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CHAPTER 12

Emma complains to Rodolphe about her horrible life and begs him to take her away from Yonville. Rodolphe has never seen his relationship with Emma as anything more than a passing fancy. The last thing he wants is to be attached to her. With each day, Emma's love for Rodolphe increases in proportion to the disgust she feels for Charles. After the failure of the clubfoot operation, she can barely stand to be in the same room with him. Fearing that Rodolphe is growing tired of her, she wears new makeup and jewelry in order to attract him. Her maid, Felicite, spends the day ironing Emma's lingerie, while Justin, who secretly loves Emma, looks on in amazement. From Lheureux she purchases all the latest items from Paris, including an expensive riding crop for Rodolphe. Lheureux doesn't ask for the money immediately, but one day he suddenly shows up with a bill for all her new purchases. Emma doesn't have the money but manages to pay with money from one of Charles' patients. This is the first occasion where her economic and emotional problems become intertwined. As if realizing that things are getting out of hand, Emma promises herself that she's going to economize.

NOTE:

This chapter marks the beginning of the end for Emma. She turns away from Charles and puts herself in the hands of Rodolphe and Lheureux, the two most conniving characters in the book. Flaubert's hatred of the middle-class world is evident in his characterization of Lheureux, who not only lusts for power and recognition-as does Homaisbut takes pleasure in ruining and humiliating other people. He realizes that Emma is buying presents for her lover and that at some point he'll be able to use this knowledge against her. Compared to people like Rodolphe and Lheureux, Emma seems innocent and unsophisticated.


Emma's gifts, compounded by her overbearing nature, begin to embarrass Rodolphe. The novelty of their relationship has worn off. He has succeeded in making her fall in love with him, and her words of endearment-"I'm your servant and your concubine! You're my king, my idol!"- are the same words he's heard from countless other women. He begins treating her sadistically and coarsely, taking pleasure in seeing just how much she'll do for him. Infatuated with her lover, Emma begins to flaunt public opinion, walking through the streets of Yonville with Rodolphe, smoking cigarettes and staring defiantly at those who seem shocked by her behavior.

Charles' mother visits and one night discovers Felicite with her lover. The parallel between Emma and her maid emphasizes the vulgar nature of Emma's affair, stripped of all its heated romantic trimmings. To seal this identification, Flaubert has Felicite run off with Emma's clothes after her mistress dies.

Once again, Emma pleads with Rodolphe to take her away. She's been suffering for four years-or so she tells her lover-and can no longer bear it. Rodolphe agrees to run away with her, if only to appease his lover at that moment.

The idea that she's finally going to escape from her life in Yonville alters Emma's attitude toward Charles. But she is only going through the motions. What's the point of being angry at someone you'll never see again? All her thoughts are focused on the day of escape. The transformation is physical as well. Never before has she looked so beautiful, and Charles, who is completely ignorant of his wife's plans, becomes infatuated with her again.

While lying awake in bed, Emma dreams of herself and Rodolphe on horseback, gliding over the mountains. She plays out the various scenarios of the future in her head while Charles snores beside her and Berthe, whom she plans to take along with her, coughs in her sleep.

NOTE:

The idea of "flight" is another characteristic of the romantic nature. Remember that Emma always thinks that change for its own sake is a way of improving things. What is the difference between change for its own sake and change calculated to improve one's lot?

With the trip only a month away, Emma orders a long cloak, a trunk, and an overnight bag from Lheureux. A few days before the date of departure, Rodolphe arrives in the garden and Emma thinks that he looks sad.

NOTE: EMMA'S NEED FOR RODOLPHE

What do you think is going on in Rodolphe's mind? On the basis of what you know about him it must be clear that he has no intention of running off with Emma, but at this moment he's unable to tell her the truth. Some readers feel that Emma knows that Rodolphe has no intention of escaping with her and that she's made herself vulnerable to him because she wants to suffer. Others believe in her inability to see into Rodolphe's true nature. Still others feel that Emma wouldn't be happy even if Rodolphe did run away with her. Yet as she clings to him in the garden and tells him that she'll do anything for him, there's no doubt that at this moment her love for him is genuine.

After the lovers part, Rodolphe stops and looks back. He sees Emma in her white dress, disappearing into the shadows. He leans against a tree, moved by the intensity of her love for him, and realizes that he'd be a fool to go off with her. "Just the same, though," he says to himself, "she was a pretty mistress."

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