but that he just cannot stand to see people who remind him of his daughter.
Charles’s mother sees Emma’s death as an opportunity. She always resented Charles’s deep love for his wife. Now the elder Madame Bovary thinks that she may become the most important woman in her son’s life again. She sits up with him late into the night, talking and listening.
Rodolphe and Léon both avoid the funeral. Rodolphe spends the day in the woods, trying not to think about Emma. By nightfall, he is so tired that he drifts off to sleep. Léon sleeps well also. Charles remains awake, thinking of the love he has lost. Justin stays up late, too, tormented by his secret knowledge about how Emma got the arsenic that killed her. In the darkest hours of the night, he sneaks out to the graveyard and sobs over the new grave.
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 11 Summary
Charles tells Berthe, his little daughter, that her maman is away on a trip. Berthe eventually forgets all about her mother. She is quite a happy child. Her cheerfulness is difficult for Charles, but he loves Berthe dearly.
As if the debt Emma accrued with Monsieur Lheureux were not enough by itself, Charles is forced to pay for piano lessons Emma never took and for mysterious letters whose purpose he cannot fathom. As more and more bills appear, Charles tries to collect medical payments from several of his patients—but he discovers that Emma already did this. Eventually, he simply borrows more money to pay the debts. He sells most of his possessions and sinks into poverty.
As Charles loses everything, Monsieur Homais enters a better time in his life. As he climbs the social ladder, he avoids anyone who might get in his way. His friendship with Charles wanes because he feels that Charles is descending to a lower status. He even encourages his children to avoid playing with little Berthe.
For a long while, Charles holds dear everything that reminds him of Emma. He cultivates an interest in the fashions she liked, and he keeps as many of her possessions as he can. His daughter looks much like her mother, and he cherishes her for it—although he is sad to see her looking unhealthy and wearing ragged clothes.
Shortly after Emma’s death, Charles finds Rodolphe’s parting letter to her. At first he convinces himself that the relationship was a platonic one. However, months later, he finds the rest of Emma’s correspondence—and he is forced to face the fact that Emma committed adultery with two different men.
One day, Charles meets Rodolphe in the street, and the two men sit down to drink a beer together. Rodolphe is chagrined when he learns that Charles knows about the affair. Privately, Charles realizes that he never could have been the kind of man his wife loved. “I don’t hold it against you,” he says to Rodolphe. After this conversation, he goes home, sits in the garden, and dies. His daughter is sent to live first with his mother and then with a poor aunt who makes her work for a living.
The final paragraph of Madame Bovary focuses not on Emma or Charles Bovary, but on Monsieur Homais, whose life provides a contrast to the Bovarys' downfall. After Charles's death, Monsieur Homais gains social importance and even wins a social distinction called...
(The entire section is 424 words.)