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The Marquis greets the Bovarys at the door of his splendid chateau, La Vaubyessard. It is filled with art and expensive furnishings, and the guests are members of the aristocracy. For Emma, being in the company of great wealth is like a dream come true. She drinks champagne and gazes in awe at the pomegranates and pineapples, neither of which she's ever tasted before.
Emma thinks that she fits perfectly into these luxurious surroundings. Her observations about the noblemen, in particular, make them seem so desirable and exquisite in comparison to the others. But there is something else about them that Emma may be aware of but doesn't cause her to reflect. They possess "the special brutality that comes from half-easy triumphs which test one's strength and flatter one's vanity-the handling of thoroughbred horses, the pursuit of loose women." This describes fairly well Rodolphe, Emma's first lover, and it foreshadows the nature of their relationship and the way that her romantic conceptions will prevent her from distinguishing between herself and a "loose" woman.
Emma seems embarrassed by the provincial Charles and pushes aside his attempted affections. During the dance, Emma watches a young lady pass an amorous note to a possible suitor. It's like a scene right out of a romantic novel, and she revels in the atmosphere. For a brief moment, time stops and Emma finds her world. At three in the morning, she's still on the dance floor, waltzing with a gentleman known as the Viscount, who spins Emma around dizzily until the hem of her gown catches on his trousers.
Where is Charles all this time? More and more he fades from the foreground and ceases to interest Emma. By not mentioning Charles, Flaubert brings a partial death to his character. In Emma's mind, her new husband is already a thing of the past.
Charles has spent the night watching people play whist (a card game) without being able to make sense of the game. With relief, he climbs into bed, but Emma stares out the window at the rain.
On returning to Tostes, Emma seethes with anger about her lowly life-style. She is frustrated by Charles' boorish manner and believes she deserves better. In a fit of rage, she fires a maid who has been faithful to Charles. Though Emma tries to rekindle the memories of the ball at La Vaubyessard, they soon fade into a blur.
NOTE: ON EMMA
Emma's dreams have-for a moment-become reality in this chapter. She mingles with aristocrats and carries it off quite well. Emma possesses the qualities necessary for success in that world, and this is made clear in her symbolic dance with the Viscount. But a close examination of this world as described at the ball, shows that the aristocrats are not really superior to their middle-class counterparts except for their surface charm, wealth, and manners. Emma will find this out through her experience with Rodolphe.