Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | MonkeyNotes
Emma and Charles arrive at the opera house early. Emma is excited after having been cooped up in Yonville for so long and insists that they stroll along the waterfront before the show. Once inside, she gets caught up in the throng of opera-goers swirling around her. When the opera begins, she immerses herself totally in the romantic story and the soaring music. Charles, understandably, is confused by the story and keeps asking Emma what's going on. She impatiently tells him to keep quiet, as she identifies with the passions of the characters, comparing the hero to Rodolphe. By intermission, Emma is concocting new fantasies about what her life might have been like had she met someone like the tenor who plays the hero. As he takes his bows, she imagines that he's staring directly at her. She feels the impulse to rush into his arms and beg him to carry her away.
The opera that Charles and Emma are watching is Lucia di Lammermoor
by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848). It is based on
a novel by the Scottish Romantic writer Sir Walter Scott. The tragic love
story that ends in madness and suicide would appeal to Emma. Both the
story and Emma's new fantasies are omens that are about to take on significance
with the reappearance of Leon.
After the intermission, Charles tells Emma that he's just seen Leon. A moment later, the former law clerk from Yonville shows up in their box. Seeing her ex-suitor again makes it hard for Emma to concentrate on the second half of the opera, and they leave before it ends.
Emma uses the opera in the same way she used religion-to feed her romantic impulses and to escape from her present situation. In order to bring you closer to Emma's feelings, Flaubert uses the technique of double action, counterpointing Emma's thoughts while watching the opera with the action on stage. Do you recall the other instances where Flaubert has used this technique?
The three of them go to a waterfront cafe where they discuss Emma's recent illness. Leon, who's been living in Paris, announces that he has returned to Rouen to work for a large law firm, and Charles suggests that Emma remain in Rouen for a few more nights, thinking that she might like to see the opera through to the end. It's hard not to be amazed by Charles' naivete, but the world of passion and intense emotion is so foreign to him that he just doesn't notice these feelings in other people. When they part for the night, Charles invites Leon to dinner. The clerk, whose feelings about Emma are obvious to everyone but Charles, agrees to come.
As Part Two closes, you might review its high points: its framework of the young Leon at the beginning and the older Leon at the end; the focal event of the agricultural show as backdrop for the seduction of Emma; the two contrasting important events of the bungled operation and the opera; the nasty reality and the romantic dreams that both provoke Emma to attempt escape; and in the background, the mounting debts to Lheureux.