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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 6

Summary

One Thursday, Emma arrives in Rouen for her usual rendezvous. Leon, however, does not appear, for he is detained in a meeting with Homais. Leon cannot leave the chemist without arousing his suspicion. When he does manage to get rid of him and reach the hotel, Leon does not find Emma. She has already left. After this incident, their relationship is not the same, for Emma is convinced that Leon has a weak nature for standing her up. Emma tries to be her usual romantic self, but Leon senses "something extreme, mysterious, mournful" coming between them. He begins to resent her while she goes out of her way "to bind him more closely to her." Gradually, Emma realizes the inadequacy of this relationship.

Emma's financial troubles take a turn for the worse when a certain Monsieur Vincart demands payment for a twenty-franc bill. She tries to postpone the payment by one week but receives a bailiff's notice the next day. Lheureux reluctantly helps her, but not before forcing her further into debt. After this experience, she writes to her husband's clients without his knowledge and asks them to settle their accounts. She borrows from Madame Lefrançois and even from Felicite. She sells some of the things in the house. Despite these efforts, she falls deeper into debt and neglects the household entirely. Charles longs to comfort her but is hesitant. He spends time with Berthe instead.

By the time it is autumn, Emma has further degenerated. She has Leon pawn six silver spoons, which were her father's wedding present to her. Leon tries to make Emma see that a cheaper hotel would be equally comfortable for their affair, but she will have none of it. She continues to spend recklessly during the days that they are together.


Leon is growing tired of Emma. His mother and his employer have sternly advised him to break off this relationship, and Leon is beginning to agree with them. Emma is equally tired of Leon, but cannot stand the thought of giving up the affair. Her life is in shambles. She continues to receive innumerable financial notices to which she pays little attention. After spending a whole night at a party in Rouen with Leon's friends, she returns home on Friday and is confronted with a royal order demanding payment of three- hundred and twenty francs within twenty-four hours. She rushes to Lheureux, hoping to resolve the issue, but he will not help her.

Notes

Homais' trait of imposing himself on another person is well developed in this chapter in his meeting with Leon. The meeting also serves a second purpose. Flaubert is able to trace the beginnings of the breakdown of the Emma-Leon relationship to the time of Homais' visit. After being stood up, Emma sees Leon in a new light. She judges him as "incapable of heroism, weak, commonplace, effeminate," yet she continues to pursue him. There is a total dependence on him on her part. Leon, however, is growing frightened by her show of passion. He also resents "her progressive absorption of his personality" and feels "unmanned" at the sight of her.

Eventually, Emma accepts the fact that the relationship with Leon has gone stale. She yearns for somebody who will fulfill all her desires. What she really yearns for is "love sentiments she (has) read about in books," revealing that Emma is just as romantic as ever, refusing to accept reality. In her financial matters, Emma also refuses to accept reality. She continues to spend lavishly, although she is deeply in debt. She also fails to see through the scheming Lheureux, who has her sign four more credit bills. Weighed down by money matters, Emma displays her stormy side. Emma is headed for a tragic end.

Despite her financial woes and her realization about the affair, Emma continues to see Leon, for she is powerless to end the relationship. She secretly hopes that some "catastrophe... would bring about their separation, since she couldn't make up her mind to it herself." Her indecisiveness over Leon is irresponsible, immature, and pathetic. At the same time, she continues to act the devoted wife at home, even acting romantic to her husband, for she knows that she needs Charles' financial assistance. The weal Charles is more devoted to Emma than ever.

After Emma is served with the notice demanding payment, the very tone with which Emma addresses Lheureux reveals that her sanity is questionable. She naively over simplifies the matter, believing that the demand will come to nothing. When Lheureux refuses to help Emma this time, it is obvious that the young woman is on her way to financial self-destruction.

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