Emma spends much of her day observing passers-by. With a shadowy feeling, twice a 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. His assistant, Justin, comes to get him every night at eight. On Sundays, the Bovarys visit the Homais house for a sort of weekly party; the pharmacist is an unpleasant gossip, so few people attend. Léon never misses a Sunday, since it is his one chance to talk to Emma. Together, they look through picture books, read aloud to one another, and talk intimately.
As in Tostes, Emma is oppressed by the ordinariness and the regularity of her life. She understands it only as an abstraction in a bad book: it is a dull, provincial life with hardened patterns and little pleasure. She also understands her conversations with Léon abstractly: she thinks that they are refined and proper, and gesture toward a different sort of life. The aspiration toward a different sort of life is the true and only subject matter of their intimacy.
Léon gives Emma some cactuses, which are fashionable at the moment, and during the evenings they watch each other tending their window-gardens. Emma gives Léon an expensive striped rug, which further throws their friendship into public scrutiny. Léon desperately wants to declare his love, but he can never find the courage. Emma does not wonder whether she loves Léon, because she knows love must be sudden and intense, not soft and gradual.
Emma’s abstractions about love befuddle her to such an extent that she fails to notice her actual love. Abstraction predominates over reality, and nearly squashes it. But in this novel, love can survive even in barren conditions, with almost nothing to substantiate it. Love can be resilient, it can be shallow, but above all love is not anything in particular.