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Emma's early life influenced her entire approach to life. She was born with a natural tendency toward sentimentality. She preferred the dream world to the real world. Rather than being brought up in the realities of everyday living, she was sent when very young to a convent where she indulged in daydreams and in sentimentalizing about life. Here at the convent, she began reading romance novels which affected her entire life. In religion, she searched for the unusual, the mystic, and the beautiful rather than for the real essence of the church. Being basically a dreamy girl, she developed into the extreme romantic who spent her time longing and sighing for old castles, secret meetings, and intrigues. She closed her eyes to the real world and attempted to force life to conform with her romantic fiction. She constantly felt the need for excitement and could not endure the dull routine of everyday living.
After her marriage, Emma continued her search for excitement. She could not tolerate her marriage because it did not fit into the fictionalized accounts that she had read about. She missed the bliss, ecstasy, and passion that she hoped she would find in marriage. And rather than devoting herself to living life, rather than facing reality, she hid herself in her dreams and expended all of her energy in futile longings. She was continually dissatisfied with her life and searched constantly for ways to change things. Her distaste of married life is expressed as:
"Oh, why did I ever get married?"
Thus, since life refused to conform to her romantic picture, Emma began to alternate between various things in the hope that her unfulfilled longings would be satisfied. She tried everything. She redecorated the house, she took up reading, subscribed to Parisian magazines, helped at charities, knitted, painted, played the piano, and engaged in a multitude of other activities. But with each thing she attempted, she soon became bored and rejected one activity for another. This frenzied search for excitement exhausted her until she made herself physically sick.