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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 5

Summary

The house is described in great detail: the wallpaper, the curtains and the bookshelves all contribute to the "feel" of the place. Emma does not seem to mind that the garden is not very remarkable; it is the bedroom that she examines eagerly. When she notices Héloïse's bridal bouquet, she muses morbidly about the possibility of her own death. Emma spends the next few days changing the house to suit her tastes, and Charles indulges her every whim. He buys her a second-hand carriage so that she can drive out on her own.

Charles is ecstatic over his new found happiness with Emma. "A meal together, a walk along the highroad in the evening, a way she had of putting her hand to her hair, the sight of her straw hat hanging on the window latch, and a great many things besides, in which Charles had never thought to find pleasure, now made up the even tenor of his happiness." He treasures every moment with Emma.

While Charles luxuriates in his love for his wife, Emma quickly grows tired of her husband and married life. She had dreamed of "bliss," "passion," and "ecstasy," a far cry from what she has found with Charles.

Notes

This chapter masterfully contrasts Charles' joy with marriage to Emma's boredom, and Flaubert successfully captures her gloomy mood. Charles' house, with its bleak furnishings, depresses Emma. She is particularly bothered by the bedroom, where she spies Héloïse's bridal bouquet and is forced to think about her own mortality; it is a clear foreshadowing of Emma's own early death. The chapter ends on a note of discord. Emma is slowly beginning to realize the difference between her fanciful expectations of marriage and the unromantic reality that it actually offers.


In total contrast to his wife's boredom with marriage, Charles is delighted about everything. He obviously idolizes Emma, and every little thing about her is special to him - the way she puts her hand to hair and leaves her straw hat on the window shelf. He has never felt so happy. As a result, he does everything he can materially to please his wife. He buys her a carriage so she can go out on her own, and he allows her to redecorate the house. The alterations that she makes in their dwelling are more than an attempt to render it more pleasant in appearance; it is an effort on her put to establish her own authority over the place. Charles does not mind. In fact, he is so immersed in his own contentment with married life that he fails to notice the disillusionment that is creeping over Emma.

Charles is a naïve husband who thinks that a few material indulgences are enough to satisfy a wife. He makes no effort to understand Emma's need for companionship and conversation. He ignores her romanticism and does nothing to satisfy her passions. Although Emma is guilty of many sins during the course of the novel, some of the blame must be placed on Charles. He never considers whether his wife is comfortable or happy; he just assumes that she is since he is.

Besides Emma's gloomy thoughts about death early in the chapter, there are other significant things to note in here that will become important later on. Emma's main concern in the house is the bedroom with its romantic and sexual connotations; throughout the book, Emma will have a preoccupation with her own sexuality. Ironically, the thing she most notices in this particular bedroom is the dead bouquet of flowers belonging to a dead wife. Also significant is the fact that Charles buys his wife a carriage, which gives her the freedom that she will need to pursue her own desires. The fact that he allows Emma to have her way about practically everything spoils her to the point that she will later borrow whatever she needs to get what she wants, causing financial disaster for the pair.

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