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CHAPTER 4

Emma spends the winter dreaming idly at her window. Life in Yonville, it seems, is no more interesting than life in Tostes, and the highlight of her day is a glimpse of Leon as he walks from his office to the inn. In the evenings, Homais visits while the Bovarys are eating dinner. Charles and the pharmacist discuss Charles' patients, and Homais tries to impress them with his knowledge of current events and politics.

Every Sunday, Charles and Emma attend a small gathering at the pharmacist's house. This is the major social event of the week. While Charles and Homais play dominoes, Emma and Leon turn the pages of the latest fashion magazines and recite poems to one another. Though there's an obvious bond between the two, Charles notices nothing improper.


NOTE:

Flaubert characterizes Charles as a person "little inclined to jealousy." It's one thing not to be jealous, but another to be blind to what's happening around you. Charles has so little understanding of his wife that he can't imagine she isn't completely happy with their marriage. Consequently, he can't see Leon or any other man as a threat. Blindness and an inability to communicate are two of the major themes of the novel. It might be interesting to take each of the major characters and see in what way they're afflicted with these two conditions.

From her window, Emma can see Leon tending his garden. She makes him a wool bedspread, and everyone in the town concludes that she must be his mistress. What do you think Emma has in mind by giving Leon this gift? Some readers feel that a bedspread is something a mother might give a son, not a gift between lovers. Other readers feel that the gift is Emma's attempt to publicize her feelings for Leon, and by so doing fly in the face of public opinion. Some regard the bedspread as a symbol of Emma's desire to make Leon's bed her own. Leon is confused by her act of generosity and tries to write letters to Emma declaring his love, but always tears them up.

NOTE:

Held in by the restraints of her time, as well as by her fears and inexperience, Emma is forced to communicate her emotions for Leon in symbolic words and gestures. Again, the window plays a role in highlighting her need to look beyond the stifling world of Yonville and Bovary. She wants something very deeply-love-but does not know how to attain it. At this point she is still a simple country girl with the potential for sophistication, but without the experience to act on her own desires. She is not even sure about them, since her reading has led her to believe that love comes suddenly "with great thunderclaps and flashes of lightning."

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