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The irony of public morality contrasted with clandestine infidelity occurs again in Charles’s unwitting facilitation of Rodolphe’s seduction of his wife. When Rodolphe offers to take her riding, Emma first demurs. But Charles, blind to Rodolphe’s intentions and hoping to improve Emma’s health with exercise, insists she accept. He even writes to Rodolphe himself to arrange the ride. On the ride, of course, Emma gives herself to Rodolphe for the first time, and Charles becomes the unwitting accomplice to his wife’s infidelity.
When Flaubert employs high lyricism to describe Emma as she strides across fields at midnight to rendezvous with her lover, she suddenly becomes a sympathetic character. Emma believes herself to be in love, and her pretensions toward high society recede. It’s hard to tell, however, whether her sentimental feelings of love are real or a mere function of Rodolphe’s manipulations and higher social status. Emma appears to be ignited with real passion, but we know from her earlier attempts at religious and maternal love that she is rarely serious for long. We also know that Rodolphe is an experienced lover who tosses women aside as soon as he grows bored. This foreshadowing indicates to us that Emma is doomed in this affair, and we sympathize with her approaching disappointment rather than her present elation.
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