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Madame Bovary: Novel Summary: Part II - Chapter 11 - 13

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Chapter 11
Homais reads an article about an experimental surgical procedure to cure club foot. He convinces Emma and the rest of the village that it would bring them all prestige if Charles were to perform the surgery on Hippolyte, the stable boy. Hippolyte initially resists the idea but he eventually agrees to undergo the procedure. Charles instructs the blacksmith and the cabinet maker to construct the complicated box device to be fitted upon the leg after the operation. On the morning of the surgery Charles is very nervous but successfully cuts the Achilles tendon - according to the instructions in the article - and the operation is deemed a success. That evening, while Charles and Emma are basking in the glow of the success Homais arrives with an article he has written about the operation that flatters Charles. Five days later, however, Hippolyte is writhing in pain and when Homais and Bovary remove the wooden box they find that the skin is swollen and covered with bruises. They remove the box for a few hours but then determine to reapply it. Three days later the leg has turned gangrenous. Emma brings food for the suffering boy who is convalescing in the inn's billiard room where everyone from the travelers to the priest offers him advice. Finally Charles agrees that Monsieur Canivet, the celebrated surgeon in Neufachtel, should be called. Cavinet arrives and declares that the leg will need to be amputated. He upbraids and lectures Homais who suffers under the criticism but fails to defend Bovary. On the day of the amputation the whole town waits to hear the outcome. Charles, however, remains inside his dark house despondent and fearful of what effects the botched operation will have on his career. Emma sits with him and silently renews her conviction that he is worthless. She pities herself for being married to such a weak man. Charles asks his wife for a kiss and she vehemently refuses and rushes from the room leaving him baffled. That night Rodolphe finds Emma waiting for him, her passion renewed.
Chapter 12
Emma's hatred of Charles fuels her love for Rodolphe. She asks Rodolphe to take her away from her present life but he discounts her request as ridiculous and impossible. Emma works Flicit hard to keep the house and her clothes immaculate and Justin takes particular pleasure in spending time at the Bovary's while Flicit cleans Madame Bovary's things. Emma convinces Charles to purchase an expensive wooden leg for Hippolyte that proves too ornate for everyday use so Bovary purchases a modest one for him as well. The stable boy's clacking leg can be heard all over town. Emma establishes a regular relationship with Monsieur Lheureux and begins to order anything that strikes her fancy, including expensive gifts such as a silver-gilt riding crop for Rodolphe. When the bill comes due Emma is at a loss for money and Lheureux learns her secret when he gleans that the riding crop was not for Charles. Emma uses a large payment from one of Charles' patients to pay the merchant who seems disappointed to find that Emma has the funds. Rodolphe begins to tire of Emma and her constant demands for affection. He treats her as a sexual plaything. Over time Emma's passion for Rodolphe eclipses her sense of propriety and the village matrons begin to talk of her scandalous behavior. She is seen smoking a cigarette and wearing a man's tight fitting vest. Charles' mother, who comes for a visit at this time, is particularly alarmed by her daughter-in-law's behavior and the two quarrel violently. Charles begs Emma to apologize and she reluctantly agrees. After the apology she begs Rodolphe to rescue her from her life as a Bovary. He reluctantly consents to take her and Berthe away with him. Emma becomes exceedingly happy and everyone is astonished by the sudden change in her temperament. Charles begins to have hope for the future and imagines the happy life of his child. Emma, however, dreams of the impossibly romantic life she and Rodolphe will lead in some faraway land. She orders a cloak, trunk and overnight bag from Lheureux who surmises that she must be going on a trip. Rodolphe and Emma agree to elope in a month and they make plans for their departure. Rodolphe notices that she does not mention her daughter in the plans. When the time comes Rodolphe stalls for several weeks and finally settles on the fourth of September, a Monday, as the date. The Saturday before he visits her and they reaffirms their love for each other. Shortly after midnight he leaves with the words "Till tomorrow" but on his trip home he reminds himself that it would be too burdensome to follow through with the plan and consoles himself with the thought that she has been a pretty mistress.
Chapter 13
Back at his estate Rodolphe wants to write Emma a letter and for inspiration he begins to search through the box in which he keeps remembrances from his lovers. The copious articles serve only to confuse him and he becomes disgusted with the task. He writes her a letter in which he claims to be breaking off their relationship because their passion would have cooled with time and the shame of her situation would have eventually affected her. He blames fate for and explains that he will be going into exile. He signs the letter "Your Friend" and drops some water on it to substitute for tears. The next day his servant delivers the letter disguised in a fruit basket. Emma immediately senses that something horrible has happened and she ignores Charles who arrives home at that moment. She runs to the hot stuffy attic to read the letter. She opens the window and sunlight fills the room. She looks over the rooftops of the village and hears the monotonous grinding of Binet's lathe. She reads the letter and the world seems to collapse around her. She staggers to the open window and dares herself to throw her body from it and end her miserable life. As she stands there in a swoon she hears Charles calling for her and Flicit, touching her mistress' arm, tells her that the meal is ready. She joins her husband at the table and realizes that she has lost the letter. Charles tells her that he has heard that Monsieur Rodolphe is leaving on a trip and to her horror she sees her lover's carriage pass outside the door. She falls backward onto the floor and is unable to rise. With Homais' help the distraught Charles is able to resuscitate her and they carry her delirious to her bed. For forty-three days Charles remains by the side of his prostrate and silent wife. Finally her strength returns and one day in October he is able to take her for a walk in the garden. She complains of aches and pains. On top of these worries Charles begins to realize he is in financial trouble.
Analysis of Chapters 11-13
Emma loses all respect for Charles after the operation on Hippolyte's leg fails. Curiously, Charles performs the operation correctly but the procedure itself is flawed and those who were in favor of performing it - namely Homais and Emma - do not suffer as much as Charles. Rather, Emma's renewed hatred of Charles fuels her passion for Rodolphe and causes her to spend increasingly large amounts of her husband's money. As her passion increases Rodolphe's wanes. Although he has played the part of a romantic in order to seduce Emma, Rodolphe is ultimately a bourgeois realist and will not be burdened by the necessity of fleeing with his mistress and her child. The force of his power over her becomes evident when she is tempted to take her own life following his betrayal. The sound of Binet's lathe permeates this scene and though Emma is called back from the brink by the rather mundane domestic demand to dine her body cannot withstand the force of her emotions and she becomes physically ill and catatonic. Emma is unable to appreciate the depth of her husband's love, evidenced by his devotion during her illness, because it does not cohere with the violent and spontaneous emotions found in her novels.


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