| Quote #1
Would this misery last forever? Was there no escape from it? And yet she was certainly just as good as all those other women whose lives were happy! She had seen duchesses at La Vaubyessard who had dumpier figures and cruder manners than she, and she cursed God’s injustice […] (I.9.36)
Emma is convinced that she deserves more than some of the rich women she saw at the ball, simply because she is more beautiful than they.
| Quote #2
A man, at least is free; he can explore the whole range of the passions, go wherever he likes, overcome obstacles, savor the most exotic pleasures. But a woman is constantly thwarted. Inert and pliable, she is restricted by her physical weakness and her legal subjection. Her will, like the veil tied to her hat with a cord, quivers with every wind; there is always some desire urging her forward, always some convention holding her back. (II.3.12)
Women in Flaubert’s day were far more restricted than their male counterparts, who were allowed to philander and experiment. Flaubert comments aptly here that women’s desires can never be fulfilled in a society that holds them back.
| Quote #3
And for a time she would be despondent and almost lifeless, gasping and sobbing softly with tears running down her cheeks.
This is a rare moment between women. Flaubert doesn’t show us much personal interaction between Emma and any other of the female characters (mainly because they’re largely unimportant). However, here we get a glimpse into the communal lives of women at this time – Emma is not the only one who suffers from this kind of depression.