by Gustave Flaubert
Madame Bovary Part 2, Chapter 12 Summary
- Emma and Rodolphe’s relationship is passionate again. Sometimes Emma misses Rodolphe so badly that she sends Justin to fetch him in the middle of the day.
- On one such day, she suggests that the two of them run off and live somewhere else. Rodolphe doesn’t understand why she’s so serious over something as trivial as a love affair.
- Emma really is serious, though. The more she loves Rodolphe, the more she hates Charles – in comparison to her lover, her husband seems impossibly dull, crude, and generally icky.
- Emma’s vanity really emerges here; to keep herself looking good for Rodolphe, she spends all her time thinking about her appearance and making her room ready for his visits.
- Félicité is busy all day washing lingerie for Emma. While she does the laundry, she chats to Justin, who’s always hanging around. He’s fascinated by the assortment of mysterious feminine garments.
- Emma’s spending is clearly getting out of control. Her closets are full of shoes, which she frequently throws away and replaces. Charles doesn’t make a peep about any of this.
- He also doesn’t complain about the purchase of a beautiful, super-fancy prosthetic leg that Emma insists they get for Hippolyte. He’s awed by the glory of this leg, and they get him plainer one for everyday wear. Hippolyte quickly goes back to work, and Charles feels guilty every time he hears the stableboy tap-tapping his ways along the street on his false leg.
- Monsieur Lheureux is Emma’s new constant companion. He talks to her endlessly about the fads in Paris, and she gives in, ordering item after item. For a while, she feels safe like this – he never asks for money.
- One day, however, after Emma purchases a beautiful riding crop for Rodolphe, Lheureux suddenly shows up with a giant bill. Emma’s not sure what to do – she doesn’t have any money. In fact, there’s no money in the whole house. She manages to put him off for a little while, but the merchant soon loses patience.
- Desperately, Emma tells him to take back the things she’s bought for him. Craftily, he tells her that he only really needs the riding crop back – and he offers to ask Charles to return it. Based on her panicked reaction, he figures out the truth: she’s having an affair.
- Fortunately, a big payment comes in just in time from one of Charles’s patients. When Lheureux returns for his money, ready to strike some kind of devilish deal, he’s shocked to see Emma offer him payment in full.
- Unfortunately, this means that the household is short on money. Emma puts this little fact out of her mind for the time being.
- Rodolphe continues to receive extravagant gifts from his mistress, which is actually really ridiculous, since he’s the wealthy one. In addition to the riding crop, she gives him a ring, a scarf, and an embroidered cigar case like the one Charles found on the road. Rodolphe is embarrassed by the lavish presents, but accepts them anyway.
- Emma keeps making her same old foolishly romantic demands – and again, Rodolphe starts to get a little sick of it. They fight and make up over and over again; Emma lavishes praise on him, and pledges her unending devotion.
- Rodolphe, who’s much more of a cynic than she is, gets fed up her melodramatic declarations.
- Rodolphe starts to cultivate new pleasures in his relationship with Emma – he seems to enjoy corrupting her and forcing her to be compliant to him. She wallows in her infatuation for him, giving in to his desires.
- Emma kind of loses it under Rodolphe’s influence. She stops caring about what people think, and starts acting like what one might call a "loose woman," to use a rather outdated phrase. She starts smoking in public and wearing daringly "mannish" clothes.
- The worst of it comes when Charles’s mother visits. The two women, whose relationship is already in the dumps, get into a huge fight over Félicité, of all people. Old Madame Bovary discovered Félicité with a man (gasp!) in the house in the dead of night, and accuses Emma of being immoral. Emma takes this as a class issue, claiming that her mother-in-law is just an unsophisticated, narrow-minded peasant. She tells the older woman to get out of the house.
- Poor Charles is caught in the crossfire between the two domineering women in his life once more. He helplessly tries to make things better.
- Emma gives in and apologizes to her mother-in-law – but she certainly doesn’t mean it.
- She puts up an emergency signal for Rodolphe; he comes to see what’s the matter, and she launches into the whole story and begs him to take her away. He doesn’t exactly say yes or no.
- For the next few days, Emma acts like a new woman. She’s completely docile, and even asks her mother-in-law for a recipe. Is it possible that this new behavior is for the benefit of Charles and his mom, or that it’s to convince herself more fully of the repressive demands of her everyday life? No – the truth is that she’s so swept up in the fantasy of running away with Rodolphe that she simply doesn’t even notice anything around her.
- Emma keeps bringing up the idea of escape with Rodolphe, imagining scene after scene of their flight from Yonville.
- Emma is more beautiful than ever. Poor Charles is even more in love with her than ever.
- Charles indulges for the first time in his own flights of fancy. His dreams are centered around Emma and Berthe. He imagines an impossible future in which everyone lives happily ever after; he envisions Berthe growing as beautiful as her mother, and can almost see the two of them together, almost like sisters rather than mother and daughter.
- In the meanwhile, on the other side of the bed, Emma sees herself escaping with Rodolphe, fleeing to a new country full of fantastical, almost mythological landscapes. She doesn’t imagine anything specific. In fact, her vision of the future seems almost as consistent as her monotonous present, with one significant difference: in this future, she’ll be blissfully happy.
- In preparation for her supposed elopement with Rodolphe, Emma orders a long cloak and traveling trunk from Monsieur Lheureux. He figures she’s had a fight with Charles.
- Emma gives her watch to Lheureux to sell in exchange for these goods.
- Rodolphe and Emma actually set a date – they will leave the next month. She plans to make like she’s going to Rouen to do some shopping, but will instead meet Rodolphe, who will have made all the travel arrangements for them to flee to Italy. Everything looks like it’s actually falling into place.
- There’s no mention of what will happen to little Berthe – Rodolphe hopes that Emma will just forget about her.
- Weeks pass – Rodolphe delays the trip for various reasons. All of August passes, and they decide that they will absolutely, positively leave on Monday, September 4.
- The Saturday before the trip, Rodolphe stops by. He’s looking sad and particularly tender. They swear that they love each other once more.
- Rodolphe suggests that there’s still time to change her mind, but Emma is sure: she is ready to leave Yonville behind.
- Rodolphe takes his leave of Emma. On his way home, he stops, filled with emotion. We discover – surprise, surprise – that he intends to desert her. He’s tempted to go through with the plan – but no, he won’t. Rodolphe is no fool, and he doesn’t intend to become one.
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