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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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Rodolphe is a rich idle bachelor, who usually has a mistress and a roving eye. When he firsts notices Emma, he perceives that she is from a different than the other townswomen. He also notices that she is bored with her life in Yonville. He meets her again at the Agricultural Show and lures her through seductive speech. Later, he offers to take her riding, and on their first ride in the woods, he manages to seduce her. After that he regularly meets Emma at certain 'secret places' where they succumb to their passions.

Rodolphe succeeds in a controlling the affair. He soon, however, finds Emma too sentimental and cannot respond to her romantic yearnings. This love affair "(tickles) both his senses and his vanity at once. Emma's emotionality, which his bourgeois common sense (disdains). . .(delights) him in his heart of hearts because he (is) the object of it." Since he is certain of her love, he is not concerned with pleasing her. Emma realizes that he is subjugating her, but she cannot break away. This is the affect Rodolphe has on women. It shows that he is well versed in the art of managing a mistress.

Emma entreats Rodolphe to take her away. He agrees but does not really want to be saddled with a married woman and her child. He abandons Emma although he knows that she depends solely on him for emotional sustenance. His letter to her explaining his departure highlights his inconsiderate nature. After his rejection, Rodolphe appears only twice again in the novel. The next time is when Emma goes to him for money. He welcomes her with renewed passion but refuses to help her monetarily. Emma is shocked at his refusal. The past is not reason enough for Rodolphe to help her. Emma feels betrayed for a second time and chooses death as her way out. Rodolphe learns of her death much later. He meets Charles one day in the market place. By then Charles has learned of the sordid affairs of his wife, but he holds nothing against Rodolphe. He even wishes that he had been more like Rodolphe. He squarely blames 'fate' for all that has happened. A guiltless Rodolphe smugly accepts Charles' view and even pities Charles. Flaubert's portrait of this man is quite thorough. Most readers gauge Rodolphe as a cynical and worldly-wise individual.


Homais is the chemist of Yonville, whose character is developed along the lines of a caricature. His various eccentricities are lengthily and ludicrously painted by Flaubert. He is a constant talker, spouting every technical bit of knowledge he has in effusive speech. Throughout the novel, he vehemently denounces the church and its teachings as a way to demonstrate that he is "progressive." Like Emma, he nurtures a secret passion for fame, and eagerly pursues the Legion of Honor. Dr Lariviere, who is consulted after Emma's suicide attempt, sees through Homais' pretentious ways and indulgently smiles at the chemist's pompous attitude.

Homais is also highly irresponsible and undependable. His loyalty is easily transferred. When Charles' operation on Hippolyte's foot fails, Homais turns to Dr Canivet for advice and assists the latter. After the Bovarys are ruined, Homais neglects Charles, who has been his close friends. He prefers not to associate with social or financial misfits, for he is afraid it will spoil his reputation. At the novel's end, Flaubert presents a well-to-do Homais, climbing the ladder of success in a middle-class world.


Lheureux is a crafty merchant and moneylender who is directly responsible for Emma's financial ruin. He cajoles her into buying a few articles from him until she becomes a regular customer. Then he gets her to buy on credit. Once Emma has accrued a sufficiently large amount in credit, she easily consents to sign a bill and borrow more money. This process could go on endlessly, but Lheureux knows when to stop lending. With Lheureux's credit revoked, Emma cannot escape ruin. Her death is, therefore, clearly connected to Lheureux's villainy. It is ironic that characters like Lheureux (and Homais) prosper in Flaubert's novel. The last the reader hears of Lheureux is that he has expanded his business.

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