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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 5

Summary

Every time Emma goes to Rouen for her 'music lessons', she has a passionate meeting with Leon. Their usual place of rendezvous is a hotel situated in a district of "theaters, bars and brothels." The lovers feel comfortable in their usual room and often imagine that it is their own home. Leon is happy that his mistress is an elegant married woman while Emma addresses Leon as "child." Taking leave of the other is difficult for both. On her way home, Emma sobs in the privacy of the Hirondelle. Her regular journey acquaints her with an old tramp that loiters in the region along her route. He is a hideous creature. His voice permeates Emma's psyche and makes her melancholy. At home, Justin makes himself "more resourceful in her service than a first-class chambermaid," but Emma hardly notices him. She spends the remainder of the week yearning for Leon.

Her conversations with Leon are presented here. During a philosophical discussion of "earthly disillusionment," Emma confesses that she had loved someone before him. She also tells him that her ex-lover had been a "ship's captain." This revelation makes Leon feel lowly. He is thoroughly convinced of Emma's sophistication, which she displays through her expensive tastes. All the while, Emma plays the role of the doting wife at home in order not to raise Charles' suspicion.

One day, Charles mentions that he has met the lady from whom Emma is supposedly taking music lessons. The music teacher has apparently not heard of Emma. This revelation shocks Emma, but she covers up her lie with more lies. She even duplicates a receipt of sixty-five francs 'issued' by the music teacher in order to reassure Charles. Another time, Charles sends a shawl through Bournisien, the priest, to Emma. The priest does not find Emma at the music teacher's establishment, but he remains discreet about the matter. Once Lheureux sees Emma in Leon's arms at the hotel entrance. He sizes up the 'affair' and cleverly tricks Emma into signing more notes of credit without Charles' knowledge. When her mother-in-law comes to visit, she reprimands Emma for her expensive tastes. There is a dispute regarding the power of attorney, and the elderly lady leaves in a huff. One night Emma is late in returning home from Rouen. A distraught Charles goes to look for her. When they meet, Emma lies her way out of any trouble, telling Charles that she has not been well. She apologizes for having inconvenienced him and does not change her ways. Her affair with Leon continues despite all the problems.


Notes

This chapter depicts Emma's deceptive nature at its best. Under the pretext of attending music lessons, she spends time with her lover in Rouen. They both live under a cloud of romantic illusion, pretending that the hotel room is their home. It is ironic that they pretend to relate to each other as man and wife, and yet their place of rendezvous is in a district of "bars and brothels." Once home, Emma tries to be a charming wife and loving mother. While she finds her husband unbearable and her married life miserable, she does not really have the financial means to break away from Charles. Her ex-lover, Rodolphe, could have helped in this regard, but Leon does not have a similar source of income. As a result, Emma must lead her double life.

Emma's first note of disquietude appears with the introduction of the tramp, whom she often encounters on her way home from Rouen. His plaintive voice "had a suggestion of remoteness that upset (her). It penetrated to the very depths of her being like a whirlwind in an abyss. It swept her away into the vast spaces of a limitless melancholy." He serves to foreshadow that all will not go well with this relationship with Leon. Charles' questioning of Emma about her music lessons is also upsetting. It seems that he is growing less naïve as he challenges Emma and sends Bournisien, the priest, to check on the music teacher. It is also ironic that the priest hides the truth from Charles.

An interesting feature of the Emma-Leon relationship is the way she mothers him, even addressing him as "child." She demands a report from Leon of what he does when she is away, and he submits. She dominates him in the way that she had been dominated by Rodolphe. In fact, Leon "had become her mistress rather than she his." This telling statement presents Emma as one accomplished in the art of dissembling. Just as she lies to Charles, she does not hesitate to lie to Leon and tells him that her ex-lover was a ship's captain, so that Leon, who is a mere clerk, might feel 'elevated' by associating with someone like her. It seems that Emma's morality has sunk to the same level of Lheureux's; both are totally deceptive and lie easily in order to get what they want. It is ironic that it is the vicious and scheming Leurheux who sees Emma in Leon's arms and uses his knowledge of the affair to his financial advantage.

Images of unhappiness and squalor pervade this chapter. First, the lovers meet in a seedy area; later, a hideous, blind tramp upsets Emma. Then there are misunderstandings with Charles and her mother-in-law. Finally, the despicable Leurheux is seen forcing Emma into greater indebtedness. These images underscore the ugliness of life in general and the banality of the Emma-Leon relationship in particular.

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