Madame Bovary By Gustave Flaubert Summary and Analysis Part II: Chapters 4-5

Summary

During the winter Emma's favorite pursuit was to sit at the window and watch the street. She often saw Leon as he passed, and she had a new and unknown feeling at those moments.

Homais lived across the street and was a frequent caller, especially at mealtimes. He enjoyed gossiping about Bovary's patients and discussing science, philosophy, and politics with the doctor. It was the druggist who always did most of the talking.

On Sundays the Bovarys usually visited the Homais family. Leon was always there, and a bond rapidly developed between him and Emma. They used to sit together and discuss fashions or books while the others played cards or dozed.

Leon began to grow confused and was tormented by these meetings. He was uncertain whether Emma responded to his feelings for her. He was afraid to displease her by remaining silent about his love, but he did not have the courage to declare himself.

One Sunday in February, Homais and his children, the Bovarys, and Leon went on an outdoor excursion. Emma watched the men with interest and decided that she was disgusted by Charles' commonplace appearance and personality.

That night she suddenly realized that Leon loved her. This novel idea pleased her, and she began to complain to herself about the cruel fate which had separated the two of them. Later that week Leon paid her a visit, on some weak pretext. They were both shy and their conversation was stilted, for they feared to express their real feelings to each other.

As time passed Emma began to lose weight through worry. She found a delicious pleasure in contemplating her affection for Leon and contrasting it with her sensible, though unsatisfying role of the virtuous wife. She felt that she was a martyr to marital fidelity. Emma became irritable again and was exasperated by Bovary's placid ignorance of her torments. She blamed him for all her troubles and in addition was overly tolerant in judging herself and her behavior. She dreamed of running away with Leon but then doubted his love for her. She wished that Bovary were a cruel husband so that she would have an excuse to be unfaithful. Her nervousness and tension often caused her to engage in fits of weeping.

One day while she was dreaming of Leon, Monsieur Lheureux, a draper, paid her a visit in order to show her some of his wares, especially scarves and little ornaments. He then slyly let her know that he was also a moneylender in case she ever needed to borrow a little money.

As Emma came to the realization of her love for Leon, she tried to compensate for her frustrated love by being the ideal wife, mother and housekeeper. But while she was being the model wife, "she was all desire and rage and hatred."

Analysis

In these chapters, Flaubert is developing the love between Emma and Leon, a love that will not be consummated until the third part of the novel. Emma's love causes her to despise her husband, then she turns into the model wife trying to compensate for her lack of love, and finally turns to moods of despair. This again emphasizes Emma's lack of stability and her constant fluctuation between opposite extremes. These moods foreshadow her later sickness and ultimately her suicide.

Monsieur Lheureux is here introduced. He is the moneylender who will unscrupulously play on Emma's weaknesses and will be the cause of her suicide. His portrayal here already suggests his obsequious personality.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

Charles’ first marriage is to




Quiz