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Life after the ball at La Vaubyessard depresses Emma, and she spends even more time in wild imaginings in order to escape the dull and oppressive reality of her life. She holds onto the cigar case as a memento of that memorable night and weaves a fantastic tale about the case, which she pretends belongs to the Viscount. She also lets her imagination take her to Paris and other fashionable places. She reads magazines to stay abreast of the latest fashions and imagines wearing them. Through her dream wold, Emma imagines the world as she wants it to be, and it is always filled with ambassadors, duchesses, and private rooms in restaurants.
Emma takes in a girl of fourteen, Felicite, as the maid and trains her in household management. Although this task is time consuming and despite her many other diversions, Emma feels stifled and cannot concentrate on anything. She thinks anything would be an improvement over Tostes, and she longs to travel or go back to the convent or live in Paris or die.
Charles, in the meantime, has prospered in his small medical practice. He has also grown accustomed to returning home in the evening "to a blazing fire and supper waiting, to a comfortable chair and a neat, attractive wife." He could not be any happier. Emma, however, still longs for him to be more refined. "She would have liked this name of Bovary, that was hers, to be famous. ... But Charles had no ambition."
With the passage of time, Charles grows even more irritating to Emma. She cannot stand that he dozes off when he tries to read. She resents that he never talks to her. In fact, Emma realizes that she confides more in her greyhound than in her husband. She is also depressed by the winter weather and seems to lose all her zest for living. She neglects her piano, her drawing, and her needlework, and she has read almost everything available in Tostes.
Emma grows moody. She is hard to please, and her behavior becomes unpredictable. "Sometimes she expressed peculiar opinions, censuring what was generally approved, and approving what was perverted or immoral, which made her husband stare at her wide-eyed." She was also not in control of her emotions. At one moment she is "all fire and brimstone;" at the next moment, she is "sweetness and light." A visit from her father does not improve her condition, and there is still friction with her mother- in-law, especially when she tries to give Emma advice.
Emma sinks further into depression, and none of Charles' medications are of any help. Charles blames Emma's behavior on Tostes, for she has always complained about the place. He considers setting up practice elsewhere and looks for suitable opportunities. He hears of a market town in the Neufchâtel district, called Yonville-L'Abbaye, where a doctor is needed there. The Bovarys start packing to move out of Tostes.
As they pack, Emma comes across her bridal bouquet. One of the wires binding the blossoms pricks her. She reacts strongly and immediately, tossing the bouquet into the fire. Then she watches it burn to cinders; the ashes match her mood.
A brief but important statement is made at the chapter's end: "When they left Tostes in March, Madame Bovary was pregnant."
In this chapter, Flaubert exposes the weaknesses of Emma's highly romantic imagination. She spends almost all her waking hours in creating fantasies in order to escape from her general dissatisfaction with life and the miserable relationship with her husband. She dreams of her husband becoming famous, but Charles does not have it in his nature to seek fame or glory. She reads romantic novels, especially those written by Balzac and George Sand. "And all the time, deep within her, she was waiting for something to happen . . .every morning when she woke up she hoped to find it there."
Frustrated on all counts when nothing happens in her life, Emma enters a major phase of depression. She cannot sustain an interest in anything, and she suffers from sudden shifts in mood. She feels totally isolated and longs for conversation and attention, but Charles is clearly not suited to the task. The "peculiar opinions" that Emma expresses, however, are radical enough for her husband to feel anxious about her. As a result, he decides to find a new medical practice and move Emma out of Tostes, since she has always hated the village.
It is important to notice the burning of the bridal bouquet. The action clearly foreshadows the fact that Emma is soon to "burn" her marital bond to Charles by having an adulterous affair. It is also important to notice that the chapter and Part One closes with the announcement that Emma is pregnant.