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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 13

Summary

At home, Rodolphe tries to compose a farewell note to Emma. He finally writes that they have no future together, tells her he plans to leave La Huchette the very next day by himself, and asks her to be brave. He lays the blame for his decision on society. He ends the note with a flourish, giving "a final adieu -- separated into two words, A Dieu! -- which he thought in excellent taste." To pretend that he had cried during the composition of the letter, he lets a big drop of water smudge the ink. Having finished the letter, he seals it, smokes three pipes, and goes to bed. The next day he has a basket of apricots delivered to Emma with the letter at the bottom.

The basket of apricots from Rodolphe makes Emma sense that all is not well. She finds the letter and, in a state of panic, rushes to the attic to read it without being seen. Sitting by the window, she reads Rodolphe's words and becomes "hysterical with rage." She thinks about hurling herself out of the window. When she hears Charles and Felicite call her to lunch, she is shocked into facing reality. In a confused state, she forgets where she has placed the letter. As she sits at the table, she tries to behave as if nothing is the matter, but, when Charles mentions Rodolphe and then passes the basket of apricots, she becomes very tense. When she sees Rodolphe's carriage, she shrieks and faints. Homais rushes in as she writhes convulsively.


Emma is carried up to her bed where she lies motionless with her mouth hanging open and her eyes closed. Charles and Homais discuss the possibility of an apricot allergy but are interrupted by a delirious Emma shouting, "The letter! The letter!" By midnight, brain fever sets in and she grows much worse. For the next forty- three days, Charles is constantly by her side. By mid-October Emma is on her way to recovery, but a visit to the arbor in the terrace brings on another attack of dizziness. Meanwhile, Charles grows greatly disturbed over financial worries.

Notes

This chapter brings Emma's romanticism to a halt when Rodolphe terminates his relationship with her. He is not even kind enough to explain his departure in person; instead, he writes her a letter, which he sends to Emma with a basket of apricots. Flaubert harshly, but masterfully, describes the callousness of this shallow man whose "pleasures had so trampled over his heart, like schoolboys in a playground, that no green thing grew there, and whatever passed that way, being more frivolous than children, left not so much as its name carved on the wall."

Not surprisingly, Emma reacts very strongly to Rodolphe's desertion. No words can express the grief she feels at his betrayal. Her dreams are shattered, and there is nobody for her to turn to. She is left to live with a husband that she now finds abhorrent. Her first impulse is to commit suicide by jumping out the attic window. The sounds of the voices of Charles and Felicite bring her back to reality; then the sight of Rodolphe's carriage makes her cry out and faint. During the night her conditions worsen, and for the next forty-three days, she remains very ill. Throughout her sickness, Charles rarely leaves the side of the woman who has thoroughly betrayed him. It is obvious that he still loves Emma very much; he becomes a symbol of true and undying devotion.

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