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When Charles and Emma finally reach Yonville, they are met by Madame Lefrançois and Leon Dupuis, who lodges with Homais. To unwind from the journey, Emma stretches herself before the kitchen fireplace and "the flames (light) up her whole body." Leon, a young man who works as a clerk at Maitre Guillaumin's, watches Emma closely. When they talk, Leon and Emma discover that they have certain common interests; they are both avid readers and romantics. They speak of the romance of the sunset and the beauty of the sea and mountain scenery.
After dinner, the Bovarys leave for their home. Emma realizes that it is only the fourth time ever that she has slept in a strange place. "The first was at the convent, the second when she arrived at Tostes, the third at La Vaubyessard, and now this was the fourth." Before long she will find herself sleeping in several strange places.
As Emma warms herself by the fireplace, she is also warming her latent sexuality. She is bored with life and desirous of an exciting companion. Leon is attracted to her the first time he sets eyes on her and eagerly talks to her. Their conversation reveals that both of them possess a romantic nature. Leon also admits his sensitivity, stating that he is moved by poetry, for "I find it more tender than prose, and far more affecting." Emma tells Leon that she is "all for stories that rush you along breathlessly and make you frightened. I hate commonplace heroes and moderate feelings such as are to be found in life." Every statement that Emma makes has been carefully tailored to demonstrate that Emma has the potential to break away from the norms of society.
The reader has been prepared for the Emma-Leon relationship, which begins in this chapter and becomes highly significant in the course of the novel. Emma has longed for some excitement in her life; she has also been depicted as a rebel, unafraid of social convention. Since Yonville is no more interesting than Tostes, she will eagerly welcome the opportunity to disperse her dreariness. She will be attracted to Leon for his youth and romantic ways. Many critics believe that Flaubert is painting a picture of himself in Leon, for as a young man, the author was infatuated with an older lady, whose memory stayed with him throughout life.
Homais' character is also exposed in this chapter. He comes across as a typical bore. In the previous chapter, the landlady is repulsed by his insulting statements about the church. Here he narrates technical data about the weather in order to show off his advanced learning. His character will develop on similar lines as the novel progresses.