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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 14

Summary

Charles is troubled about the medical bills incurred during Emma's illness. In addition, Lheureux has delivered the bill for the goods Emma ordered for her planned departure with Rodolphe. Since Charles obviously cannot pay such a large amount, Lheureux maneuvers him into borrowing more money at a high interest rate. Charles borrows forty francs from the moneylender and signs another bill due on the first of September of the following year. In all, he will have to pay fifty francs. The scheming Lheureux hopes that Charles will renew the bill so that the interest will continue to grow.

Emma's recovery is slow. During her illness, when she had felt sure of death overcoming her, she had asked for the sacrament of extreme unction, known as the last rites in the Catholic religion. Afterwards, she had seen a heavenly vision and had felt immense peace. As a result, Emma buried her memories of Rodolphe and transfers her affections to the Lord. She begins to indulge in charity and is gentle and patient with her daughter Berthe. She welcomes the visits of the priest, Bournisien, and aspires to be a saint. Bournisien marvels at Emma's transformation, but he is skeptical about her new religious fervor lasting for long.

Emma finds herself surrounded with company. Her mother-in-law visits often, finding Emma to be pleasant. Almost all the busybodies of the neighborhood are her daily companions. Justin escorts the Homais children to Emma's room and stands "stiffly silent by the door." On several occasions, Emma, unaware of his presence, combs her hair before him. Her attractiveness is not lost on Justin, and he begins to love her. Emma does not notice his attraction to her, for she is beyond earthly love for now.


With the advent of spring, Emma is recovered. Homais suggests that Charles take Emma to the theater because the excursion will do her good. Charles manages to coax a reluctant Emma, and they set off for Rouen.

Notes

Charles, who is terribly worried over finances, feels a sense of guilt at not devoting enough time to Emma. He may be naive and incompetent, but he is essentially a good man. In contrast, Lheureux is again depicted as a calculating and insensitive businessman. He shrewdly foresees the profit he can make during the troubled period the Bovarys are facing and has no qualms about doing do it.

Emma's reaction to the Rodolphe episode is typical of her neurosis. She refuses to face the past squarely or truthfully. Neither does she evaluate her mistakes, but buries them. This tendency will have serious repercussions later in the novel.

Feeling that she is dying, Emma calls the priest to administer her last rites, which cause her to become religious again, as she was in her youth. "Her soul, deformed by pride, found rest at last in Christian humility. Relinquishing the pleasures of weakness, Emma contemplated the destruction of her will within her, which was to leave the way wide open to the flowing tide of grace . . .Amid the illusions that her wishes prompted, she glimpsed a realm of purity, floating above the earth, melting into the sky, where she aspired to be. She wanted to become a saint." As a result of her new religious fervor, Emma becomes a very pleasant and charitable person. The neighbors and her mother-in-law enjoy their visits with the recovering Emma. Not surprisingly, as her health improves, Emma's religious fervor wanes.

At the end of the chapter, an innocent suggestion by Homais sends the devoted Charles scurrying to Rouen to take Emma to the theater. It is ironic that her husband's devotion should prove to be a fatal mistake, since Emma is re-introduced to Leon at the Opera House.

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