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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 4

Summary

In this chapter, the wedding takes place, and "all relatives on both sides had been invited" to the celebration. After the ceremony, the bridal couple, along with a band of well-wishers, make their way from the mayor's office to the church on foot. The sumptuous wedding feast is laid in a cart-shed. In the midst of all this joy and merry-making is Charles' mother, who is upset because "she had not been consulted about the bride's dress, nor about the feast."

The lively description of the wedding celebration is given in great detail and reflects the social status of the characters. The guests who attend are a mixed lot, ranging from the prosperous to the not- so-well-to-do. It is obvious that for many people this a special occasion calling for special clothing. The men are dressed according to their wealth, wearing dress-coats, frock-coats, waistcoats, or jackets. Many ladies are wearing new dresses, tailored to the prevailing style of the day. For many of the children, it is the first time for them to wear boots or gloves.

After the wedding night, Charles appears to be a renewed man, while Emma appears just as innocent and demure as she did before the marriage. When the couple arrives in Tostes two days later, the neighbors gather in their windows to see the doctor's new wife. The maid suggests to Emma that she should look over the house once dinner is ready.


Notes

Flaubert's ability to write commendable and powerful descriptions is clearly seen in this chapter. The wedding feast is described with careful detail. While contributing little to plot development, the chapter does much to further develop the characters. The resentful attitude of Charles' mother is in keeping with her desire to control everything, especially her son's life. She cannot stand it that her new daughter-in-law does not depend on her for guidance. Her animosity also foreshadows the mutual distrust with which these two women are to regard each other in future. Emma's continued "innocence" after the wedding night, in contrast to Charles' invigorated state, seems to hint that she has not found sexual relations with her husband as satisfying as he has with her. This dissatisfaction foreshadows some of Emma's future need to find sexual relationships outside of her marriage.

Flaubert gives a humorous touch to the marriage celebration by describing the ways in which the simple country folk try to imitate their town cousins. But hard work is a way of life for these people, and they cannot easily leave it behind. As a result, the gentlemen arriving for the celebration do not hesitate to unharness the carriages themselves, even though they are dressed in their best finery. Flaubert also presents the traditions of the village community with the wedding itself becoming a communal event.

It is important to notice Charles' neighbors who stare out the window at the newlyweds upon their return to Tostes. They seem to be a somewhat nosy group, indicating it will not be easy for Emma to be secretive about her actions or behavior.

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