Study Guide

Madame Bovary Part 2, Chapter 14

By Gustave Flaubert

Part 2, Chapter 14

  • You have to feel bad for Charles. Life is not being particularly kind to him.
  • First of all, he has to pay all kinds of bills, he owes his friend Homais for all the drugs he’s taken from the pharmacy for Emma.
  • To top it all off, Monsieur Lheureux is on his case now. The merchant tries to pull a fast one over on the poor doctor, claiming that Emma ordered two trunks instead of one, and demanding payment for everything. Lheureux threatens to sue if Charles doesn’t pay up.
  • The solution is not a solution after all: Lheureux agrees to accept a promissory note (a kind of fancy legal I.O.U. with interest) to be paid up six months later. Charles then has what he thinks is a brilliant idea – uh oh. He asks to borrow a thousand francs from Lheureux, which he will pay plus interest after a year. Lheureux, of course, agrees.
  • Lheureux stands to make quite a profit from Charles’s predicament. He hopes the doctor won’t be able to pay up, so he can get in even deeper debt. We are starting to worry…a lot.
  • Everything is looking up for the shady Monsieur Lheureux. He’s feeling pretty good about himself.
  • Charles, on the other hand, is feeling pretty darn bad, understandably. He doesn’t know how he’ll ever manage to pay back the merchant. The poor guy also feels guilty about worrying about money when he should be worrying about Emma full time.
  • Emma slowly recovers from her shock.
  • Winter arrives – it’s a particularly harsh year. As spring approaches, her days fall into a dull, monotonous pattern.
  • Father Bournisien starts to visit Emma, thinking that it’s probably a good time for her to start praying.
  • In her desperation, Emma takes great comfort in the priest’s visits. At the peak of her illness, she asks for Holy Communion; when she receives the Communion wafer, she imagines an over-the-top, super-romanticized vision of heaven, which she then clings to. This is fascinatingly similar to the way in which she clung to the memory of Léon when he left – clearly she’s using religion to fill the void left by romance.
  • She resolves to become a saint.
  • Father Bournisien is impressed by her zeal, albeit a little freaked out by it (he wonders if she’s going a little mad – he obviously just doesn’t know Emma that well). He has a variety of religious books sent to Yonville for Emma’s edification.
  • Emma attempts to read this odd collection of texts (one title we liked particularly is The Errors of Voltaire, for the Use of Young People); she doesn’t really buy into all of them, but keeps gamely at them, believing herself to be the best Catholic ever.
  • She puts her love for Rodolphe aside, and replaces it with an obsessive love of God, whom she addresses in the same way she used to address her lover. That seriously can’t be right.
  • Emma is in full religious overdrive for the moment. She devotes her time to charity, and is so docile that even her acerbic mother-in-law can’t find a flaw in her. For the first time, she’s actually kind and gentle with Berthe.
  • In general, Emma seems like she and the world are getting along fairly well for the first time. Even the other housewives of the town accept her again and come and visit.
  • The Homais children and Justin are also frequent visitors. Justin, we learn, is nurturing an intense crush on Emma.
  • Emma grows gradually more and more introspective. She stops receiving visitors, and even stops going to church. Father Bournisien keeps visiting, but he mostly just hangs out with Charles and Binet (who likes to fish close by), drinking cider and chatting.
  • Homais, of course, has a suggestion. He tells Charles to take Emma to the opera in Rouen, where a famous tenor is performing. The pharmacist is pleasantly surprised to see that the priest doesn’t object; however, they quickly get into a fight about whether music is more or less moral than literature.
  • Homais tries to involve Charles, who wants nothing to do with the argument.
  • After the priest leaves, Homais again encourages Charles to take Emma to the opera. He brings it up with her, and insists that they go.
  • The very next morning, the couple boards the Hirondelle and heads into Rouen. As usual, Homais bids them farewell, telling Emma she’ll be a hit in Rouen in her pretty dress.
  • Upon arrival in Rouen, Charles rushes off to get tickets (which he fumbles, but eventually resolves), while Emma does some shopping. Before they know it, it’s time for the show to start.

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