Madame Bovary By Gustave Flaubert Summary and Analysis Part III: Chapters 2-4

Summary

On her return to Yonville, Emma learned that Bovary's father had died. Charles was very upset, particularly because he had not seen the man in a long time. Emma felt no sorrow but made the usual sympathetic gestures, which her husband misunderstood and appreciated very much. After a while, Mrs. Bovary came to stay with them. Emma was polite and attentive but was annoyed because the necessity for being kind to the mourners distracted her from thoughts of Leon.

At about this time Lheureux made another appearance and presented Emma with her unpaid bills. He also managed to sell her some more high-priced merchandise. When Emma expressed a worry about managing to pay, he suggested that she get a power of attorney from Bovary. That way, he said, she would not have to bother her husband with "petty" financial matters and could find a convenient method to settle her debts.

Emma convinced Bovary of the wisdom of this scheme without too much trouble, since he had no idea of the true amount of their debts. Emma even induced him to use the services of Leon, instead of the local attorney, for drawing up the papers, and Bovary trustingly arranged to send her alone to Rouen to take care of this business.

Emma spent the next three days in Rouen with Leon. He rented an expensive hotel room for the occasion, and this short period was like a honeymoon for them. They went to some of the best restaurants and places of entertainment and spent most of their time in lovemaking and romantic pursuits.

Leon became completely involved in his affair with Emma; he neglected his work and saw little of his friends. The arrival of her letters became a major event in his life, and he even paid a few visits to Yonville, either in secret or on various false pretexts, to see her.

Emma, meanwhile, was getting even more deeply enmeshed in financial obligations to Lheureux. In order to see Leon more often, she began to show a renewed interest in the piano, and soon got Bovary to arrange for her to take a weekly lesson with a teacher in Rouen.

Analysis

Before Emma can continue with her affair with Leon, she is interrupted by the death of her father-in-law. Then she must think of some plan whereby she can get back to Rouen and Leon. Monsieur Lheureux gives her the pretext. Knowing how easily he can convince Emma to buy things from him, he tells her to get Charles' power of attorney. His plan is to eventually foreclose on everything and thereby make a large profit. But his suggestions offer to Emma a pretext for going to Rouen to consult with Leon. So she convinces Charles that she should handle everything.

The very short Chapter 3 covers the three days Emma spent with Leon in Rouen. The three days were described as "a real honeymoon." But the readers should remember that this is the third one. The episode is described in romantic terms of bliss and joy. For these few days, the image of beauty and innocence was restored to Emma, but the scene ends on an uglier note. Amid her renewed joys, she is reminded of her sordid affair with Rodolphe by hearing the boatman relate how Rodolphe had taken the same ride last week with some other lady.

The short fourth chapter shows Emma and Leon continuing in their plans to make their meetings definite and to meet at least once a week. This of course means that Emma will have to go deeper in debt.

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