Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 429
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.
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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 pregnant.