Madame Bovary By Gustave Flaubert Summary and Analysis Part II: Chapters 9-10

Summary

During the next six weeks Rodolphe did not see Emma. This interval was also planned by him, acting on the theory that "absence makes the heart grow fonder." He had carefully analyzed her personality and decided to take advantage of all her frustrations and weaknesses.

When Rodolphe finally called at the Bovary house, Emma, who had thought about him often and was insulted by his lack of attention, was unresponsive. But Rodolphe was so eloquent in amorous language that she soon forgot her affected annoyance at his absence and was overcome by sentiment. When Charles came in, Rodolphe suggested that perhaps riding would be good for Emma. He offered to lend them a horse, but Emma refused. After Rodolphe had gone, Charles convinced Emma to accept Rodolphe's offer and even wrote to Rodolphe himself requesting the horse.

The next day Emma and Rodolphe went for a ride together. He led her to a beautiful and deserted glade in the nearby forest. When they had dismounted, Rodolphe again spoke of his passion for her. Emma was frightened by his intensity but quickly forgot all her good intentions and gave herself entirely to him. When she returned home that night she was radiant with joy. In her new happiness she identified herself with all the daring and romantic heroines of literature whom she had always envied and admired. She unbelievingly repeated to herself over and over again, "I have a lover — a lover."

From this day on, the affair between Emma and Rodolphe progressed with great speed. They frequently exchanged love letters and had many secret meetings. Rodolphe was always in Emma's thoughts. She often slipped from her house in the early morning while Bovary was still asleep in order to surprise Rodolphe and have a few extra hours with him.

After a while, Rodolphe, who was a practical and realistic man, became concerned about Emma's imprudent behavior. He spoke to her about this, claiming to be worried lest she compromise herself, and soon she too became nervous. She began to be troubled by feelings of guilt. The pair took precautions to keep their correspondence hidden and worked out an arrangement so that Rodolphe could meet Emma at night in her garden or even in her house, once Bovary had fallen into his usual deep sleep. Rodolphe began to visit her several times each week.

He was sometimes troubled by her wildly romantic fancies and feared that she would do something irrational or impractical, in accord with her silly ideas. He thought of ending their relationship but procrastinated because of the great physical appeal she had for him. So far as Emma's love for him was concerned, Rodolphe cynically doubted her sincerity and had no compunctions about using or abandoning her. Emma, on the other hand, considered him the one great love for whom she had always yearned and surrendered herself to him with complete devotion.

As time passed, Emma became unhappy about both her marriage and adultery. She was often negligent of her duties and then, in a moment of guilty realization, would engage in a brief spurt of activity or maternal affection. Her guilt kept bothering her, and for a short period she even decided to repent and reform. She derived a strange pleasure from her masochistic decision to assuage her guilt through self-sacrifice, for her affection for Rodolphe had not lessened. In order to end the affair, she was cold to him and she planned to force herself to love and assist Bovary.

Analysis

Emma is a woman of romantic longings. We saw earlier that she longed for a man who "should know about everything; excel in a multitude of activity, introduce you to passion in all its force, to life in all its graces, you into all mysteries" (see Chapters 6 and 7 of Part I), and now Rodolphe comes to call after a six weeks' absence, and tells her things she "had never been told before." Here then is the romantic dream come true. But, in reality, he is not the knight in shining armor. He is, after all, a thirty-four-year-old farmer. But to Emma who has lived in boredom so long and who has longed for some type of escape, he is the fulfillment of her dreams. After she surrenders to him, she then thinks of all the heroines of books and compares her shoddy seduction in the woods to those of the romanticized heroines of her novels. She is convinced that her affair has all the "passion, ecstasy and delirium" of the fictionalized accounts in romances. Emma then attempts to make her shoddy affair conform to those of fictionalized accounts. She insists that they leave letters for each other in secret hiding places. She comforts him about absurd, insignificant events and when once she thinks she hears Charles coming, she expects Rodolphe to grab his pistol so as to defend himself. She insists upon exchanging miniatures, locks of hair, and even rings. Even Rodolphe realizes the degree of sentimentality that Emma is attaching to their love affair.

Emma never realizes that Rodolphe is simply using her for a pretty mistress. Even though they are having their affair now in Charles' consulting room, she fails to realize how shoddy the affair is and continues to force their affair into the pattern of a great love.

Ironically, it was Charles who originally assured the success of the love affair by insisting that Emma accept Rodolphe's offer of the riding horse. Of course, we have seen earlier that Charles, due to the horrible disposition of his first wife, can see no fault in Emma.

Chapter 9 ends with Rodolphe's admonition to Emma that she is compromising herself by her visits to his cabin. This foreshadows his rejection of Emma. We know from the beginning that this is to be only a brief love affair for him, but as he reminds her of her position, we note already that he is beginning to tire of her.

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