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Madame Bovary: Novel Summary: Part II - Chapter 14 - 15

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Chapter 14
Not only has Charles been neglecting his practice but he is deeply in debt to Monsieur Homais for Emma's medicine. Also, Flicit in the role of mistress of the house has been overspending. Monsieur Lheureux is especially insistent upon being paid and at the height of Emma's illness delivers the cloak and bags she ordered. Eventually he convinces Charles to sign a six-month promissory note which he compounds by loaning him one thousand francs at six percent interest due in one year. Lheureux's fortunes are on the rise during this period and he looks forward to sapping the Bovary's for every franc he can. Although Charles despairs of raising so large a sum in one year's time he spends the severe winter doting on his sick wife. Emma's recovers slowly and settles into a monotonous routine. During the peak of her illness she sent for the priest for Communion and experienced a splendid vision of God. She became enchanted with religious symbols and wished for an emerald-studded reliquary. The abb Bournisien is pleased by her new religiosity but fears the extent of her passion borders on heresy. He sends for an assortment of books including some religious novels which Emma reads but finds lacking in any connection to the passions of the real world. She comes away convinced that "hers was the most exquisite Catholic melancholy that had ever entered an ethereal soul." She buries Rodolphe's memory deep inside her though it affects everything she does particularly her religious ardor. She becomes extravagantly charitable. Charles' mother arrives for an extended visit and is pleased at the changes in her daughter-in-law. Emma has many other visitors including the Homais children and Justin who, watching her comb her hair one day is overcome by new and marvelous feelings. That spring the abb stops by every afternoon for cider with Charles and sometimes Binet in the arbor. One day Homais proposes that Charles take Emma to the opera in Rouen to hear the famous singer Lagardy. To the pharmacist's surprise the abb does not object and this sparks a heated debate as to whether music or drama is considered more sinful by the church. Bovary is taken with the idea of the opera and convinces Emma that they should go. So on the appointed day they go to Rouen where Charles has arranged for a cheap hotel. He immediately sets out to procure the tickets, becomes confused by the arrangement of the seats and finally is so nervous about missing the beginning that when they arrive the theater doors are not yet open.
Chapter 15
When they finally enter the theater Emma is delighted to find they have box seats. She looks down upon the crowd of older men discussing business and younger men dressed in the height of fashion. The opera begins with a musical flourish and the curtain rises on a country scene. Emma is instantly transported back to the novels she read as a girl. The star, Edgar Lagardy, comes onto the stage and immediately captures the hearts of the audience who are unaware that he was something of a charlatan and self-promoter. The crowd obviously enjoys his bombastic performance. Charles cannot follow the story and Emma, to her annoyance, must continually explain the plot. Emma finds herself relating her own life to the story on the stage but reminds herself that real life passions are different from those portrayed in art. Toward the end of the first half, however, she is carried away by Edgar's performance and longs to be with him. When the curtain falls the odors of the theater and the stifling atmosphere suffocate her. Charles rushes to find some beverages. When he returns, after spilling half the drink on a woman's dress, he tells her that he has seen Monsieur Lon. Soon the young man joins them and Emma is immediately reminded of her former passion for the clerk. During the second half of the play she can only think of Lon and when he suggests that they leave the theater for some fresh air she readily assents. At an outdoor caf they sit and talk but soon run out of subjects that can be discussed in front of Charles. Charles insists that Emma stay in Rouen an extra day to see the end of the play. Lon quickly encourages her to do so but she does not commit. Lon pays for their drinks and promises to see them soon in Yonville.
Analysis of Chapters 14-15
In these chapters we learn that Monsieur Lheureux is bent upon squeezing every possible franc from the Bovary's through subtle manipulation and pretended favors. His greed knows no bounds. As before, the abb proves incapable of dealing with Emma's intense emotions and cannot fathom a conception of religion that stems from passion rather than principle. Emma's reaction to the theater proves that her experience with Rodolphe has taught her to temper her romanticism with some elements of realism - as when she reminds herself that art does not accurately convey the real world - but she is eventually swept away by the force of the performance. This momentary realization, which assault everything that she has spent her life believing - is her first step toward death. Immediately following the singer's powerful close to the first half the lights come on and she is left deflated by her real surroundings but Lon returns to her life and the theater and the play seems unimportant by comparison.


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