Study Guide

Madame Bovary Part 2, Chapter 13

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Part 2, Chapter 13

  • His mind made up, Rodolphe returns home to La Huchette and sits down to write a farewell letter to Emma.
  • He sifts through the various tokens of love affairs past that he’s accumulated through many years of being a ladies’ man. All of the women he’s had in the past blur together in his mind – now Emma is just one of them.
  • Rodolphe gets down to business. He writes a truly melodramatic, ostentatiously noble letter to Emma, telling her that he can’t allow himself to ruin her life, blah blah blah. Suddenly the "fate" that supposedly brought them together before is now responsible for tearing them apart.
  • To avoid having to face her again, he writes that he’s going on a long trip.
  • The letter finished, Rodolphe is quite proud of himself. He even puts some false tearstains on the paper. This guy is just too much.
  • The next day, Rodolphe wakes up late, and has Girard, one of his servants, take the letter to Emma, concealed in the bottom of a basket of apricots.
  • Upon receiving basket, Emma is overcome with emotion – she finds the letter, immediately understands what its purpose is, and rushes to her room to read it.
  • Charles is there, so she flees madly, running to the attic. There, she forces herself to finish the horrible letter. Her feelings are all over the place – she feels desperately as though she might as well hurl herself out the window onto the pavement below.
  • Fortunately, Charles calls her from downstairs. She returns to herself, shocked that she narrowly avoided death.
  • It’s dinnertime. Félicité comes to fetch her mistress; Emma is forced to go downstairs and go through with the farce of eating. It’s torture.
  • To make matters worse, Charles even brings up Rodolphe, mentioning that he’d heard from Girard that the gentleman is going on a trip.
  • Then, just when Emma doesn’t think that things can possibly be more horrible, Félicité brings in the basket of apricots. Charles eats one, and tries to force Emma to, as well.
  • This is too much to handle – Emma almost swoons. Charles tries to calm her, but then she sees Rodolphe’s carriage pass by the window. She passes out.
  • Monsieur Homais runs over when he hears chaos break out in the Bovary house. He brings some vinegar back to revive the unconscious woman.
  • Emma comes back from her faint briefly – Charles, freaking out, tries to get her to hold Berthe. Emma promptly passes out again.
  • Charles puts Emma to bed. He and Homais try and determine what could have possibly brought on this attack. Homais puts it down to the scent of the apricots.
  • Emma stays sick for a really long time. Charles stays by her side for forty-three days in a row – like we said, a really long time.
  • He calls in backup; Dr. Canivet is called, as well as Charles’s old teacher, Dr. Larivière.
  • Emma doesn’t say anything or give any indication of what’s causing all of this.
  • By the middle of October, Emma feels well enough to sit up in bed – she starts to eat a little bit, and even gets out of bed for a few hours of the day. She recovers slowly, then relapses.
  • Charles worries that she may have cancer.
  • To make it even worse, there’s no money.

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