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As part of his seduction plan, Rodolphe stays away from Emma for six weeks, reasoning that if she were in love with him before, his long absence will only make her love him more intensely. When he sees her again-alone in the parlor of her house, with the sun going down at the windows (her usual location for reveries)- he knows his calculations were accurate. At first he explains his long absence by saying that he'd been ill. But then he says the thought of her drove him crazy, and that he couldn't bear the idea of her marriage to another man. Finally, he confesses his love for her just as Charles walks in the door.
Rodolphe tells Charles that they were discussing Emma's health and suggests that horseback riding might be good for her. Charles, in his usual undiscriminating, blind way, notices nothing wrong with Rodolphe and Emma's being alone together. He even insists that Emma take up horseback riding, and offers to buy her a new riding outfit.
On a misty day in early October that suitably mirrors the romantic situation Emma longs for, Emma and Rodolphe ride into the forest. After a while they dismount and lead their horses into a clearing where they sit on a log and Rodolphe professes his love for her. At first Emma resists him, but in the end she falls into his arms.
NOTE: THE KNIGHT IN ARMOR
Emma idealizes Rodolphe. He represents the romantic knight on horseback,
whom she read about in innumerable novels. Some readers feel that Flaubert's
decision to place the seduction scene in a natural setting indicates his
own mixed feelings about Romanticism. Is he championing Emma for following
her feelings in this instance? Other readers feel that Flaubert uses the
natural landscape as a means of contrasting the true beauty of nature
with Rodolphe's coarseness and manipulations. Knowing Rodolphe's character,
do you feel any sympathy for Emma at this point? Is she a fool? Or has
she acted heroically by stepping beyond the boundaries of her middle-class
That night, after dinner, Emma shuts herself in her room and relives the events of the afternoon. Staring in the mirror, she sees herself as a changed person. "I have a lover," she murmurs, as if the impossible had finally happened. She thinks of all the heroines she has read about, and now she has been seduced as many of them were.
Emma and Rodolphe spend the next few days riding and making love. Emma confides her unhappiness to him, and they vow to write to one another every day. One morning, filled with a need to see her lover, she visits Rodolphe at La Huchette, his estate. From that point on, this becomes a habit. She waits until Charles leaves for work, then dresses and races across the fields into her lover's arms. One morning, however, when she arrives unexpectedly at La Huchette, Rodolphe's estate, he seems displeased. He tells her that he thinks she's being too reckless and that she's compromising herself by visiting him so frequently. While this may be true, most readers conclude that Rodolphe has grown tired of Emma and reminds her of public opinion in order to ease out of the relationship. Rodolphe is obviously not the gallant knight in shining armor. He is all too human and as flawed as Charles or Leon, and Emma will soon learn that she has been used. Her "perfect" lover is a scoundrel, and their "ideal" romance is but a shoddy affair. Try as she might, Emma cannot succeed as a romantic heroine. The realities of life are too harsh.