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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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Rodolphe's warning makes Emma nervous, but she does not stop visiting him. One morning while returning from La Huchette, she bumps into Captain Binet, who is out hunting for wild duck. He attempts to involve her in a conversation. Emma tells him that she has been to the nurse's to see her baby and then hurries off. She later realizes that her explanation must have aroused his suspicion, for "everyone in Yonville knew that the Bovary child had been back at home for the past year. Besides, no one lived in that direction; the path led only to La Huchette. So Binet would have guessed where she'd been. And he wouldn't keep it to himself. He'd chatter, for sure." This realization leaves Emma quite worried.

The same evening, Emma sees Binet at Homais' shop. She is terrified of what Binet might reveal, but he leaves without doing or saying anything. The next day, Emma discusses with Rodolphe the problem of organizing their meetings. Rodolphe promises to look for a house where they would be safe in Yonville. Meanwhile, all winter he meets Emma in her garden "in the dead of night" to exchange loving caresses. In describing these meetings, Flaubert emphasizes the darkness and the silence, accompanied by the winter chill, reflection of the emotions that are beginning to haunt their relationship.

Differences between the lovers continue to develop. Emma wants Rodolphe to be "more serious -- more dramatic." She also finds in him "a kind of coarseness, a straightforward vulgarity that (shocks) her." Rodolphe, on the other hand, finds Emma to be "very sentimental," which both irks and amuses him. He scoffs when she asks him for a token wedding ring that would signify their eternal union and laughs at her claims that their mothers in heaven bless the relationship of her and Rodolphe. Although he is still attracted by her beauty, Rodolphe finds himself becoming indifferent to Emma. She cannot understand Rodolphe's behavior.

After six months, the flame of passion has died out. At about this time, Emma receives a letter from her father, which is full of "kindly thoughts." She grows reflective, thinking about her youth, her marriage, her love affair, and her suffering. She is also alerted to her immediate surroundings, noticing the wonderful April weather and her happy daughter shouting with laughter. Moved suddenly, she freely expresses her love for Berthe, who is rolling about on the grass. Emma's display of tenderness is unusual and surprises the maid.

That night when she meets Rodolphe, he finds Emma cold and unresponsive. He then stays away for three days in a row and is treated "disdainfully" when he finally pays a visit. He ignores "her doleful sighs" and "the handkerchief she kept producing." His insensitivity prompts Emma to question herself. She wonders if she would do better to love Charles instead of Rodolphe.


After the first wave of passion has passed, Emma grows nervous about her indiscretion, fearing others in Yonville will learn of her affair. The need for secrecy is greater on Emma's part, for she is supposedly a respectable, married woman, while Rodolphe already has a reputation as a philandering bachelor. Emma's emotions are also much more intense; Rodolphe does not seem to care about the outcome of their affair.

When Emma meets Captain Binet in the early morning on the path that leads only to La Huchette, she is startled and produces a foolish explanation of her presence. As a result, she is sure that Binet will spread gossip about her throughout Yonville. When she meets Binet again that day at Homais' shop, the reader observes Emma behaving like a cornered animal.

Flaubert's descriptive passages are remarkable. The dark, hidden, sensual nature of the love shared by Emma and Rodolphe is brilliantly captured and reflected in the natural setting that surrounds them. "Clumps of shadow loomed up here and there in the darkness, rising at times in a concerted shudder and leaning over like immense black waves advancing to engulf them. The chill of the night made them cling the closer, the sighs they breathed seemed louder, their eyes, only just visible in the gloom, looked larger, and in the midst of the silence their whispered words fell clear as crystal on their hearts and lingered there in prolonged vibrations." The language, the rhythm, and the very description of nature itself are all sensual, heightening the mood.

With romantic expectation, Emma wants Rodolphe to be constantly dramatic; when he falls short, she begins to think he is coarse and unattractive, and "the grand passion into which she had plunged seemed to be dwindling around her like a river sinking into its bed; she saw the slime at the bottom." Rodolphe is equally as tired and displeased with Emma; her romantic, sentimental side, which originally attracted him to her, is particularly bothersome to Rodolphe.

Her father's letter causes Emma to re-evaluate her life. She thinks on her past and looks at her present, even paying tender attention to her daughter Berthe. She wonders if her relationship with Rodolphe is really different from any other routine, marital relationship. This train of thought causes her to conclude that it would perhaps be better to love Charles than to pursue the affair.

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