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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 8

Summary

La Vaubyessard is a sprawling mansion located on a scenic stretch of land. Emma is taken in by the grandeur of the place and the people who have gathered there. Flaubert describes the dinner scene in vivid detail and through Emma's eyes.

As Emma prepares for the ball, she discourages her husband from attempting to dance and repulses his attempts to kiss her, on the grounds that he will crumple her dress. At the ball, she is in her romantic dream and eagerly drinks in all the glamour and conversation that the night has to offer. When a Viscount asks Emma to dance with him, she is thrilled. In fact, the entire evening is wonderful to her. Back in her room after the dance, Emma strains to "keep awake and so prolong the spell of this luxurious life she must so soon abandon."

After breakfast the following morning, the Bovarys leave for Tostes. On the way back, while stopping to adjust the harness, Charles spies a cigar case and picks it up. Finding a few cigars in it, he decides to pocket it. Back at home, Emma scornfully watches as the unworldly Charles struggles to smoke a cigar. When he leaves the room, she picks up the cigar case and hides it at the back of the cupboard. She also flies into a temper and dismisses the maid. Emma is obviously not pleased to be home. As the trip to La Vaubyessard is distanced from her memory, "some of the details vanished, but her yearning for it all remained."


Notes

For once fantasy and reality merge in Emma's life at the La Vaubyessard ball. Ironically, she gets the chance to rub shoulders with nobility through her lowly husband, who has treated the Marquis as a patient. When she compares Charles to the noble men at the ball, she finds her husband to be clumsy, boring and incapable of mixing with high society. Ironically, no one, except the one Viscount, takes much notice of Emma. She is obviously not a part of this wealthy society that is characterized by snobbery. She thinks, however, that she fits in well and believes she is entitled to better things than what Charles can offer her. Although Emma is firmly rooted in her middle-class, country origins, she will try to move upward socially throughout the novel. Flaubert explains that "her heart was like that. Contact with riches had left upon it a coating that would never wear off."

Upon her return to the reality of her life in Tostes, Emma is reminded of its contrast to the Marquis' mansion and doubly disappointed with her own miserable existence. She is repulsed when she sees her uncouth husband struggling to smoke a cigar; as a result, she hides the cigar case that Charles found on the way home from the ball. Later, Emma will look upon the case as a reminder of the time spent at La Vaubyessard.

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