The fire was out, the clock went on ticking, and Emma vaguely wondered at this calm of all things while within herself there was such a tumult.
During the winter, the Bovarys often go to Homais’s house on Sunday evenings. Here, Emma and Leon develop a strong rapport. Each feels powerfully attracted to the other, but neither has the courage to admit to the feeling. They exchange little gifts, and the townspeople are sure they are lovers.
Emma watches Leon, Homais, and Charles and decides that her husband is so unremarkable that he disgusts her. She realizes that Leon loves her, and the next time they meet, they both are shy and awkward, unsure of how to proceed. Emma is constantly nervous, and she begins to lose weight. She fancies herself a martyr, unable to give herself to love because of the restrictions of her marriage. She plays the part of the dutiful wife to Charles and brings her daughter, Berthe, back home from the wet nurse. Soon, however, Emma’s desire for Leon becomes much stronger than her desire to be virtuous, and she gives way to self-pity. She breaks down in tears, and blames Charles for all of her unhappiness. One day, a shopkeeper named Monsieur Lheureux hints to her that he is a moneylender, in case she should ever need a loan.
Emma hears the church bells tolling and decides to seek help at the church. The curate, Abbé Bournisien, preoccupied with his own problems and with a group of unruly boys in his catechism class, is oblivious to Emma’s deep distress. Soon afterward, in a fit of irritability, Emma pushes Berthe away from her, and the little girl falls and cuts herself. Emma claims that Berthe was playing and that she fell accidentally. Emma is frantic and shaken, but Charles eventually calms her.
Leon decides to go to Paris to study law. He loves Emma, but her sentiments make their romance impossible, and he is utterly bored in Yonville. He is also tempted by romantic adventures he suspects will await him in Paris. When he bids Emma farewell, they are both awkward and quiet, but they are both moved. After he leaves, Charles and Homais discuss the lures and difficulties of city life.
At the conclusion of Part Two, Chapter IV, we learn more about Leon’s feelings for Emma. We discover that he feels shame at his cowardice in not declaring his love for her, that he has written and torn-up a number of love letters, and that he feels frustration that Emma is married. The narrative then shifts to Emma, in contemplation of love:
As for Emma, she did not ask herself whether she loved him. Love, she thought must come suddenly, with great outbursts and lightnings,—a hurricane of the skies, which sweeps down on life, upsets everything, uproots the will like a leaf and carries away the heart as in an abyss. She did not know that on the terrace of houses the rain makes lakes when the pipes are choked, and she would thus have remained safe in her ignorance when she suddenly discovered a rent in the wall.
Flaubert satirizes the romantic idea of love as an overwhelming transformative force of nature by juxtaposing images of hurricanes and tempests with one of the more mundane effects of weather, water damage. By presenting her discovery of the dent in the wall in an ironic tone of regret, he mocks Emma’s lack of practical knowledge, as well as her inability and unwillingness to conceive of the actual. Emma’s conflict is contained in this passage. She yearns for unreal romantic ideals and is at first ignorant of and then disappointed by the imperfect realities of life, such as decay.