This chapter provides the details of Emma's life up to her marriage. At the age of thirteen she became a boarder at a convent in the city of Rouen. She was a quick student and enjoyed life in the convent. The mysticism of the church appealed to her romantic temperament which was "more sentimental than artistic." An old spinster wash lady at the convent who had been a member of the aristocracy before the Revolution enthralled the girls with tales of the past and provided them with novels featuring romantic tales set in exotic locales. Emma took quickly to the notions in the novels. The idyllic pictures of heartsick maidens pining for their lovers deeply affected her. After her mother died she mourned profusely but gradually found that her sadness was contrived. Although she had initially loved the convent and the trappings of religious life she balked at the discipline and neither she nor the nuns were too disappointed when she left the school. She quickly tired of life on her father's farm, however, and when Charles appeared she thought her chance for true romantic happiness had arrived. The drab reality of the little house in Tostes, however, fails to match her idea of romance.
As their marriage progresses Emma's feeling of detachment from her husband grows greater. She feels that a man should have all the answers to life and be experienced in a wide variety of things but she discerns that Charles is complacent, boring and uninterested in culture. He takes his wife's happiness for granted and she secretly resents this. To compensate she draws pictures, plays the piano and runs the household with meticulous care. Charles' mother disapproves of her new daughter-in-law's extravagances and Charles finds himself frequently caught between the mother he respects and the wife that he loves. Because Charles never expresses any deep emotions Emma concludes that his love is nothing out of the ordinary. She receives an Italian greyhound bitch as a gift from one of Charles' patients and she takes the dog, which she names Djali, on long walks. The sum of her thoughts during these excursions is: "Why did I ever marry?' She imagines that if she had waited longer to marry a more suitable man would have come into her life. Late in September Emma and Charles receive and invitation to attend a party at La Vaubyessard, home of the Marquis d'Andervilliers. The marquis had suffered from an abscess that Charles successfully treated and, noticing that Bovary's wife is pretty, the marquis determined that they could safely be invited to a gathering of their betters. So on the day of the party Charles and Emma load their carriage with boxes of clothing and journey to the estate. They arrive at sunset.
At the marquis' new Italian-styled chateau the marquis leads Emma into the room where the marquise and some other ladies are sitting. The marquise talks to Emma easily and with kindness. The dinner is opulent and the service immaculate. The marquis' senile father-in-law sits at the head of the table. He is rumored to have been one of Marie-Antoinette's lovers. Despite the old man's grotesque appearance and poor manners Emma is thrilled to be in his presence. After dinner the ladies retire to prepare for the ball. Emma laughs at Charles when he informs her of his intention to dance and she dances several quadrilles with other partners. The men occupy themselves at the gaming tables but Charles is unable to make sense of the games. Scattered among them are the true blue-bloods who bear the marks of breeding - fine clothes, fine complexions and world weary countenances. Emma overhears a couple discussing the merits of travel in Italy. As the night progresses Emma is overcome by the glamour of the party but Charles is half asleep against a door. At 3am the band begins a waltz. Although she has never danced a waltz Emma accepts the invitation of a man whom everyone refers to as "vicomte". She is awkward on the floor and out of breath she leans her head against his chest. Later in their room Charles falls immediately asleep but Emma remains awake, leaning on the windowsill and pondering all she has experienced at the party. The next morning she and Charles dine with the remaining guests and then depart. On their way home they pass several groups of revelers and Charles finds a dropped cigar case bearing a crest still containing some cigars. At home Emma is enraged to discover that Nastasie does not have dinner ready and fires the old woman on the spot. After dinner Charles tries one of the cigars but the smoke makes him sick. Emma takes the cigar case and hides it in her closet. Though the specific details of the ball fade in Emma's memory the yearning for the glamour of that night does not abate.
Emma ponders over the ornate cigar case. She imagines that it was made for the vicomte by one of his lovers and that he is now in Paris. She envies anyone going to Paris including the fishmongers who pass beneath her window every morning. She buys a map of Paris and memorizes every line. She subscribes to women's magazines and she fantasizes about the lives of the royal ladies. "Everything immediately surrounding her," observes the narrator, "seemed to her the exception rather than the rule." She comes to believe that the only thing lacking in her life are the proper surroundings. She hires a fourteen-year-old country girl named Flicit to be her new maid and instructs the girl in the manner of serving royalty. Charles' practice prospers and though he spends countless days engaged in the dirty, mundane work of medicine he returns home to find a well-ordered house. Emma, however, is secretly aggravated that her husband seems to have no professional ambition save maintaining his current status. She finds that even his slightest mannerisms annoy her. She waits in vain for something exciting to happen. She becomes chronically depressed. Eventually she lets the details of the household lag and Charles' mother is surprised to find that her daughter-in-law has lapsed into lethargy and idleness. Charles, alarmed at his wife's fading vigor, resolves to relocate his practice. He secures a position in the market town of Yonville-l'Abbaye. While packing to leave Emma finds her wedding bouquet and throws it in the fire. When they depart for their new home she is pregnant.
Analysis of Chapters 6-9
The details of Emma's life in the convent and her attraction to novels mark her as a romantic whose outer life will never seem as full as her inner life. Her marriage to Charles is the first in a series of change for change's sake that she will make in her life. Though she tries, in her way, to make the best of her life in Tostes she is ultimately disappointed. Significantly she names her dog after Esmeralda's pet goat in Victor Hugo's great work of romanticism Notre Dame de Paris. Her outings with the dog are part of her search for a way out of her present predicament but, lacking any solution, she is left only with regret. This feeling is exacerbated by her experience at the ball where she is given a glimpse into the world of the aristocracy. Because she is blind to all but outward appearances she fails to consider that the inner life of the aristocrats might be as full of disappointment as her own. Thus, she is thrilled to be in the presence of the Marquis' disgusting father-in-law simply because he was rumored to have a colorful past. Similarly, she is enthralled by the conversation of the travelers and fails to comprehend that they are bored. Upon her return to Tostes she cannot escape the impression of the ball and, symbolized by the cigar case, she holds to it and imbues it with romantic hues. Her chronic unhappiness eventually affects her health. Charles correctly believes that his wife requires a change. When Emma throws her bouquet on the fire she is symbolically breaking ties with her dedication to her marriage and preparing herself for whatever opportunities to escape that arise.
Madame Bovary: Novel Summary: Part I - Chapter 6 - 9