Summary and Analysis Part II: Chapters 12-13



The liaison between Emma and Rodolphe began again and now evolved with greater ardor. As her passion for Rodolphe increased, Emma found that she disliked Bovary even more, and she began to speak vaguely of leaving him someday. When she was not with Rodolphe, Emma suffered from boredom and was irritated by all of Charles' mannerisms and acts. She began to feel sorry for herself because of her unhappy marriage and found some solace in catering to her material desires. She fell an easy victim to the wily merchant, Lheureux, who cajoled her into many purchases that she could not afford.

Rodolphe, meanwhile, was growing tired of Emma. The novelty of her love was wearing off, and her ridiculous whims annoyed him.

Bovary's mother paid the family a visit. She and Emma had their usual fight, though Emma was finally induced by Charles to apologize. She was mortified by this and when she saw Rodolphe that night, Emma asked him to take her away from all her misery. He reminded her of the baby, and, as an afterthought, Emma decided to take the child with her.

In the next few days Bovary and his mother were amazed and pleased at the changes that came over Emma; she was quiet and docile now and seemed a new person. But at her secret meetings with Rodolphe, Emma was planning to run away and start her life again. The happiness that such plans gave her added new highlights and softness to her beauty. She was so gentle and lovely that Bovary was reminded of the first days of their marriage, and his love for her and Berthe deepened. Emma's thoughts, though, were always far off, contemplating exotic lands and adventures.

Despite Rodolphe's procrastination, the final plans for their departure were made. He and Emma would leave Yonville separately, meet in Rouen, and then go on together to Paris. On the night before the day selected, they met in Emma's garden to make the last arrangements. Emma was in high spirits and seemed more beautiful than ever. Rodolphe was reserved and thoughtful. After leaving her he argued with himself for a while. The problems and burdens of life with Emma, he decided, would not be worth the sensual pleasure she could offer him.

That night Rodolphe sat at his desk and mused for a while about the many women he had known. After some trouble he composed a letter which he felt would end their affair with the fewest complications. He wrote her that he loved her very much (which was not true) and that this was why he was abandoning her. He said that the life he could offer would provide her only with pain and indignity, and he could not bear to do this. And, he thought, this was really not too far from the truth after all. Much satisfied with his work, Rodolphe went to sleep.

Emma received this note the next morning and became faint from shock. In her confusion she dropped the crumbled up letter in the attic and forgot about it. Rodolphe had told her that he was leaving Yonville to protect her from him, and a few moments later she saw his carriage drive by. This awful reminder of what had just happened was like a blow to her heart. She screamed aloud and fell unconscious.

Emma became seriously ill. She had a high fever and delirium for 43 days and was often close to death. Bovary never left her side and neglected all his affairs to care for her. Specialists were called in from Rouen and elsewhere, and every effort was made to cure her, but for a long time nothing had any success.

By October, Emma began to regain her strength. She still had fainting spells and weak periods, but she was able to move around a little, and was clearly on the road to recovery.


These two chapters present the passionate renewal of Emma and Rodolphe's love affair after the disappointing interlude connected with Hippolyte's foot. Emma's romanticism now forces her to bring the romance to a climax. She is not satisfied with having an affair with Rodolphe. She insists that they flee together to some strange land. This emphasis on flight is another romantic concept. And while she is insisting that they go away, she begins to go deeper in debt to Lheureux by ordering expensive gifts for Rodolphe and the necessary things for the trip.

After Emma receives Rodolphe's letter, she immediately begins to think of suicide. This foreshadows her actual suicide later on.

Emma's sickness caused by her betrayal suggests that perhaps she felt a love for Rodolphe that is indeed deeper than that of a common woman. Perhaps Flaubert is here indicating that Emma, in spite of her romanticism, is capable of a deep devotion. But most critics prefer to read this scene as Emma's reaction to the loss of her dream and the realization of the emptiness and uselessness of life without her dream. Her sickness, therefore, is simply a result of the betrayal and the loss of her ideal which bring to her the realization that she must continue the empty life that she had lived before her encounter with Rodolphe.

It should be noted here that in spite of Charles' dullness and stupidity, he does possess a dogged devotion to Emma. He gives up his practice and remains by her side during her entire illness. Of course, it could be said that his devotion is the same that an animal would have for his master, but it is, nevertheless, a redeeming characteristic in Charles' otherwise flat personality.