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Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary

by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary

  • Welcome to Emma and Charles’s new home! Yonville-l’Abbaye, their new town, is a small step up from Tostes. It’s a market town in the Neufchâtel region of France, not too far from Rouen (the closest city). The town is bordered by farmland, and it actually sounds fairly attractive. Flaubert, ever the party pooper, describes it as "characterless," and claims that it makes the worst Neufchâtel cheese in the whole district (II.I.4).
  • Despite new improvements in roads and trade routes, Yonville is still really slow and old-fashioned. We can already tell that this doesn’t bode well for Emma.
  • The actual town is pretty simple; it has a nice house or two, a church and graveyard, some brandy distilleries and cider presses, and an inn. Most notably, it’s also home to a very peculiar building: Monsieur Homais’ Pharmacy. It sounds like a pretty exciting place, covered in signs advertising the pharmacist’s products.
  • Apparently that’s all there is to see in Yonville. Our sense of dread increases. Emma is so not going to like this…
  • The church’s caretaker (also the town gravedigger), Lestiboudois, is in the practice of planting crops right up to the cemetery, a rather sketchy thing, if you ask us. The priest claims half-jokingly that he’s "feeding on the dead" (II.1.13) – creepy!
  • All in all, we get the picture – nothing ever changes in Yonville. It’s not exactly the booming metropolis Emma dreams of.
  • On the day of the Bovary’s arrival, the innkeeper, Madame Lefrançois, is busy preparing everything for the coming week. She’s all in a tizzy because she’s got a lot of food to prepare, both for her regular boarders, and for Charles and Emma. As she’s in the midst of preparations, Monsieur Homais (the pharmacist) pays her a little visit. He immediately appears to be quite an arrogant guy.
  • Monsieur Homais and Madame Lefrançois have a somewhat aggressive conversation. They chat about town affairs, including a rival bar, and about the inn’s boarders. Among them are an oddly dull man named Binet (the town tax collector) and some young man called Léon.
  • Binet enters on cue, ready for his dinner. He seems like a normal guy, but is really, really boring. Monsieur Homais obviously isn’t a huge fan.
  • The town priest stops by to pick up his umbrella. He and Monsieur Homais clearly have some kind of antagonistic relationship (does this guy actually get along with anyone?), since Homais bursts out in a big anti-clerical rant after he leaves. Homais clearly regards himself as quite an intellectual. He’s immoderately proud of himself.
  • Finally, the Hirondelle (a kind of big, ugly, inexplicably yellow stagecoach) pulls up with the Bovarys inside. The driver, Hivert, is immediately besieged by questions from the townspeople (along with driving the coach, he runs errands for people in Rouen).
  • Hivert explains the Hirondelle’s tardiness: Emma’s beloved greyhound, Djali, ran away and they had to stop to look for her. She was nowhere to be found. A local merchant, Monsieur Lheureux, who was along for the ride, attempts to console Emma by telling her that Djali will find her way home.

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