Summary and Analysis
After Leon had gone, Emma began a period of secret mourning. She drifted about aimlessly and was often melancholy. She saw Leon in her imagination as the hero of all her dreams and remembered their walks and conversations. She reproached herself for not having responded to his love, and he became the center of all her thoughts. In her misery, she began again the strange and unpredictable behavior that had marked her in Tostes. Her moods constantly changed, and she was often giddy and nervous.
One day Rodolphe Boulanger, a handsome and wealthy landowner, brought one of his servants to be treated by Bovary. While there he saw Emma and was immediately attracted by her good looks and ladylike bearing. Boulanger was a suave bachelor, both coarse and shrewd. At once his thoughts turned to Emma's seduction, and he began to lay his plans.
Emma's long melancholy and regret over not having seized her opportunity with Leon actually cause her to become sick. She then goes into one of her spending sprees, justifying her spending by feeling she has sacrificed so much by being faithful to Charles. These are the same types of spending sprees which will later lead her into heavy debts.
Note again Emma's erratic actions. She would take something up, leave it, go to something else only to leave it. It seems that nothing fulfills her. Flaubert's description of Emma's actions and looks implies that Emma fits ironically into the tradition of the courtly love. The "vaporish airs," the fact that she was "pale all over, white as a sheet," and given to spells of dizziness are all characteristics of the courtly love tradition or are signs of disappointed or unfulfilled love.
Emma is, after all, essentially middle-class, but she is also more than this. In a sense, she raises herself above the town because unlike others, she is vaguely aware that there are emotions of a higher and purer nature than those with which she finds herself surrounded. This realization does raise Emma in our estimation although this is also the ultimate cause of her tragedy.
Note that Rodolphe is able to see through Emma immediately. He sees her boredom, recognizes that she dislikes her husband and her present life, and realizes that she is "gasping for love" and is ready for a love affair. What we know is that this is true, but partly because she regrets not having an affair with Leon.