She hoped for a son; he would be strong and dark; she would call him George; and this idea of having a male child was like an expected revenge for all her impotence in the past. A man, at least, is free; he can explore all passions and all countries, overcome obstacles, taste of the most distant pleasures. But a woman is always hampered. Being inert as well as pliable, she has against her the weakness of the flesh and the inequity of the law. Like the veil held to her hat by a ribbon, her will flutters in every breeze; she is always drawn by some desire, restrained by some rule of conduct.

There are two voices in this passage from Part Two, Chapter III; one belongs to Emma, the other to the narrator. From “A man, at least, is free” through “a woman is always hampered,” we hear Emma’s thoughts, rendered in free indirect discourse, imbued with a -romantic nature. The rest of the passage, however, is the narrator’s commentary and anticipates modern feminist thinking. The passage claims that a woman is powerless not only over her financial -situation, but also over her emotions. A double bind occurs when a woman’s involuntary emotions conflict with inescapable external circumstances. Her only choice is to behave within the confines of her fixed station in class and the family. Emma’s hopes for a son -represent a reimagination of her own identity. She will enact her revenge through a male heir with access to opportunities that have been denied her. In contrast to the “strong, dark” male avenger -envisioned at the start of the passage, the will of a woman takes the form of a veil tied to a hat by a ribbon, susceptible to the forces of weather. By -looking to his subject, a woman, for a physical detail to use in meta-phorical comparison to an abstract concept—her will—-Flaubert uses realism to heighten the vivid effect of his social commentary.