Madame Bovary

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Charles Bovary Character Analysis

Emma’s husband, a kind and peaceful country doctor whose main joys in life are his wife, his daughter, and a hearty meal. After an unhappy marriage to Mamade Dubuc, Charles is overjoyed to be married to the beautiful Emma, whose every movement, word, and flounce enchants him. Charles is not attractive, charming, or brilliant, though he is for the most part a competent doctor. He has endless patience for his difficult, mean wife, and he is both mother and father to their daughter Berthe. He has a rough, dull exterior, and he is not very good with words, but he is delicate and his selflessness is morally beautiful. He turns a blind eye to Emma’s affairs and violent temper throughout the book. When he discovers her trove of love letters after her death, he dies of shock.

Charles Bovary Quotes in Madame Bovary

The Madame Bovary quotes below are all either spoken by Charles Bovary or refer to Charles Bovary. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Madame Bovary published in 2002.
Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

The universe, for him, did not extend beyond the silken round of her skirts.

Related Characters: Charles Bovary, The elder Madame Bovary
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

The beginning of Charles' marriage to Emma is marked by the former's utter devotion and infatuation. Flaubert details the doctor's every tender feeling towards Emma over the course of the day: in sum, the whole of his attention is directed at Emma, while already she only feels lukewarm towards him.

The gulf between the husband and wife is already evident to the reader; while Charles cannot conceive of a world beyond Emma's "skirts," she does not feel an equivalent love. Emma dreams of ineffable, vague romances — her universe is the stuff of novels—but reality, even a dull one, satisfies the much more practical Charles.

Yet despite Emma's fanciful nature, Flaubert reminds readers that she belongs fully to her material and financial circumstances. Emma worries about her clothing and jewelry throughout the book, and even Charles’ love is also, in part, a love for her “silken” clothing, her aesthetic sensibilities and expensive taste.

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Part 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

Charles’s conversation was as flat as any pavement, everyone’s ideas trudging along it in their weekday clothes, rousing no emotion, no laughter, no reverie.

Related Characters: Charles Bovary
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Flaubert offers us a glimpse of Charles through Emma's eyes. She finds her husband insufferably dull, incapable of witty conversation and uninterested in entertainment. 

This is a subtle instance of so-called "free indirect discourse" in the novel: the omniscient narrator temporarily inhabits a character's consciousness, channeling the character's thoughts while never resorting to the first-person point of view. Through repetition and accumulation, the narrator emphasizes "emotion" and "laughter" and "reverie" in this section, the stuff of Emma's fantasies. And the central metaphor, a derogatory allusion to the middle class, typifies Emma's preoccupation with wealth and glamour. She finds "workday clothes" repugnant and her scorn seeps into the narrator's voice: the result is a scathing portrait of Charles and also a mockery of Emma's own elitism and vanity. She fails to understand that witty banter (foreign to Charles but very familiar to Rodolphe, her lover in later chapters) often is merely a cover for selfishness and arrogance.

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Charles Bovary Character Timeline in Madame Bovary

The timeline below shows where the character Charles Bovary appears in Madame Bovary. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
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...a French rural classroom. The headmaster has introduced a shy, slightly countrified new student called Charles Bovary, who arouses the other students’ contempt with his earnestness, odd manners, and unusual style... (full context)
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As the years pass, Charles’ mother (the elder Madame Bovary) grows bitter and angry. After some years, Charles is born.... (full context)
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Charles is a relatively hard-working, well-behaved, unremarkable school boy. After some years, his parents enroll him... (full context)
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Charles fails his medical exams, but he studies hard for the next round and manages to... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
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One night, Charles is called away to set a broken leg in Les Bertaux, a distant village. He... (full context)
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Charles returns the very next day to check on Monsieur Rouault’s leg, and very frequently thereafter.... (full context)
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One day, Héloïse’s lawyer runs off with the entire Dubuc fortune, and Charles’ wife is left penniless. It also comes to light that she had lied about the... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
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Soon after her funeral, Monsieur Rouault visits Charles to pay him for his services and to offer his condolences. He describes the crushing... (full context)
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One day, Charles comes to Les Bertaux when only Emma is at home. He watches her sew gracefully... (full context)
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Charles resolves to ask for Emma’s hand in marriage, but never seems to find the courage.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
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...colorful procession to the church. After the ceremony, they eat and frolic all day long. Charles’ mother feels neglected, Charles’ father smokes and drinks all night, and Charles himself has only... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
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When the newlyweds arrive in Tostes, Emma takes a tour of Charles’s house, which (we can infer from the tone of the description) seems to her very... (full context)
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Charles is infatuated with Emma and feels nothing but perfect bliss. He is in love, he... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6
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...She returns to the farm, which she dislikes even more than the convent. So when Charles comes into her life, she assumes that it is true love coming to save her... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7
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...in lavish, romantic settings, in faraway exotic places. Love requires fine foods and beautiful clothes. Charles has no idea of Emma’s dissatisfaction, and she begins to resent him. She believes that... (full context)
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Charles, on his end, is endlessly amazed and awed by all of Emma’s small habits and... (full context)
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...tries to rouse herself to passion with poetry and moonlight, but she remains indifferent to Charles. Their lovemaking becomes a boring habit. Emma often goes wandering through fields with her greyhound... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
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The Wednesday of the ball, Emma and Charles drive at the magnificent château. Emma is deeply impressed by the spaciousness, the marble, the... (full context)
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Emma dresses beautifully for dinner, crossly warning Charles not to try to dance with her. She comes down to the ballroom and performs... (full context)
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The following afternoon, Emma and Charles set out for home. As Emma sits languishing in their carriage, she thinks she sees... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9
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...like a lady’s maid. Emma buys beautiful negligées and little household refinements to console herself. Charles delights in all these feminine mysteries. His business is prospering, and he is very well-respected.... (full context)
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...particular “rancid staleness.” She loses her appetite and stops taking care of the house. When Charles’s mother or her father come to visit, she is impatient and rude. Soon she develops... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
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Emma and Charles settle in Yonville-l’Abbaye, a small town near Rouen. The town is composed of dying pasture,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2
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...seem instantly to agree, though they say almost nothing of their actual lives. After dinner, Charles and Emma go to their new home. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
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Charles is anxious that he has no patients as yet, and he is worried about the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4
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...day she watches Léon walk from his office to the inn. Homais joins Emma and Charles for dinner nearly every night, and chatters expertly with Charles about medicine and the news.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
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...the clerk go to visit a half-built flax-mill. Emma takes the opportunity to mentally compare Charles’ dull, sluggish appearance to Léon’s lovely, refined one. Later that night, she thinks long and... (full context)
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...then. He even offers her a loan. She coldly declines, but he chatters pleasantly about Charles’s patients and quietly leaves, promising to return. (full context)
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...money, and the melancholia of passion.” She becomes irritable with her household and angry with Charles for thinking her happy. She is tired of pretending, and wishes she could elope with... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
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...her away so meanly that the little girl falls and badly cuts her cheek. When Charles comes home he takes care of her; Emma worries slightly, and then feels pleased at... (full context)
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After dinner, Charles goes to the pharmacist’s house to return some bandages. Charles takes Léon aside and asks... (full context)
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...him from behind a curtain. That evening, she is forced to listen to Homais and Charles discussing Léon’s future life in Paris. Before he leaves, Homais announces that their town will... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 7
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One day, when Emma spits blood, Charles writes his mother for advice. The elder Madame Bovary thinks books and idleness are Emma’s... (full context)
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...la Huchette – and concludes that he is a nobleman. He has come to ask Charles to examine his servant, who has been having pains. At the servant’s request, Charles bleeds... (full context)
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...strength. After he leaves, he thinks shrewdly about Emma and her life. He guesses that Charles is clumsy, stupid, and unsatisfying, and that the lovely Emma is longing for some excitement.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 9
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Charles walks in, and Rodolphe suggests that horseback-riding might improve Emma’s health. Charles readily agrees, and... (full context)
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They return to town in the evening. Charles compliments Emma’s complexion, and tells her he has bought her a horse. When he leaves... (full context)
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...other love letters every day, though Emma feels Rodolphe’s are too short. One morning, when Charles is away, she visits Rodolphe unexpectedly at La Huchette. After that, she surprises him any... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10
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...strategy for their meetings. Rodolphe comes to the house late at night, Emma waits until Charles falls asleep, and then she and Rodolphe go the arbor or the consulting-room. Rodolphe begins... (full context)
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...unusual for her. She quarrels slightly with Rodolphe, and begins to wish that she loved Charles instead, though there’s very little about him she can love. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
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...Homais wants Yonville to become more modern in its medical practices, and he decides that Charles should implement an experimental new cure for club-foot. Emma and Homais convince Charles to operate... (full context)
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The day of the operation comes. Following the manual’s instructions, Charles cuts Hippolyte’s Achilles tendon and straps him into a special wooden box. The same day,... (full context)
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...in great pain. Underneath the wooden machine, his foot is swollen, dark, and gravely infected. Charles and Homais are alarmed by the sight, but all they can think to do is... (full context)
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They listen to Hippolyte’s horrible scream, which carries all the way across town. Charles asks Emma for some comfort and affection – a kiss – and she refuses in... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12
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...that they might run away together. The more she loves Rodolphe, the more she hates Charles. She takes endless care with her appearance, “like a courtesan awaiting a prince.” (full context)
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...asks her for money, and never tells her how much anything costs. She also induces Charles to buy two expensive false legs for Hippolyte – a fancy one and an everyday... (full context)
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...with a large bill that Emma cannot pay. Lheureux gets annoyed and threatens to ask Charles for the riding-whip. In this way, he subtly blackmails Emma and lets her know he... (full context)
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Charles dreams often about his daughter’s bright future, her school-days, her adolescence, and their happy life... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 13
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...letter, she is angry and delirious, and nearly throws herself out a window. Over dinner, Charles himself mentions Rodolphe’s departure, which is all over town. Just then, Emma sees Rodolphe’s carriage... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 14
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Charles is deeply worried about Emma’s health, but he is also concerned about money. His housekeeper... (full context)
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...love with Emma, little by little, but Emma doesn’t notice. One day, Homais suggests to Charles that Emma might benefit from a night at the theatre. Lagardy, a famous singer and... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15
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...“charlatan” and heartbreaker. In his stormy seduction of the heroine, he reminds her of Rodolphe. Charles is bored and confused by the story, and doesn’t understand why the man is mistreating... (full context)
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Charles goes to get Emma some water and runs into Léon, recently returned from Paris. When... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2
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...Emma finally gets his attention, Homais tells her quite bluntly that her father-in-law has died. Charles had asked him to tell her in a delicate way, to prevent a nervous attack,... (full context)
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Charles is waiting for her at home, and she feels a bit guilty when he kisses... (full context)
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...her to buy more pretty things. He convinces Emma to take power of attorney over Charles’s debt. Emma presents Charles with the document, adding that she thinks the writing somewhat dubious.... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4
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...else. One day, he is overcome with longing and comes to Yonville to visit Emma. Charles happily receives him, but the couple don’t get any time alone. Emma is miserable to... (full context)
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...Lheureux. She also suddenly takes up the piano. One evening she practices in front of Charles, but she makes many mistakes and complains about her “rusty fingers.” She mentions that she’d... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
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One day, Charles tells Emma that he ran into her piano teacher, who told him that she has... (full context)
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...is broke, so he suggests that she sell an old cottage that once belonged to Charles’ father. She agrees, and he immediately finds her a buyer, though it is implied that... (full context)
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...pay off three earlier bills, but one final bill comes to their house. Lheureux convinces Charles to sign two other bills for it, with steep interest. Charles asks his mother for... (full context)
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...as much pleasure from it as possible. One Thursday, she does not return to Yonville. Charles is desperate with worry, and after a sleepless night he comes to Rouen to look... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 6
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...on uncertain but unfavorable terms, and tries to make some money by collecting debts from Charles’s patients and by selling some of her things. She tries to do financial calculations, but... (full context)
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Charles tries to teach Berthe to read, and plays with her when she misses her mother.... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 7
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The next day, while Charles is out, the bailiff and two other men take inventory of the Bovary house. Emma... (full context)
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She comes home and imagines Charles’s reaction to the auction. She knows he will forgive her, and “the idea of [his]... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 8
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When Charles had come home, devastated by news of his financial ruin, Emma had been out. He... (full context)
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...She begins to suffer a great deal, moaning and screaming, and her face turns blue. Charles is wild with panic, and she lets him read her letter. He sends the maid... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9
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Charles is insane with grief. On his way out, Homais is stopped by the beggar, who... (full context)
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At first Charles does not want to bury Emma, but finally Homais and the priest persuade him. Charles... (full context)
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...black liquid comes out of her mouth. The pharmacist and the priest continue their debate. Charles comes in to say goodbye to Emma, and stands there for a long time thinking... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 11
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After the funeral, many different people come after Charles for money, but he refuses to sell anything that belonged to Emma. Lheureux pesters him... (full context)
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Some time later Charles finds Rodolphe’s last letter to Emma, but he forces himself to interpret it as a... (full context)
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One day, Charles looks inside a secret compartment in Emma’s desk. He finds a large stack of love... (full context)
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Not long afterwards, Berthe finds Charles dead in the garden. Berthe is sent, penniless, to her grandmother. Soon the elder Madame... (full context)