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Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary

by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary Part 2, Chapter 5 Summary

  • The usual quartet is out on an odd and incredibly boring field trip. They’re visiting a new spinning mill just outside town, along with two of Homais’ unfortunately named children, Athalie and Napoléon.
  • The main attraction is generally unattractive.
  • Homais, as usual, chats up a storm. Everyone else is somewhat pensive. Emma reflects suddenly upon how irritating Charles is, even when he’s doing nothing.
  • Léon, on the other hand, looks particularly lovely to her. She begins to realize that something is happening between them.
  • Napoléon ruins the moment by generally being bratty. He’s painted his shoes white with a pile of lime that’s lying around the mill. Charles and Justin attempt to get rid of it.
  • That evening, Emma thinks about the day – and about Léon. She can’t stop envisioning his face, his mannerisms, the sound of his voice. Finally, an epiphany: Léon loves her!
  • Once she admits this to herself, Emma goes into full-out dramatic Love Overdrive. She laments fate, lolls around the house swooning left and right, and drifts about in a blissful haze. Generally, she does everything she’s read about in books.
  • The next day, Monsieur Lheureux, the dry-goods merchant (he sells things like fabric and pretty much any household item) stops by for a visit. He is quite clever and sounds, from Flaubert’s description, like a pretty shady character. Nobody knows what he was up to before he came to Yonville.
  • The merchant knows exactly what buttons to press with Emma. He talks up her elegance and refinement, then offers her a selection of dainty items to choose from. She sticks by her guns and says she doesn’t need anything, but the seed has been planted – Emma, naturally, wants pretty things.
  • Lheureux also slyly tells Emma that if she needs money, she can always borrow it from him…which doesn’t sound like such a great idea, if you ask us.
  • Emma congratulates herself on being so frugal, but she still can’t stop thinking of Monsieur Lheureux’s pretty wares.
  • Léon shows up, nervous and on edge. He wants to say something to her about his feelings, but chickens out yet again. Awkwardness ensues.
  • In the wake of the realization that she and Léon are in love, Emma attempts briefly to reform herself – she goes all serious and tries to clean up her act.
  • Emma’s good girl façade fools everyone, even Léon. He begins to wonder how he’d even hoped to get close to her. In his mind, she becomes even more spectacular and flawless.
  • Everyone admires Emma for her elegance and character. Now that she’s playing the good housewife, she floats along easily in Yonville society. However, on the inside, she conceals passionate feelings. We’re talking serious angst, here. When she’s alone, she can only think of Léon – actually, these fantasies are more enjoyable than his presence, which leaves her unsatisfied.
  • Emma wishes Léon would notice that she’s in love with him, but she’s either too lazy or too scared to make anything happen herself. She consoles herself by striking dramatic poses in the mirror and prides herself on her "virtue."
  • All of Emma’s secret troubles build up to the boiling point, and she strikes out, complaining about the littlest things, like a door left open or a dish she doesn’t enjoy.
  • She is also incredibly irritated by Charles’s dopey lack of awareness; he’s still sure that he’s making her perfectly happy. She feels underappreciated, and makes Charles the focus of all her aggression.
  • Emma’s depression returns from time to time. Félicité tries to comfort her, telling her that she once knew another girl who suffered from a similar problem – it was cured by marriage. Unfortunately for Emma, her sadness was brought on by her marriage to Charles.

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