Madame Bovary

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Madame Bovary Part 1, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Emma often examines the cigar case, breathes its expensive smell, and imagines that it was given to the Viscount by a beautiful lover. She fantasizes that the Viscount is in Paris, and longs to go there herself. She takes countless sad imaginary journeys along a Paris street map. She reads fashion magazines, society columns, and more romance novels, trying desperately to connect herself to the Viscount and his life. Her reading leads her to imagine Paris in three parts: the political, the aristocratic, and the artistic. Each world seems wonderfully exciting, and the rest of life seems banal and irrelevant.
Emma singles out certain kinds of life experiences, and in valuing them over all others, she effectively erases all others from her imagination. Only that which she values is real to her: everything else ceases to exist. The worlds that she does allow into existence – the exciting, fashionable, wealthy worlds – she knows only through the abstract, detail-poor, hyperbolic writing she consumes. Such writing imparts emotion but not knowledge.
Abstraction, Fantasy, and Experience Theme Icon
The Sublime and the Mundane Theme Icon
Truth, Rhetoric, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Emma hires a new maid, an obedient young girl named Félicité whom she trains to behave 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. Emma hates his professional complacency and his bad manners, but he always manages to interpret her displeasure as a mark of concern and affection.
Here, Charles is no longer purely an inductive realist. He has observed details, and drawn conclusions, and now he must force the new details to accord with the earlier conclusions. Charles has begun to be deductive. He has had to deal with abstractions, as everyone must, at some point. Pure realism is impossible.
Abstraction, Fantasy, and Experience Theme Icon
Love and Desire Theme Icon
A year passes, and Emma becomes increasingly bored and desperate for some sort of change. She is too depressed to read or play piano, so she spends her days observing small marks of decay in the house and garden, and staring at the monotonous routine outside her window. She looks at the run-down wig shop and watches a street performer play an organ; on top of the organ there are miniature dancers in a tiny salon. She is miserable all day, but she feels worst at mealtimes, when she experiences a 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 a vague nervous ailment, and Charles decides that she needs a change of scenery. When they leave Tostes, she is pregnant.
Emma is bored and depressed because she lacks the impetus for any kind of action. She has only one goal for herself: to live a life that resembles that of the heroines of the novels. The novels define the heroines by their beauty, their possessions, and their love affairs – not by their accomplishments, thoughts, or values. So, even though Emma likes reading, drawing, and playing piano, the activities are meaningless to her because they do not help to create the life she wants. She did not learn to value art or knowledge for the private joy they give – only for their contribution to the appearance of a certain life.
Abstraction, Fantasy, and Experience Theme Icon
Causes, Appearances, and Boredom Theme Icon