Summary and Analysis
Part II: Chapters 1-2
Yonville was a market town located in the center of a farming district, not far from Rouen. The main features of the surrounding region and of the town itself are described in some detail. Various inhabitants of Yonville, including Madame Lefrancois, the innkeeper, Hivert and Artemise, her servants, Binet, the tax collector, and Homais, the apothecary, make their first appearances in this chapter.
Homais, with whom Bovary had corresponded before deciding to move to Yonville, was an outspoken and pretentious fellow of some education and status. He was always eager to impress people with his knowledge and sophistication, although in fact he did not possess much of either.
The Bovarys and Felicite, their new maid, arrived in Yonville after a very tiring trip and an accident in which Emma lost her pet greyhound. She was in her usual irritable mood.
Bovary and his wife dined at the inn. They were joined at the table by Homais and his boarder, Leon, a shy young man who was the town lawyer's clerk. During the meal Homais devoted most of his attention to Bovary, seeking to awe him by his extensive acquaintance with science and local affairs. Meanwhile, Emma and Leon fell into conversation. He shared many of her romanticized notions and was also an avid reader of sentimental novels. An immediate rapport sprang up between them. Their talk consisted of platitudes and conventionalities, but they each interpreted them as sensitive and profound observations.
Later on, the Bovarys took possession of their new house. Emma recalled the other places in which she had lived and been unhappy. She hoped that the future would bring an improvement in her life.
Flaubert's masterful description and rendition of the town is a masterpiece of realistic writing. It captures all of the mediocrity of a small town. And what Flaubert never says directly, but depicts through his descriptions is that this town is just about the same as was Tostes. Yonville is just as monotonous, routine, and boring as was Tostes. Here, nothing has changed in years and nothing will change. So suddenly, we realize that this town will depress Emma as much as did Tostes.
We meet the chemist Homais for the first time. He will develop into a stereotype. It will suffice here to begin to note certain characteristics which make up the stereotype. 1) He is the man who professes to keep up with the times. 2) He feels it is his duty to ridicule the church, therefore aligning himself with the advanced thinkers of the world. 3) He has accumulated many facts which he enjoys reciting, but the reader should note that his facts are of a trivial nature.
Emma's first meeting with Leon is an exciting event for her. For the first time in her life, she has met a person who shares the same interest in literature, music, and related subjects. She immediately feels that they are kindred spirits and an immediate rapport sprang up between them. But the reader should note that their talk consisted of platitudes and conventionalities, but they each interpreted them as sensitive and profound observations.