From then on, Emma and Rodolphe are more closely bound than ever before. One day, she mentions that he might rescue her from her suffering – 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.”
Emma’s preoccupation with appearances and her love for abstract ideals are basically at odds with one another – a contradiction that forms the ground for her suffering. Here, she finds a little peace by resting fully on appearances.
Emma spends a lot of money on maintaining her looks, and on the many pairs of boots she ruins running through the mud to La Huchette. She even buys Rodolphe an expensive riding-whip, along with other fine presents. She gets most of these things from Lheureux, who never 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 one. When he gets used to wearing a false leg, Hippolyte returns to his old job at the inn.
Emma decides to fix Charles’s failure by concealing the evidence of that failure – the missing leg. She is very pleased with herself for this superficial mending. She does not have enough imagination or conscience to realize that she is in large part responsible for Hippolyte’s awful suffering and loss. He is a sort of moving cardboard figure to her, so to her the appearance of wellness is not meaningfully distinct from actual wellness.
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 way, he subtly blackmails Emma and lets her know he has guessed at her affair. In desperation, she pays off Lheureux by taking money behind Charles’ back.
Emma would not want to be a dishonest, thieving person. But her preoccupation with appearances allows her to see herself just as others see her. Since her dishonesty is kept secret, she remains pristine in her own eyes, because they look through the eyes of others.
Meanwhile, she becomes ever more dramatic and demanding with Rodolphe. He dislikes her expressions of love, because they seem to him exactly like those of other women. He responds by becoming harsh and domineering, and Emma yields to him with anesthetized, sleepy pleasure.
Emma’s words and actions resemble those of other women, so to Rodolphe Emma is indistinguishable from them. Rodolphe does not know that she has a self, anxious and unexpressed, just as Emma does not know Charles’s.
One evening, she is especially childish and despairing. She gives Rodolphe a sign to come to the house, and 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.”
Emma is like a flower because she is made of manure and sun, the vulgar and the sublime. She is also like a flower because her solipsism, her total disconnection from others, stops her from truly entering the human world.
Charles dreams 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 to find her a travelling cloak and several bags.
Charles’s dreams are full of warm, precise detail, of life as it really is. Emma’s dreams are full of blue emptiness. She tries to imagine a reality made of abstraction, and as a result she imagines a pleasing nothingness.
Rodolphe keeps pushing back their departure date, but several months later it 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 finally that the plan is absurd.
Rodolphe initially agrees to run away with Emma because he is distracted by his real affection for her. His emotional life struggles under his cynicism like grass under concrete. Cynicism is stronger.