Madame Bovary Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Madame Bovary: Novel Summary: Part I - Chapter 3 - 5

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Chapter 3
When Monsieur Rouault visits Charles to pay his bill [with a famous mistake in Flaubert's logic he pays seventy francs in two-franc pieces] he consoles the young man for his recent loss and invites him to the farm. Charles resumes his visits to the farm and realizes that the bachelor life suits him. He finds that he is increasingly attracted to Emma whom he learns is bored of life on the farm and desires to live in a city. He asks her father for permission to marry her and Monsieur Rouault, who has anticipated the proposal, puts the question to his daughter. She accepts and Monsieur signals to Bovary waiting behind a hedge outside by slamming the shutters. Though Emma would have preferred a torch-lit midnight ceremony they arrange for a traditional ceremony and reception at the farm.
Chapter 4
All the relations from both families are invited to the wedding and Flaubert describes the country fashions that ranged from the First Communion dresses of the adolescent girls to the coats of varying lengths worn by the men. The wedding party and all the guests walk to the Mayor's office for the civil ceremony and then to the church and afterward they follow a hired violinist back to the farm. Monsieur Roulaut escorts the elder Madame Bovary while the elder Monsieur Bovary flirts with a country girl. The dining table is in the carriage shed and amply supplied with hearty country food, cider and wine. The wedding cake is an extravagant three tiered affair topped by real rosebuds. The banquet lasts past nightfall, full of music, dancing and displays of strength. Eventually many of the guests drunkenly made their way home while others stay up all night drinking in the kitchen. At his daughter's request Monsieur Roulaut manages to prevent some of his coarser relatives from engaging in the traditional wedding night pranks though one cousin nearly succeeds in spitting a mouthful of water through the keyhole of the bridal chamber. The following day Emma seems unaffected by her lost virginity while Charles is obviously smitten with the girl. Two days later Emma and Charles travel to Tostes where the elderly maid greets them and offers Madame a tour of her new home.
Chapter 5
The small house in Tostes is comfortable and modestly furnished. The front of the house is flush with the street and a narrow garden extends to the rear. Upstairs Emma discovers the previous Madame Bovary's wedding bouquet sitting in the master bedroom. Charles carries the bouquet to the attic and Emma wonders what will become of her own bouquet if she dies. In the following days Emma makes small changes to the house's decor and Charles purchases a second-hand buggy. Charles is perfectly happy now that Emma has come to live with him and he takes pleasure in the smallest routines of daily life. Emma wonders why she hasn't yet experienced true happiness. Words like "bliss", "passion", and "rapture" that hold so much meaning in novels seem impossibly distant in her life with Charles.
Analysis of Chapters 3-5
Heoise Bovary's death clears the way for Charles to court Emma which he does in a very stilted and indirect fashion. We have no knowledge of her initial reaction to the proposal and only know as much as Charles who sees the shutters flapping against the house to signal acceptance. Small hints during these chapters indicate the difference in sentiment between Charles and Emma that will eventually lead to disaster for both. Emma would like a torch-lit ceremony but settles for a standard wedding. We can surmise that the wedding itself, full of drinking and carousing and country sensibilities, is not to her complete satisfaction because she requests that none of the traditional pranks be permitted. The true indication of the couple's incapability is Emma's apathy on the morning after and Charles' obviously augmented affection. This is typical of the gender reversals that will come to characterize Emma's relationships with men. Though she longed for a life in the city the village of Tostes is Emma's new home and she is already pondering thoughts of death in the fate of her bouquet. Though she tries to make the best of the situation it is obvious that she is not satisfied. The end of this chapter begins the process of winnowing in on Emma's interior world - a process that will continue over the course of the novel.


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