Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | MonkeyNotes
From his realistic description of Yonville, Flaubert makes it clear that this town is no better than Tostes. It contains only one street, lined with a few shops and the only sight that might catch your eye is Homais' pharmacy, with its colored glass jars in the front window.
On the evening of the Bovarys' arrival, they meet Madame Lefrancois, the proprietor of the Lion d'Or inn, Homais, the pharmacist (apothecary), Binet, the tax-collector, and Father Bournisien, the town priest. Homais and the priest argue about religion. Homais, a rising middle-class citizen, professes to be a free-thinker who believes in his own personal god as opposed to the traditional God of Christianity. In the course of his argument, he attempts to link himself to all the advanced thinkers of his day, a sign that Homais believes in the cult of science and progress.
Homais is a caricature of the middle-class individual whom Flaubert despised. Just as the Romanticism which Emma has read about stands for a form of Romanticism fashionable in early nineteenth-century France, so Homais typifies the middle-class mentality of his time and its intellectual pretensions. He's overconfident and filled with a lot of ill-digested knowledge. As you read his speeches, however, ask yourself whether his ideas amount to anything substantial.
You're also introduced to Monsieur Lheureux, the dry-goods (household items) merchant who was riding in the same carriage as Charles and Emma. At the same time that Emma gets increasingly involved in romantic adventures, she gets increasingly involved in financial dealings with Lheureux. Her blindness to his unscrupulousness will have dire consequences for her.
The Bovarys-along with their maid, Felicite-descend from the carriage and enter the inn. Across the room, Leon Dupuis, a young clerk in the office of the town notary, watches Emma. Every night Leon arrives at the inn for dinner, hoping he'll meet a traveler with whom he can spend the night talking. In this sense, Leon is very much like Emma, in that he is always waiting for something new and exciting to happen.
During dinner, Homais tries to impress Charles with his knowledge of medicine and science. Leon and Emma strike up a conversation, and it's immediately clear, as they discuss their love for the ocean, mountain scenery, and music that they share the same romantic ideas. During the conversation, Leon rests his foot familiarly on the rung of Emma's chair, and for a moment everyone else in the room fades into the background.
The twin conversations of Charles with Homais and Emma with Leon are an example of the counterpoint that Flaubert uses to underscore contrasts. Compare the two conversations. On the one hand, Flaubert makes fun of the shallowness of middle-class knowledge and its devotion to the concrete. On the other, he satirizes the Romantic concern with nature and dramatic situations. The characters are mouthing second-hand ideas rather than expressing themselves.
It's getting late, however, and time for Charles and Emma to go to their new home, which is only about fifty yards from the inn. As Emma lies in bed that night, she remembers all the different places where she has slept, other than her father's farm-the convent, Tostes, the night at La Vaubyessard, and now here. She falls asleep with the thought that her life won't be any worse than it was before, and with the hope that it will be better. In this regard, her conversation with Leon seems like a good omen.