Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 919
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.
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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 Homais’s advice and take Emma to the opera. She says that she does not want to go, but Charles insists that it will make her feel better. She does not have much strength to argue, so he makes preparations and buys tickets. Eventually the two of them set out for a short vacation to Rouen to see the show.
When she arrives at the opera house in Rouen, Emma is impressed by the beautiful people and rich surroundings. She and Charles find their seats, and the show soon begins. The opera makes Emma feel how she did when she read novels as a young girl. As she watches and listens to the characters onstage, her love of romantic stories reawakens.
Charles cannot follow a story told through music, and he pesters Emma with stupid questions. He gets the characters confused in his head and fails to understand what they want. Emma shushes him when he asks her to explain, and he protests that he wants to know what is happening. She orders him to quiet down so that she can watch the show.
Although Emma enjoys the opera, she feels that the world it portrays is a lie. She no longer believes that anyone in real life ever achieves the kind of rapture that is portrayed on the stage before her. But she is addicted to romance. By the final act before intermission, she has become utterly immersed. The lover in the story is a perfect male hero, and she wishes fervently that he were her lover. As he sings to her, she thinks:
Ravish me! Carry me off! Away from here! All my passion and all my dreams are yours—yours alone!
During the intermission, Emma is too overwhelmed to leave her seat. Charles goes to get her a drink, but he cannot even do this simple task properly. He spills most of the drink on a lady, whose husband shouts at him. Before returning to Emma, Charles also runs into an old friend, Monsieur Léon.
Léon comes to the Bovarys’ box and sits with them during the second half of the opera. Seeing him makes Emma remember that she once loved him. This thought distracts her so much that she loses her interest in the show. Léon seems to feel the same way, and he suggests going out for ice cream. Emma jumps at this idea, and the three of them leave the opera early.
At the ice cream parlor, the conversation is awkward and full of pauses. Emma and Léon have a great deal to say to one another, but they cannot find the right words in front of Charles. They talk a bit about her illness and about Léon’s new job in Rouen. Eventually, Léon mentions that the opera will remain in town for a few more days. He suggests the three of them go back on another night. Charles cannot leave his medical practice for so long, but he says Emma should stay and see the show through to the end.