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

Summary

An Agricultural Show is organized in Yonville, and many visitors come to town. It is a great occasion for the village folk, and there is a fine display of decoration and patriotism. It is in such an atmosphere that Emma and Rodolphe meet for the second time. They have to avoid certain people, like Homais and Lheureux, to be together, but they manage to be alone. Rodolphe passes little hints to Emma about love, and she is flattered.

There is a livestock competition and the judges are doing their rounds. The chairman of the judges, Monsieur Derozerays de la Panville, invites Rodolphe to join the team. Rodolphe tells Emma that he prefers her company by far. The topic of conversation shifts to attire, and they agree that there is no point in dressing up in the country. Rodolphe even admits to feeling depressed, a fact that surprises Emma. He states that he has no friends and thinks no one cares about him. He is obviously playing to Emma's emotions.

Rodolphe and Emma watch the proceedings from the secluded Council Chamber of the Town Hall. Lieuvain, the Prefect's deputy, makes a speech that forms the backdrop of the amorous conversation Rodolphe engages in with Emma. When Lieuvain pauses in the course of his speech, ending with a few words on civic duty, Rodolphe speaks to Emma about emotions, stating that "to feel nobly and love what is beautiful -- that's our duty." Emma reminds him of the need to conform to the world's morality. To this he replies that there are "two moralities." One is petty and conventional, and the other is eternal. When Lieuvain continues, Rodolphe draws closer to Emma and speaks to her about escaping from the "conspiracy of society."

Emma is visibly attracted to Rodolphe and is filled with romantic visions of herself with him. He plays to her feelings and desires. As the announcement of prizes begins, Rodolphe takes Emma's hand, and every award that is announced is juxtaposed with a passionate declaration of love for Emma by Rodolphe. As their fingers intertwine, their passion is at a peak. When the ceremony ends, Rodolphe ushers Emma home. They see each other again in the evening at the fireworks, but Emma is accompanied by her husband and Homais.


The fireworks show draws an enthusiastic response from the crowd, despite the fact that most of the fireworks cannot be lit because the powder is damp. In the dark, Rodolphe gazes at Emma, who is by her husband's side. Later he agrees with Madame Homais' view about it having been a lovely day, and with that a tender look creeps into his eyes.

Two days later, Homais' exaggerated report about the show appears in the Rouen Beacon. His style is overblown, and his report ends with his observation that the clergy had remained absent throughout the festivities.

Notes

This chapter significantly advances the plot of the story, for it is here that the relationship between Emma and Rodolphe begins. The previous chapter had indicated Rodolphe's interest in Emma; now the Agricultural Show in Yonville provides the setting for the two of them to meet and spend time with each other. It is evident that Emma falls for Rodolphe's charm; and it is equally evident that Rodolphe takes advantage of her gullibility.

There are many ironies in the chapter. Flaubert's description of the preparations made by the Yonville citizens depicts the grandiose visions of these small townsfolk. Then in a setting where citizens are being honored for loyalty and service, Rodolphe encourages Emma to defy social conventions and moral duty in order to respond to her passions. Emma half-heartedly warns him about the social pressure that cripples such freedom, but Rodolphe easily convinces her to abandon such fears. Carried away in a flood of passion, "they (look) at one another, and their dry lips (quiver) in a supreme desire. Gently, effortlessly, their fingers intertwine."

Flaubert's handling of Rodolphe's declarations of love to Emma is masterful. Lieuvain's speech is effectively alternated with Rodolphe's statements to Emma. The former's speech is delivered from a platform in front of the Town Hall. The latter's statements are made in the privacy of the Council Chamber. The juxtaposition of the sublime with the mundane produces humor. In a way, it also suggests the non-serious nature of Rodolphe's intentions. He obviously looks at Emma as a temporary means to relieve his passions. Unlike Emma, he does not see their budding relationship as something permanent. His denouncing of the "petty, conventional morality of men" clearly indicates that he possesses little virtue himself. The use of contrast makes Rodolphe's attitude about love and sex evident to the reader, but naïve and romantic Emma clings to his every word and decides to reject her previously moral way of life. Flaubert has carefully developed Emma's dissatisfaction to such a point that this decision is not shocking.

The official speeches do not say anything new, and the people who listen to them with enthusiasm have probably heard the same things repeatedly over the years. Still Flaubert's reason for inserting large sections of the speeches within the narrative is to contrast it with Rodolphe's words. Neither the official speaker nor Rodolphe cares about their words, only the affect of them; the officials want to excite the crowd, while Rodolphe wants to excite Emma. Rodolphe chooses his words carefully and presents his case very well. Emma cannot challenge his argument that fate has brought them together. The announcement of the prizes is also carefully placed to create irony and humor. Rodolphe's declaration of his passion for Emma is juxtaposed next to the prize announcement for manure. When Rodolphe urges Emma to voice her emotions, a prize is announced for pigs. It is also significant that Emma and Rodolphe begin their passionate relationship against the backdrop of the Agricultural Show. The relationship and the show are both superficial and ultimately disappointing. Neither is it a coincidence that the lovers throb with desire when Catherine Leroux, an old peasant woman, is honored for her many years of service. This is an ironic commentary on Emma's lack of devotion to her own family.

Flaubert is skilled at sketching vignettes that add more substance to the reader's understanding of the later events in the novel. In this chapter, he provides a short, seemingly unimportant interchange between Madame Lefrançois and Homais. She tells Homais about Lheureux, whose efforts have led to the undoing a rival business establishment. At this point in the novel, little significance is attached to this revelation. Later, when Emma is brought to ruin by this man, the reader perceives the importance of this passage.

It is also significant to notice the details about Homais' newspaper article. When he describes the events of the day, which were in many ways disastrous, he renders everything in a positive light. It is clear that this man has a natural talent for misrepresenting the facts. He also manages to insert his dislike of the clergy into the report.

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