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Homais visits Rouen one Thursday-the day Leon and Emma usually meet-and takes Leon to a fancy restaurant, forcing him to miss his appointment with Emma. For the pharmacist, this trip to Rouen is one of his rare chances to escape from Yonville, and he keeps suggesting new things to do. Finally, Leon manages to get away from him and rushes to the hotel to see Emma. But she has departed, furious at him for missing their appointment. After this, Emma's passion for Leon cools down, then flares up again. Even Leon notices her irrational behavior, and wonders where all this madness will lead. He senses trouble ahead, but he can't bring himself to break off with her.
As the affair progresses, Leon's middle-class values begin to reassert
themselves. Emma is more than he can handle, so he retreats into his bourgeois
security. He's about to be promoted to head law clerk in his office and
begins to wonder whether his affair with Emma will jeopardize his career.
His inability to leave Homais-who represents the middle class-and go to
Emma, who represents his romantic side, indicates the direction in which
he is headed.
Emma's affair with Leon never completely satisfies her. She still imagines the possibility of a perfect lover, this "strong, handsome man with a valorous, passionate and refined nature, a poet's soul in the form of an angel..." At this point, she thinks about nothing but her passions and, as a result, her financial dealings with Lheureux get completely out of hand. A bill, which Lheureux had given to a banker in Rouen, arrives at the house, and the following day a protest of nonpayment is delivered. Lheureux explains that he wants all the money the Bovarys owe him at once. If not, there will be a court judgment and the Bovarys' possessions will be seized. Emma begs for a loan, and Lheureux agrees only when she tells him that she still has some property coming to her from her father-inlaw's estate.
In an attempt to raise money, Emma bills all of Charles' patients and begins selling old clothing and household articles. But her finances are so complicated that every time she pays back part of her debt to Lheureux, she has to borrow more money from him. In her confusion about money matters, Emma neglects to take care of her household, spending nights reading romance novels and thinking about her affair with Leon.
Charles is worried about his wife's health-he believes her old illness will recur-but he's too timid to complain, even when she's insulting him.
One evening, after staying up all night at a masked ball in Rouen, Emma returns home to find that a legal document has been issued ordering her to pay all her debts within twenty-four hours. If she doesn't, all her possessions will be confiscated. She rushes to see Lheureux, who not only refuses to help but threatens to tell Charles what he knows about her affair with Leon if she doesn't pay up. He has no more use for her now that she is destitute. When she bursts into tears and tells him that he's destroying her last hope, he acts as if her problems are none of his business and slams the door in her face.
As her financial and emotional life falls apart, Emma withdraws more and more into her fantasy world. It's as if she's on a fast-moving train headed nowhere and can't get off. All she can do is indulge her fantasies to even greater excesses. The masked ball symbolizes how far removed she is from reality. She has no ability to deal with her problems and no one to turn to for guidance. All she wants to do is "fly away like a bird and make herself young again somewhere in the vast purity of space."