Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary

Emma Bovary Character Analysis

A beautiful, mediocre woman consumed by the desire to live an elegant and passionate life. Emma’s placid country childhood sharpens her appetite for passionate feeling and excitement. Her only idea of a life other than her own, a life full of pleasure and joy, comes from romance novels. These novels teach her that excitement, for a woman, is only possible through love, and that love must be carefully cultivated with elegant settings, beautiful clothes, and noble-sounding words. When she realizes that her marriage does not resemble the affairs in her novels, and Charles does not resemble the novels’ heroes, she falls into misery and boredom. She becomes fatally obsessed with achieving her only goal – to bring into her own life the joy and passion in books. Her obsession makes her cruelly mistreat her husband and daughter, pursue two unhappy affairs, rack up enormous debt, and finally kill herself by swallowing arsenic.

Emma Bovary Quotes in Madame Bovary

The Madame Bovary quotes below are all either spoken by Emma Bovary or refer to Emma 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:
Abstraction, Fantasy, and Experience Theme Icon
). 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

And Emma sought to find out exactly what was meant in real life by the words felicity, passion, and rapture, which had seemed so fine on the pages of the books.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

Familiar with the tranquil, she inclined, instead, toward the tumultuous. … From everything she had to extract some personal profit; and she discarded as useless anything that did not lend itself to the heart’s immediate satisfaction.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

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Emma was inwardly satisfied to feel she had reached at her first attempt that ideal exquisite pale existence, never attained by vulgar souls.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

To her it seemed that certain places on earth must produce happiness.

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

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But this, this life of hers was as cold as an attic that looks north; and boredom, quiet as the spider, was spinning its web in the shadowy places of the heart.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 1, Chapter 8 Quotes

Her heart was just like that: contact with the rich had left it smeared with something that would never fade away.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 5254
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 1, Chapter 9 Quotes

It was Paris, rippling like the ocean, gleaming in Emma’s mind under a warm golden haze. The swarming tumultuous life of the place was divided into several parts, classified into distinct tableaux. Emma grasped only two or three of these, and they hid all the rest from her, apparently representing the whole of humanity.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

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She confused, in her desire, sensual luxury with true joy, elegance of manners with delicacy of sentiment.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

She wanted a son; he would be strong and dark, she would call him George; and this idea of having a male child was like an anticipated revenge for the powerlessness of her past. A man, at least, is free; he can explore each passion and every kingdom, conquer obstacles, feast upon the most exotic pleasures. But a woman is continually thwarted.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

With her black hair, her large eyes, her straight nose, her gliding step, always silent now, did it not seem as if she passed through life almost without touching it, bearing on her brow the pale mark of a sublime destiny? She was so sad and so calm, so gentle and yet so shy, that by her side you felt under the spell of a frosty charm, just as you shiver in church at the scent of flowers mingling with the feel of cold marble. … But she was filled with lust, with rage, with hatred.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary, Léon Dupuis
Page Number: 99-100
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 8 Quotes

It was that mingling of the everyday and the exotic, which the vulgar, usually, take for the symptom of an eccentric existence, of unruly feeling, of the tyranny of art, always with a certain scorn for social conventions which they find seductive or exasperating.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary, Rodolphe Boulanger
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 9 Quotes

At last, she was to know the pleasures of love, that fever of happiness which she had despaired of. She was entering something marvellous where everything would be passion, ecstasy, delirium; blue immensity was all about her; the great summits of sentiment glittered in her mind’s eye, ordinary experience appeared far below in the distance, in shadow, in the gaps between these peaks.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Related Symbols: “The big blue country”
Page Number: 150-151
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 12 Quotes

Emma was just like any other mistress; and the charm of novelty, falling down slowly like a dress, exposed only the eternal monotony of passion, always the same forms and the same language. He did not distinguish, this man of such great expertise, the differences of sentiment beneath the sameness of their expression.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary, Rodolphe Boulanger
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:

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And yet, in the immensity of this future that she conjured for herself, nothing specific stood out: the days, each one magnificent, were as near alike as waves are.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary, Rodolphe Boulanger
Related Symbols: “The big blue country”
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 14 Quotes

Whenever she went to kneel at her Gothic prie-dieu, she called upon her Lord in the same sweet words she had once murmured to her lover, in the raptures of adultery. It was meant to arouse faith, but no delectation descended from on high.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

For now she knew the pettiness of the passions that art exaggerates.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 3, Chapter 1 Quotes

…for that was how they wanted it to have been, each of them now devising for the other an ideal rearrangement of their past. Language is indeed a machine that continually amplifies the emotions.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary, Léon Dupuis
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

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Was she serious in saying such things? Doubtless Emma herself had no real idea, being quite taken up with the charm of the seduction and the necessity of resisting it.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary, Léon Dupuis
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 3, Chapter 5 Quotes

He admired the exaltation of her soul and the lace on her skirts.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary, Léon Dupuis
Page Number: 247
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 3, Chapter 6 Quotes

But, if there were somewhere a strong and beautiful creature, a valiant nature full of passion and delicacy … What an impossibility! Nothing, anyway, was worth that great quest; it was all lies! Every smile concealed the yawn of boredom, every joy a malediction, every satisfaction brought its nausea, and even the most perfect kisses only leave upon the lips a fantastical craving for the supreme pleasure.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 264
Explanation and Analysis:

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Emma was recovering in adultery the platitudes of marriage.

Related Characters: Emma Bovary
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:

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Emma Bovary Character Timeline in Madame Bovary

The timeline below shows where the character Emma Bovary appears in Madame Bovary. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2
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...an old widower named Monsieur Rouault, who lives on a large farm with his daughter Emma. Charles easily sets the simple fracture, admiring, in the meantime, the daughter’s white nails, lovely... (full context)
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...girl to no end. Charles agrees to stop visiting Les Bertaux, but he thinks about Mademoiselle Rouault all the more. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
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One day, Charles comes to Les Bertaux when only Emma is at home. He watches her sew gracefully in the afternoon light. She asks him... (full context)
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Charles resolves to ask for Emma’s hand in marriage, but never seems to find the courage. When Charles visits at Michaelmas,... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
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Emma had wanted to have a small, romantic wedding by candlelight, but her father insists on... (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... (full context)
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Charles is infatuated with Emma and feels nothing but perfect bliss. He is in love, he is sexually gratified, and... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6
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This chapter tells the story of Emma’s upbringing. Even as a young girl, she reads romantic stories like Paul et Virginie, which... (full context)
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When Emma’s mother dies, Emma mourns her by crying and making a keepsake from her hair. Emma... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7
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Emma wonders why her honeymoon period isn’t bringing her happiness, and concludes that her home is... (full context)
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Charles, on his end, is endlessly amazed and awed by all of Emma’s small habits and accomplishments. He delights in her amateurish piano-playing and sketching, and takes pride... (full context)
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Emma tries to rouse herself to passion with poetry and moonlight, but she remains indifferent to... (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... (full context)
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Emma dresses beautifully for dinner, crossly warning Charles not to try to dance with her. She... (full context)
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Emma notices peasants at the windows looking in at the brilliant scene, and remembers her own... (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... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9
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Emma often examines the cigar case, breathes its expensive smell, and imagines that it was given... (full context)
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Emma hires a new maid, an obedient young girl named Félicité whom she trains to behave... (full context)
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A year passes, and Emma becomes increasingly bored and desperate for some sort of change. She is too depressed to... (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... (full context)
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...yellow carriage called a Hirondelle. The carriage is late, because it stopped to look for Madame Bovary ’s missing greyhound. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2
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...to the newcomers and asks to join them for dinner. A young blond man watches Emma as she warms herself by the fire: it is another one of the inn’s regulars,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
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...spends the following day waiting expectantly for dinner. He is thrilled by his conversation with Emma – his first long conversation with a lady. He is well-educated but shy, and he... (full context)
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...he has no patients as yet, and he is worried about the family’s growing expenses. Emma’s many extravagant purchases, and now this difficult move, have finished off her entire dowry. But... (full context)
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However, Emma gives birth to a girl. After long deliberation she names her Berthe, after some aristocratic... (full context)
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Some time after the birth, Emma goes out to the nurse’s house to visit the child. She runs into Léon on... (full context)
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On their way home, Emma notices Léon’s fine hair and fingernails, which he cares for very conscientiously – it is... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4
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Emma spends much of her day observing passers-by. With a shadowy feeling, twice a day she... (full context)
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Léon gives Emma some cactuses, which are fashionable at the moment, and during the evenings they watch each... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
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...Sunday, the Bovarys, the Homais family, and 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.... (full context)
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The next day, Emma has a visit from Lheureux, the draper (or wholesaler), who offers to bring her any... (full context)
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Léon visits Emma, but the awkwardness of their situation leaves them with little to say. She is quietly... (full context)
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Underneath, though, Emma is miserable and angry, and “filled with lust” for Léon. Her pleasure in her purity... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
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One spring evening, Emma sits dreaming about her girlhood days in the convent. She walks to the church and... (full context)
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When Emma comes home, Berthe tries to play with her, but Emma pushes her away so meanly... (full context)
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...and asks him to find out about ordering a daguerreotype – he wants to surprise Emma with a little romantic gesture. Léon, meanwhile, is growing weary of unrequited love and of... (full context)
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The day of his departure, he comes to say goodbye to Emma. They stand there, silent and flushed, full of feeling. He admires her one last time... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 7
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The next day, Emma feels confused and desolate. Her feeling of loss resembles her longing for Vaubyessard. In absentia,... (full context)
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One day, when Emma spits blood, Charles writes his mother for advice. The elder Madame Bovary thinks books and... (full context)
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One day, Emma notices a man in a green velvet coat walking through the square. She overhears his... (full context)
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Rodolphe talks to Emma a little bit afterwards. She tells him that she has never had a fainting fit,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 8
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...day of the agricultural show has arrived, and the town is in a pleasant tumult. Emma is walking arm in arm with Monsieur Rodolphe, who is admiring her inscrutable profile. They... (full context)
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...arrives to say that the county prefect will not be attending the show. Rodolphe takes Emma to the empty town hall, so that they can observe the festivities in private. The... (full context)
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Rodolphe continues to talk imploringly of love. As Emma looks at him, noting the color of his eyes and the smell of his hair,... (full context)
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...She is stunned by the crowd, and barely manages to receive her award. Rodolphe takes Emma home, thinking intensely about her beauty and charm. The town celebrates the end of the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 9
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Rodolphe keeps away from Emma for six weeks, to stoke her interest. Finally he comes to visit, explaining that he... (full context)
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Charles walks in, and Rodolphe suggests that horseback-riding might improve Emma’s health. Charles readily agrees, and Rodolphe offers Emma one of his horses. When Rodolphe leaves,... (full context)
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Emma and Rodolphe go riding the following day. They ride through the countryside and into the... (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 for work,... (full context)
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Emma and Rodolphe begin to see one another on a regular basis, meeting in a hut... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10
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Soon, Emma herself begins to worry about her reputation – not because she cares about the townspeople’s... (full context)
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Since Emma is already so obviously devoted to him, Rodolphe stops taking care to woo and flatter... (full context)
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One day, Emma receives a sweet and lonely letter from her father, along with his yearly gift –... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
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Soon, Emma has the opportunity to try and change her feelings. Homais wants Yonville to become more... (full context)
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...writes a grandiose article describing the operation’s certain success and praising the miracles of science. Emma, that evening, manages to feel some tenderness for her husband, now that he might become... (full context)
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...and amputates Hippolyte’s leg the following day. Charles sits at home, ashamed and horrified, and Emma watches him with a mixture of contempt and self-pity. (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 disgust. That... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12
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From then on, Emma and Rodolphe are more closely bound than ever before. One day, she mentions that he... (full context)
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Emma spends a lot of money on maintaining her looks, and on the many pairs of... (full context)
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One day, Lheureux shows up unexpectedly with a large bill that Emma cannot pay. Lheureux gets annoyed and threatens to ask Charles for the riding-whip. In this... (full context)
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...him exactly like those of other women. He responds by becoming harsh and domineering, and Emma yields to him with anesthetized, sleepy pleasure. (full context)
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...begs him run away with her; somehow, in the charm of the moment, he agrees. Emma becomes more beautiful than ever, blooming “like flowers that have manure, rain, wind, and sun.” (full context)
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...often about his daughter’s bright future, her school-days, her adolescence, and their happy life together. Emma dreams of her escape into a vague romantic land full of pleasure. She asks Lheureux... (full context)
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...finally arrives. The night before, they meet and agree on a number of final details; Emma is wildly affectionate, and Rodolphe is hollowly obliging. As he watches her leave, he decides... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 13
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At home, Rodolphe looks for some memento of Emma. He keeps a tin full of old love-letters and miniatures, and as he looks through... (full context)
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The next morning, his servant delivers the letter to Emma in a basket of apricots. When she reads the letter, she is angry and delirious,... (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 is stealing from him, and... (full context)
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Emma gets better very slowly, and after meeting several times with the village priest she takes... (full context)
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The Homais family visits often. Justin falls in love with Emma, little by little, but Emma doesn’t notice. One day, Homais suggests to Charles that Emma... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15
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Emma is enchanted by the bustle of the theater and by its more aristocratic attendees. She... (full context)
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Charles goes to get Emma some water and runs into Léon, recently returned from Paris. When Emma sees Léon, she... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
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...he didn’t really get caught up in the hedonism of the city. He thought of Emma often, in the three years that passed, but the memory of her slowly faded. Now,... (full context)
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The day after the performance, he visits Emma at her hotel. They talk about their boredom and misery, but they don’t tell each... (full context)
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...She agrees to meet him the following morning at a nearby cathedral. After he leaves, Emma writes him a very long letter cancelling their meeting, but since she does not know... (full context)
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...cathedral early. He is full of joy, but the attendant is meddlesome and irritating, and Emma is late. When she finally comes in, she ignores Léon and begins to pray, which... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2
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Later that evening, Emma returns to Yonville. the driver of the coach tells her to go to the pharmacist’s... (full context)
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...at home, and she feels a bit guilty when he kisses her hello. Over dinner, Emma thinks mainly of her own boredom. Hippolyte brings in her luggage, tapping painfully with his... (full context)
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The elder Madame Bovary arrives the next day, and they plan the funeral. Emma is annoyed by this distraction – she wants only to think of her new affair.... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3
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Emma and Léon spend three days together in a hotel, only leaving the room in the... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4
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...anything 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... (full context)
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Emma continues to buy all sorts of clothes and furnishings from Lheureux. She also suddenly takes... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
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Every Thursday morning, Emma takes the coach to Rouen to see Léon at a hotel. Léon is awed by... (full context)
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Emma takes the coach back Thursday night. On the way back to Yonville, the coach often... (full context)
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One day, Charles tells Emma that he ran into her piano teacher, who told him that she has no student... (full context)
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One day, Lheureux sees Emma and Léon coming out of a hotel. Three days later, Lheureux comes to subtly blackmail... (full context)
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Emma uses most of the money to pay off three earlier bills, but one final bill... (full context)
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Emma becomes extravagant in her efforts to dramatize her love with Léon, to draw as much... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 6
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...in a café. As a result, Léon is hours late for his weekly meeting with Emma. When Léon finally gets away from Homais and comes to the hotel, Emma is furious.... (full context)
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By then, Emma has left. She walks through the streets, angrily thinking of her lover’s defects. The affair... (full context)
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One day, Emma receives a legal notice requiring that she pay a debt to Monsieur Vinçart, to whom... (full context)
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...tries to teach Berthe to read, and plays with her when she misses her mother. Emma ignores her child and spends all her time and money on Léon. The clerk, meanwhile,... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 7
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...Charles is out, the bailiff and two other men take inventory of the Bovary house. Emma travels to Rouen the following morning to try to take a loan from one of... (full context)
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Homais rides the coach back to Yonville with Emma. They see the beggar with the infected eyelids, and Homais prescribes him expensive foods and... (full context)
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The next morning, Emma notices a sign announcing that her things are to be auctioned off. Her maid advises... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 8
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Emma rushes over to La Huchette, and finds Rodolphe sitting by the fire. He is moderately... (full context)
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Emma thinks wildly about her past, tottering under the strain of anxiety. She can think only... (full context)
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When Charles had come home, devastated by news of his financial ruin, Emma had been out. He is relieved when she comes home, though she offers no explanations.... (full context)
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...her daughter, who is scared by her changed appearance. One doctor comes, then the other; Emma takes an emetic and begins suffering even more. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9
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...promised him. Homais tells the man he is busy. He also spreads the rumor that Emma died by accidentally using arsenic instead of sugar in a pudding. (full context)
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At first Charles does not want to bury Emma, but finally Homais and the priest persuade him. Charles decides that Emma should be buried... (full context)
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The next day, the elder Madame Bovary and the innkeeper prepare Emma’s body for the funeral. They think she looks beautiful in her wedding dress. When they... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 10
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Emma’s stricken father comes to Yonville for the funeral. Hippolyte is there, wearing his “best new... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 11
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...people come after Charles for money, but he refuses to sell anything that belonged to Emma. Lheureux pesters him with bills, the piano-teacher who never gave any lessons demands six months... (full context)
Causes, Appearances, and Boredom Theme Icon
Some time later Charles finds Rodolphe’s last letter to Emma, but he forces himself to interpret it as a letter of friendship. He soon has... (full context)
Abstraction, Fantasy, and Experience Theme Icon
Love and Desire Theme Icon
One day, Charles looks inside a secret compartment in Emma’s desk. He finds a large stack of love letters from Léon and Rodolphe. He stops... (full context)
Abstraction, Fantasy, and Experience Theme Icon
Causes, Appearances, and Boredom Theme Icon
Truth, Rhetoric, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...Charles dead in the garden. Berthe is sent, penniless, to her grandmother. Soon the elder Madame Bovary dies, too, and Berthe goes to live with a poor aunt and starts work in... (full context)