Short summary - Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Madame Bovary
Gustave Flaubert

The young physician Charles Bovary first saw Emma Rouault when he was summoned to the farm of her father, who broke his leg. Emma was wearing a blue woolen dress with three frills. Her hair was black, smoothly combed in the front in a parted part, her cheeks were pink, her large black eyes were straight and open. Charles by this time was already married to an ugly and grumpy widow, whom his mother married him because of a dowry. Papa Rouault's fracture turned out to be easy, but Charles continued to go to the farm. A jealous wife found out that Mademoiselle Rouault studied at the Ursuline convent, that she “dances, knows geography, draws, embroiders and strummed the piano. No, this is too much! ". She harassed her husband with reproaches.
However, soon Charles' wife unexpectedly passed away. And after a while he married Emma. The mother-in-law reacted coldly to the new daughter-in-law. Emma became Madame Bovary and moved to Charles' house in Toast. She turned out to be an excellent hostess. Charles idolized his wife. "The whole world closed for him within the silky girth of her dresses." When, after work, he sat at the doorstep in shoes embroidered by Emma, he felt at the height of bliss. Emma, by contrast, was filled with confusion. Before the wedding, she believed that “that wonderful feeling that she still imagined in the form of a bird of paradise <...> finally flew to her,” but happiness did not come, and she decided that she was mistaken. In the monastery, she became addicted to reading novels, she wanted, like her beloved heroines, to live in an old castle and wait for the faithful knight. She grew up with a dream of strong and beautiful passions, and the reality in the boondocks was so prosaic! Charles was devoted to her, kind and hardworking, but there was not even a shadow of the heroic in him. His speech "was flat, like a panel along which other people's thoughts in their everyday clothes stretched like a string <...> He did not teach anything, did not know anything, did not want anything."
One day something unusual invaded her life. Bovary received an invitation to a ball at the marquis's ancestral castle, to whom Charles successfully removed an abscess in his throat. Magnificent rooms, distinguished guests, exquisite food, the smell of flowers, delicate linen and truffles - in this atmosphere Emma experienced acute bliss. She was especially excited that among the secular crowd she distinguished currents of forbidden relationships and reprehensible pleasures. She waltzed with a real viscount, who then left for Paris itself! Her satin shoes after dancing turned yellow from waxed parquet. “The same thing happened to her heart as to the shoes: from the touch of luxury, something indelible was left on it ...” No matter how much Emma hoped for a new invitation, it did not follow. Now life in Toast is completely disgusted with her. "The future seemed to her as a dark corridor, resting against a tightly locked door." Melancholy took the form of illness, Emma suffered from asthma attacks, palpitations, she developed a dry cough, agitation gave way to apathy. Alarmed, Charles explained her condition by the climate and began to look for a new place.
In the spring, the Bovary couple moved to the town of Yonville near Rouen. Emma was already pregnant by that time.
It was a land where "the dialect is devoid of character, and the landscape is unique." At one and the same hour, a wretched stagecoach "Swallow" stopped in the central square, and its coachman handed out packages with purchases to the residents. At the same time, the whole city was making jam, stocking up for a year in advance. Everyone knew everything and talked about everything and everyone. The Bovary were introduced to the local community. To him belonged the pharmacist Mr. Ome, whose face "did not express anything but narcissism", the merchant of fabrics Mr. Leray, as well as the priest, policeman, innkeeper, notary and several other persons. Against this background, the twenty-year-old notary's assistant Leon Dupuis stood out - blond, with curled eyelashes, timid and shy. He loved to read, painted watercolors, and strummed the piano with one finger. Emma Bovary struck his imagination. From the first conversation, they felt a kindred spirit in each other. Both loved to talk about the sublime and suffered from loneliness and boredom.
Emma wanted a son, but a girl was born. She named her Bertha, the name she heard at the Marquis's ball. They found a wet nurse for the girl. Life went on. Papa Rouault sent them a turkey in the spring. Sometimes the mother-in-law visited, reproaching her daughter-in-law for extravagance. Only the company of Leon, with whom Emma often met at parties at the pharmacist's, brightened her loneliness. The young man was already passionately in love with her, but did not know how to explain himself. "Emma seemed to him so virtuous, so unapproachable that he no longer had a glimpse of hope." He did not suspect that Emma, in her heart, was also passionately dreaming of him. Finally, the notary's assistant left for Paris to continue his education. After his departure, Emma fell into black melancholy and despair. She was torn apart by bitterness and regret about the failed happiness. To somehow unwind, she bought new clothes in Lera's shop. She had used his services before. Leray was a dexterous, flattering and cat-like cunning man. He had long ago guessed Emma's passion for beautiful things and willingly offered her purchases on credit, sending now cuts, now lace, now carpets, now scarves. Gradually, Emma found herself in a hefty debt to the shopkeeper, which her husband did not suspect.
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Once the landowner Rodolphe Boulanger came to Charles's reception. He himself was as healthy as a bull, and he brought his servant for examination. He liked Emma immediately. Unlike the timid Leon, the 34-year-old bachelor Rodolphe was experienced in relationships with women and confident. He found his way to Emma's heart through vague complaints of loneliness and misunderstanding. After a while, she became his mistress. This happened on a horseback ride, which Rodolphe suggested - as a means to improve the frail health of Madame Bovary. Emma gave herself up to Rodolphe in the forest hut, limply, "hiding her face, all in tears." However, then passion flared up in her, and intoxicatingly daring dates became the meaning of her life. She attributed to the tanned, strong Rodolphe the heroic features of her imaginary ideal. She demanded from him vows of eternal love and self-sacrifice. Feeling her needed a romantic frame. She forced the wing, where they met at night, with vases of flowers. She made expensive gifts for Rodolphe, which she bought from the same Lera, secretly from her husband.
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The more Emma became attached, the more Rodolphe cooled down to her. She touched him, the windblown, with her purity and innocence. But most of all he treasured his own peace. The connection with Emma could damage his reputation. And she behaved too recklessly. And Rodolphe more and more commented to her on this matter. He once missed three dates in a row. Emma's pride was hurt. “She even wondered: why does she hate Charles so much, and wouldn't it be better to try to love him after all? But Charles did not appreciate this return of the former feeling, her sacrificial impulse broke, it plunged her into complete confusion, and then the pharmacist turned up and accidentally added fuel to the fire. "
Apothecary Ome was listed in Yonville as a champion of progress. He followed new trends and even published in the newspaper "Rouen Light". This time, he was overcome by the idea of carrying out a newfangled operation in Yonville, which he read about in a laudatory article. With this idea, Ome got into Charles, persuading him and Emma that they were not risking anything. They also chose a victim - a groom who had a congenital curvature of the foot. A whole conspiracy formed around the unfortunate, and in the end he gave up. After the operation, an agitated Emma met Charles on the doorstep and threw herself on his neck. In the evening, the couple made plans briskly. And five days later the groom began to die. He got gangrene. I had to urgently call a "local celebrity" - a doctor who called everyone idiots and cut off his sore leg to the knee. Charles was in despair, and Emma was burned with shame. The whole town heard the heartbreaking screams of the poor stable boy. She was once again convinced that her husband is mediocrity and insignificance. That evening she met Rodolphe, "and from a hot kiss all their annoyance melted away like a snowball."
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She began to dream of leaving forever with Rodolphe, and finally started talking about it seriously - after a quarrel with her mother-in-law, who came to visit. She insisted so much, so begged that Rodolphe stepped back and gave his word to fulfill her request. A plan was drawn up. Emma was preparing to escape with might and main. She secretly ordered a raincoat, suitcases and various little things for the trip from Lera. But a blow awaited her: on the eve of her departure, Rodolphe changed his mind about taking on such a burden. He was determined to break up with Emma and sent her a farewell letter in a basket of apricots. In it, he also announced that he was leaving for a while.
... For forty-three days, Charles did not leave Emma, who had an inflammation of the brain. Only by the spring did she feel better. Now Emma was indifferent to everything in the world. She became interested in charity and turned to God. It seemed that nothing could revive her. The famous tenor was on tour in Rouen at that time. And Charles, on the advice of the pharmacist, decided to take his wife to the theater.
Emma listened to the opera Lucia de Lamermoor, forgetting about everything. The experiences of the heroine seemed to her similar to her torments. She remembered her own wedding. “Oh, if at that time, when her beauty had not yet lost its original freshness, when the dirt of married life had not yet adhered to her, when she had not yet been disappointed in forbidden love, someone gave her his big, faithful heart, then virtue, tenderness, desire and a sense of duty would merge in her and she would not have fallen from the height of such happiness <...>. And in the intermission, an unexpected meeting with Leon was waiting for her. He was now practicing in Rouen. They have not seen each other for three years and have forgotten each other. Leon was no longer the same timid youth. “He decided it was time to get along with this woman,” persuaded Madame Bovary to stay one more day to listen to Lagarde again. Charles enthusiastically supported him and left for Yonville alone.
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... Again Emma was loved, again she mercilessly deceived her husband and littered with money. Every Thursday she left for Rouen, where she allegedly took music lessons, and she herself met at the hotel with Leon. Now she acted like a sophisticated woman, and Leon was completely in her power. Meanwhile, the cunning Leray began to persistently remind of the debts. A huge amount has accumulated on the signed bills. Bovary was threatened with an inventory of the property. The horror of such an outcome was unimaginable. Emma rushed to Leon, but her lover was cowardly and cowardly. He was already so frightened that Emma too often came to him right in the office. And he didn't help her in any way. She also did not find sympathy either from the notary or from the tax inspector. Then it dawned on her - Rodolphe! After all, he has long since returned to his estate. And he's rich. But her former hero, at first pleasantly surprised by her appearance, coldly declared: "I don't have that kind of money, madam."
Emma walked away from him, feeling that she was losing her mind. With difficulty she got to the pharmacy, crept upstairs, where the poisons were kept, found a jar of arsenic and immediately swallowed the powder ...
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She died a few days later in terrible agony. Charles could not believe her death. He was completely devastated and heartbroken. The final blow for him was the fact that he found letters from Rodolphe and Leon. Lowered, overgrown, unkempt, he wandered along the paths and wept bitterly. Soon he died too, right on the bench in the garden, clutching a lock of Emin's hair in his hand. Little Bertha was taken up first by Charles's mother, and after her death - by an elderly aunt. Papa Rouault was paralyzed. Bertha had no money left, and she had to go to the spinning mill.
Leon soon after the death of Emma married successfully. Leray opened a new store. The pharmacist received the Order of the Legion of Honor, which he had long dreamed of. They all did very well.