Sunday, August 12, 2012

The End of Madame Bovary, Figuratively and Literally


Part Three (Condensed)
Chapters I - XI
Lèon and Emma immediately reignite their passion for one another and jump into a romantic relationship; and she continues to see him weekly under the pretext that she is taking piano lessons, which she is not.  Charles also sends Emma to Lèon to sign paper work after he agrees to make her power of attorney (in order to help settle her debt, of which Charles is really ignorant).  The adulterous relationship is full of Lèon’s impatience and immaturity and Emma’s fantasies about happiness. 

Meanwhile, Emma is racking up the bills and getting deeper into debt with Lheuruex to the point where there is going to be an auction of her possessions, and soon it will be made public.  She is mortified, to say the least, and does not want Charles to find out.  She does everything she can to recover her loses, to no avail: bankers deny her; Lèon will not steal for her, but he says he will try to borrow money and bring it to her, which turns up nothing; Guillaumin, the town lawyer, only attempts to gain sexual favors out of her, though she rejects him; Binet refuses her sexual advances for money; and finally, Rodolphe, is offended by the reason for her visit and will not help her.

Her circumstances are unbearable, and she goes to Hamais’ pharmacy and takes a handful of poison and swallows it.  It is her final quest for a quick and painless death to end her sorrow, though it proves futile, and she lingers on painfully with her husband faithfully beside her. 

If you thought her recklessness would have ended with her death, it did not.  Her husband continues by honoring her with an extravagant funeral.  He is left with her debt to cover, as well, and must borrow to satisfy it.  He cannot even count on payment from his patients because he learns that Emma has already privately collected from them. 

Eventually he finds the letter, which Emma dropped in the attic, from Rodolphe ending their affair, and Charles convinces himself it was purely platonic, not romantic.  But when Charles discovers all of the love letters received from both of her lovers, his perfect ideal of a wife, Emma, finally destroys him.  After he sells all his possessions to pay his loans, he sinks into depression and dies leaving Berthe to live with his mother, until her death, and then a poor aunt, where Berthe must go to work in a cotton mill.

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