Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 440
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.
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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 following day. When the time comes for this small adventure, Charles and Emma pack a trunk and set out.