But the more Emma recognised her love, the more she crushed it down, that it might not be evident, that she might make it less. She would have liked Leon to guess it, and she imagined chances, catastrophes, that should facilitate this. What restrained her was, no doubt, idleness and fear, and a sense of shame also. She thought she had repulsed him too much, that the time was past, that all was lost. Then, pride, the joy of being able to say to herself, “I am virtuous,” and to look at herself in the glass taking resigned poses, consoled her a little for the sacrifice she believed she was making.
Then the lusts of the flesh, the longing for money, and the melancholy of passion all blended themselves into one suffering, and instead of turning her thoughts from it, she clave to it the more, urging herself to pain, and seeking everywhere occasion for it. She was irritated by an ill-served dish or by a half-open door; bewailed the velvets she had not, the happiness she had missed, her too exalted dreams, her narrow home.
In Part 2 Leon departs Yonville, to which the Bovarys have moved in the hopes of improving Emma’s humour. Unable to declare his affection for her, Leon leaves in despair for Paris, and Emma continues to flounder until the arrival of Rodolphe Boulanger.
Rodolphe, the charmer of women, tells Madame Bovary such lies as these while they are listening to the councillor’s speech at the fair:
“Ah! again!” said Rodolphe. “Always ‘duty.’ I am sick of the word. They are a lot of old blockheads in flannel vests and old women with foot-warmers and rosaries who constantly drone into our ears “Duty, duty!” Ah! by Jove! one’s duty is to feel what is great, cherish the beautiful, and not accept all the conventions of society with the ignominy that it imposes upon us.”
“Yet-yet–” objected Madame Bovary.
She still has the sense to disagree with the deception which flows from Rodolphe in the form of elegance, charm and fancy speeches. But, not for long. Her demise is slowly being revealed page by page since the novel began, first with her attraction for the Viscount at the ball, then Leon, and now Rodolphe who pulls away from her the more she clings to him.
Her life means nothing to him. At least, not as much as his own.
All the while, Emma’s despair grows.
I can’t help but wonder if Hippolyte’s club foot, rotting away in the wooden box that Charles made for it, is in some way symbolic of Emma rotting away in the ‘box he made for her’ with his “incurable incapacity.” In order for Hippolyte to survive, his foot had to be removed. But, Emma is not removing anything which causes her to slowly rot away. Rather, she continues to pursue her desires with Leon even after suffering Rodolphe’s disappearance.
I am reading this with Frances, and others, for the Madame Bovary read-along this October.