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CHAPTER 7

After Leon leaves, Emma feels as if she's in mourning. She replays in her mind all their joyous moments together-the walks along the river, afternoons in the garden, and so on. She realizes that his company was the only real pleasure in her life, and she curses herself for not seizing this happiness.

NOTE: INDIRECT NARRATION

The opening paragraphs of Chapter 7 that describe Emma's despair at the loss of Leon are a good example of the indirect narrative that Flaubert uses to reveal a character's thoughts without having the character speak in his or her own voice (first-person), and without making the narrator (third-person) appear to be directly commenting. Notice the skill with which he moves back and forth from the narrator to Emma. In a sentence like, "Ah! he was gone, the only charm of her life...." there is no evident narrator and yet Emma is not being quoted. In another sentence, "And she cursed herself for not having loved Leon," Emma's actions are described by the narrator who has taken over. The alternation of narratives is rhythmical and keeps a balance between action and thought. Though some readers complain that there's not enough action in Madame Bovary, others feel that the main story of the novel is what's happening inside Emma's head.

The intensity of Emma's love for Leon fades, but her depression and hatred for Charles remain. She tries to console herself by buying expensive clothing from Lheureux and by changing her hairstyle. She even attempts to read history and philosophy-a change from her usual diet of romance novels-but can't concentrate for more than a few pages. Charles, unaware of his wife's unhappiness, takes notice when she begins to spit blood. He writes his mother for advice and asks her to visit them. The elder Madame Bovary suggests that Emma has too much free time on her hands and advises her to go to work. Emma's worst offense, in her mind, is the fact that she spends her time reading novels. Considering the influence that her reading has on her, can you disagree with Charles' mother? Also, see if the theme of honest work as a solution comes up in other contexts. How many of the inhabitants of Yonville could be said to engage in honest work?


After Charles' mother leaves, Monsieur Rodolphe Boulanger de la Huchette, whose name indicates his aristocratic status, arrives at the Bovary household, asking Charles to bleed him since he feels "prickly all over."

NOTE:

During the nineteenth century, bleeding was thought to be a general cure for many ailments. As a child, Flaubert probably watched his father perform this procedure on his patients at the hospital in Rouen.

During the bloodletting, Justin, who's holding the basin, faints. When Rodolphe and Charles talk about fainting, Emma tries to impress them by saying that she's never fainted in her life. You know, however, that she fainted after learning that her child was a girl. Why do you think Emma tells this lie? Rodolphe is charmed by Emma and can't understand how a "clumsy oaf" like Charles ever managed to snare such an elegant wife. Rodolphe is thirty-four, a bachelor, and lives on a nearby estate. He's had a great many lovers and is known to be a good judge of women. After meeting her, he can tell how bored she is and imagines how pleasurable it would be to make love to Emma. His only worry, however, is that he won't be able to rid himself of her afterward. He begins to devise a plan to seduce her and concludes that the opening of the agricultural show will provide a good opportunity to see her again.

NOTE:

Though Leon never made love to Emma, he plays a crucial role in Emma's transition from marital fidelity to adultery. He helps prepare the way for her first real lover-Rodolphe. Whereas Leon was shy and hesitant, Rodolphe is experienced and dashing, like the brutal, passionate lovers that Emma envisions. He, in his turn, prepares the way for Emma's headlong return to an older and more hardened Leon, the second and last romance of Emma's life.

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