Madame Bovary By Gustave Flaubert Summary and Analysis Part II: Chapters 14-15

Summary

In addition to his concern about Emma, Charles was also bothered by financial worries. The illness had been very expensive, and other bills were piling up. Moreover, Lheureux suddenly presented him with a statement of Emma's debts. Not knowing what else to do, Bovary borrowed money from Lheureux and signed several notes at a high rate of interest.

All through the winter months Emma's convalescence continued. During a crisis in her illness, Emma's religious sentiments had reawakened. Now she was very devout and spent much of her time reading religious books or conversing with the priest.

By spring Emma was relatively strong again and returned to her household duties. Her religious feelings remained firm, and everyone was surprised by her new generosity, spirituality, and stern principles.

One day at Homais' suggestion, Bovary decided to take Emma to the theater at Rouen. He hoped that such an outing would be good for her health. Emma was not eager to go, but Bovary was so persistent that she agreed. On the day of the trip they excitedly left for the city.

Emma was embarrassed and upset by Charles' behavior and appearance all that afternoon. She wanted very much to seem a sophisticated, cosmopolitan lady, and she felt that he was just a country bumpkin. She was tense and self-conscious wherever they went. Despite this, however, Emma enjoyed the opera, Lucie de Lammermoor, very much. She found that the story reminded her of events in her own life.

During the intermission they were both surprised to encounter Leon, who now lived and worked in Rouen. The three went to a cafe together, where Bovary and Leon talked at length about Yonville, their mutual friends, and old times. Leon also told them a little about his present position and his experiences at the university. Emma was impressed by Leon's suave, citified manners and dress. When they discussed the opera they had just left, Leon at first ridiculed it until he learned that perhaps Emma could stay over to see the second part again. He then praised the opera so highly that Charles suggested that Emma stay while he return to his practice. In any case, before they separated, the Bovarys and Leon arranged to meet again the next day.

Analysis

After Emma's recovery from her illness, she falls back into the old, established, neurotic pattern of taking up something (this time, religion) only to drop it for something else. She gave herself so completely to religion that even the curé thought she went too far. Then she began charity work even though her own household needed attention.

Once at the opera, Emma becomes immersed in the romantic world on the stage. She begins to identify with the heroine and she is entranced with the tenor. Here Flaubert's art is very subtle. The objective description of the artist says little, but implies that the artist is false. Like Emma, he misrepresents art. He uses tricks to cover up for his lack of art. There is "something of the hair dresser and the toreador" about him. Thus, Emma is lost in this false and sentimental world of cheap art.

The scene at the opera prepares the reader and also Emma for the reintroduction of Leon. The romantic elements of the opera provide an apt meeting place to rekindle their attraction to each other.

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