by Gustave Flaubert
Madame Bovary Dissatisfaction Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Lowell Bair's translation.
[Charles] seemed to her contemptible, weak and insignificant, a poor man in every sense of the word. How could she get rid of him? What an endless evening! She felt numb, as though she had been overcome by opium fumes. (III.2.35)
Emma is overwhelmed with disgust anew by Charles, after her blissful reunion with Léon. Her marriage is compared here to the dulling effect of opium…seriously not a good thing for any relationship.
She always assured herself that her next trip would bring her profound bliss, but afterward she would have to admit that she had felt nothing extraordinary. Her disappointment would soon be wiped away by new hope, and she would come back to him more ardent and avid than ever. She would eagerly throw off her clothes, pulling her thin corset string so violently that it hissed like a snake winding itself around her hips. After she had tiptoed barefoot to the door to make sure once again that it was locked, she would let all her clothes fall in a single movement; then, pale, silent and solemn, she would fling herself on his chest and a long tremor would run through her body.
And yet, in that forehead covered with beads of cold sweat, in those stammering lips, those wild eyes and those clutching arms, Léon felt the presence of something mad, shadowy, and ominous, something that seemed to be subtly slipping between them, as though to separate them. (III.6.23-24)
Léon and Emma both seem to know that things are not right with their relationship – Emma tries to cover it up by simply trying to convince herself otherwise, but Léon can see the real cracks in the foundation.
The first months of her marriage, her rides in the forest, her waltzes with the viscount, Lagardy singing – everything passed before her eyes […] And Léon suddenly appeared to her as remote as the others.
"But I do love him!" she said to herself.
No matter: she was not happy, and never had been. Why was life so unsatisfying? Why did everything she leaned on instantly crumble into dust? […] nothing was worth seeking – everything was a lie! Each smile hid a yawn of boredom, each joy a curse, each pleasure its own disgust; and the sweetest kisses only left on one’s lips a hopeless longing for a higher ecstasy. (III.6.29-30)
Yet again, Emma looks back, mourning the opportunities she lost. Now, her perspective is far more cynical than ever before: she’s sure that no real man can offer her the ideal love she longs for.