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 that a young man may encounter in the city. He could get sucked into bad habits or illicit affairs, or he could contract a variety of horrible illnesses. Only when Monsieur Homais is called away does he remember to tell them a piece of good news: the next regional Agricultural Show will take place in Yonville.