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Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary

by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary

  • It’s the big day, and various friends and family members arrive in a bustle of horses, carriages, and passengers. Flaubert treats us to a rather ridiculous description of country folks; we are reminded again that this is not the sophisticated big city event that Emma longs for; rather, it is a procession of people awkwardly dressed up in their unfashionable best for a small-town wedding.
  • We don’t get to see the ceremony, but the wedding feast that comes afterwards is mouth-watering. The guests are treated to be huge table overflowing with roast beef, mutton, chickens, a suckling pig, many alcohols, and a dizzyingly fancy (and incredibly silly) wedding cake. The guests gorge themselves until nightfall, when they pile back into their vehicles and raucously drive back home.
  • As everyone settles in for the night, a group of whiny wedding guests complain about how unsatisfactory the event was, cursing Monsieur Rouault behind his back (if you haven’t already figured it out, Flaubert is highly attuned to the flaws and ironies of…well, of humanity on the whole).
  • The Bovary family members are characteristically unimpressive during all of these goings-on. Charles’s mother holds her tongue for once (though we can be sure that she’s internally judging everything), while his father stays up partying and drinking all night with the guests. Charles himself is, as usual, fairly dull on the day of the wedding – but after the wedding night, he’s a changed man. He’s clearly very, very in love with Emma.
  • The bride, on the other hand, is pretty casual about the whole thing.
  • After the couple leaves to start their married life, Monsieur Rouault reflects upon his own life and his dear, departed wife. He remembers happier times and, overcome by sadness, heads home alone.
  • Charles and Emma return to his house in Tostes; the neighbors show up to check out the new arrival.

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