Study Guide

Madame Bovary Part 3, Chapter 5

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Part 3, Chapter 5

  • Thursdays are Emma’s Rouen days. She leaves on the Hirondelle at an ungodly hour of the morning, excited and anxious to see her lover.
  • When she arrives, Léon comes to meet her. The two go to the same hotel room every week, and spend all day in bed, drinking champagne, eating, talking, and generally enjoying each other.
  • Léon is enchanted both by Emma herself and by the idea that he has a real, live mistress.
  • The end of their days together come fast, and each week they dramatically part. Before heading home in the Hirondelle, Emma gets her hair done in preparation for her return home.
  • The stagecoach encounters a particularly unfortunate beggar on its trip – a blind man, whose horrifically infected eye-sockets are described in excruciating detail. Emma is afraid of him, though Hivert makes fun of the poor man.
  • Charles is always waiting at home for Emma; she despairs on the inside upon arriving back in Yonville. She starts to care less about things at home, and never even yells at Félicité anymore.
  • Justin still hangs around, attempting be useful, and cultivating his crush on Emma.
  • The rest of the week passes in a haze of longing, until Emma and Léon are together again.
  • In the safety of their hotel room, the lovers talk about their hopes, dreams, and fears; Emma admits to Léon that she has loved another man who left.
  • Emma begins to think again about Paris, and wonders if they might be happier there.
  • At home, Emma is extra careful to make Charles happy. Once, he almost finds something out – he ran into the woman that Emma supposedly takes piano lessons from, and she didn’t know anything about Emma.
  • Emma, afraid of being found out, makes up an excuse, then shows up later with a receipt for the lessons. From then on, it’s just lies, lies, lies.
  • Emma decides to take an extra hotel room in Rouen, just in case she encounters someone from the village in the city.
  • One day, Monsieur Lheureux catches up to her, asking for all the money the Bovarys owe him.
  • As always, he’s thought of a temporary way out, through which he will certainly profit. He knows about a small piece of property Charles inherited, and encourages Emma to sell it. Since she has power of attorney, she has the right to do so. He’s even lined up a buyer, a man called Langlois.
  • The sale goes through quickly, and Lheureux assures Emma she did the right thing. She attempts to pay him back, but he instead gives her four more promissory notes.
  • Oh no! Emma and Charles just keep sinking deeper and deeper into debt. This is getting scary. Despite the thousands of francs they owe the merchant, Emma orders a whole passel of new things. When presented with the bill, Charles ends up signing yet another sketchy promissory note.
  • Charles’s mom, who’s visiting, bluntly states how foolish she finds this new round of purchases. She lets slip the fact that Charles has agreed to revoke the power of attorney he granted to Emma.
  • Emma freaks out.
  • For the first time, Charles rebels against his mother – at the worst possible time! She’s the only one who demonstrates any common sense here, but Charles keeps defending Emma. His mother ends up leaving angrily.
  • Charles, defeated by both the women in his life, has another power of attorney agreement drawn up to make Emma happy.
  • Emma and Léon celebrate this renewal of her legal rights the next time they meet. Emma gets wilder and wilder – he doesn’t understand what’s going on with her, but he still finds her charming.
  • One Thursday, Emma doesn’t return to Yonville. Charles, a bit frantic, drives to Rouen himself in the dead of night to try and find her. He runs around the city looking for her everywhere.
  • Eventually, as he’s about to go to the piano teacher’s house, Emma herself comes out of nowhere, explaining that she was ill. Miraculously, Charles believes her.
  • This incident actually gives Emma even more independence – she tells Charles that she can’t feel free when he’s always worrying about her. He gives her more space, which she promptly takes advantage of, heading into Rouen with the most ridiculous excuses every time she wants to see Léon.
  • This recklessness starts to take its toll on Léon, however; his employers are unhappy with his constant absence. But he’s easily led by his mistress, and he continues to escape work to meet her. He also does basically whatever she tells him to, from dressing all in black to attempting love poems in her honor (unfortunately, he can never come up with rhymes, and has to copy them).

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