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

Summary

With winter setting in, Emma develops the habit of sitting in the parlor by the window, watching the passers-by. This way she sees Leon quite often. She also sees Homais, who makes frequent visits to the Bovarys' house. He engages Charles in political and journalistic discussions and speaks with Emma about recipes. During dinner, it is invariably Homais who speaks the most. The Bovarys also attend Homais' Sunday evening gatherings. Emma plays cards with Homais, while Leon advises her. When Homais is busy entertaining the doctor, Leon and Emma discuss fashion and poetry. Their mutual interest in "books and ballads" creates a bond between them. Charles, who is not of a jealous disposition, sees nothing odd in their relationship.

Emma gives Leon a rug, a gesture that causes gossip throughout the town. Leon does not know how to handle his feelings for Emma. Her very presence makes him indecisive. He cannot guess whether expressing himself would help or harm his case. Emma, on the other hand, is blissfully unaware of her own feelings for Leon.

Notes

In this chapter, Flaubert sets the stage for the relationship of Emma and Leon to progress. Leon is enamored with Emma, but does not know how to convey his feelings to her. He also worries about the consequences his relationship with Emma will have. Still, Leon cannot keep her off his mind and is constantly talking about her "charms and her wit." Monsieur Binet, who shares Leon's lodgings, is sick of Leon's constant references the young lady.


Emma also causes people to react to her. When she gives Leon a gift, it causes a minor scandal in Yonville, and people begin to wonder if she is Leon's mistress. In this nineteenth century society, a married woman must only seek fulfillment within the bounds of marriage; even a casual friendship with a man provokes a negative societal response. Ironically, at this point in the book, Emma is unaware of her own growing attachment to Leon. For her, love "must come suddenly, with thunder and lightning, a hurricane from on high that swoops down into your life and turns it topsy-turvy, snatches away your will-power like a leaf, hurls you heart and soul into the abyss." Flaubert intentionally overdoes Emma's idealism in a satiric manner to drive home the point that it is futile to be as romantic as she is. It really becomes a plea on the author's part for rationalism and realism.

Homais' character is further developed in the chapter. He is seen performing his neighborly duties to perfection, calling on the Bovarys frequently and having appropriate conversations with both husband and wife. It becomes obvious, however, that Homais is a bore who enjoys showing off his knowledge to Charles and Emma. The Sunday evening gatherings that Homais hosts serve to bring Emma and Leon closer. Charles is not the jealous type, and he does not find anything wrong with the developing relationship between Emma and Leon. In fact, he accepts a birthday gift from Leon and considers the latter to be a kind young man.

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