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The guests arrive at Charles and Emma's wedding from as far as twenty-five miles away. For a country wedding, it seems like a lavish affair. Flaubert's interest in concrete details can be seen in his intricate descriptions of the women in their city-style dresses, the men in tail coats, frock coats, and so on. Everyone has fun except for Charles' mother, who is angry about not being included in the wedding preparations. After two days of wedding parties, the young couple returns to Tostes.
Realism is often defined as an artistic representation that is visually accurate. Though Flaubert hated the term-and once declared that "it was in hatred of realism that I undertook this book"- he was a master at describing things clearly and accurately. His chief goal, however, was not to reproduce a photographically correct picture of life. He wanted to create a beautiful book (art) out of the trivial, often ugly, lives of mediocre people in a nondescript section of France. Flaubert rejected Realism as a literary style that reveled in detail for its own sake. But he used detail as the building blocks of his beautiful structure.
In a few paragraphs describing the wedding feast he portrays the spirit of social life in nineteenth-century provincial France. Though you're reading an English translation, see if Flaubert lives up to his ideal that every word must capture the essence of the thing being described. Read closely, for example, the paragraph about food; note the detail with which every aspect of the meal is described. Does the description of the food and other details tell you anything else about the wedding? About the characters? About the social setting?
Charles takes Emma to her new home, and Flaubert describes its contents in detail. To her horror, Emma finds Heloise's dried wedding bouquet, which Charles had carelessly left in the bedroom. This is the first indication that he will underestimate the intensity of his wife's emotions. After Charles removes this dead symbol of his first marriage that foreshadows the fate of his second, Emma wonders ominously what will become of her own bouquet after she dies. (In Chapter 9 the symbolism of the wedding bouquet will become more clear.)
Emma's disillusionment with Charles begins almost immediately. The feast, the wedding night, and the dead bouquet-everything seems to be going wrong. Her desire to make changes in the household is the first sign of that restlessness and desire for change that characterizes her dream-soaked nature and foreshadows trouble ahead.
Charles is infatuated with his wife and, in typical bourgeois style, sees her as a possession. But he has no curiosity about what's going on beneath the surface, what she's thinking and feeling, and whether she's truly happy. You catch a glimpse of the real Emma for the first time when Flaubert takes you into her mind. She had assumed she was in love with Charles before marrying him, but has not yet begun to experience the "bliss" or "ecstasy" which she has read about in the romantic novels. Love should bring happiness, and because she doesn't feel happy, she wonders if it was a mistake to marry Charles.