Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews October 9, 2023
October 2, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
[S]he would know well enough how one
single glance would reawaken their lost love.
See Important Quotations Explained
[S]he would know well enough how one
single glance would reawaken their lost love.
Officers come to the Bovarys’ house to inventory their
belongings, which they intend to seize to pay Emma’s debts. They
leave a guard behind; Emma hides him in the attic to keep the development
secret from Charles. She schemes and plans to raise the 8,000 francs.
The bankers in Rouen refuse to loan her the money, however, and
Leon angrily refuses to steal the money from his employer. However,
he does halfheartedly agree to try to raise the money from among
his friends and bring it to her in Yonville. Upon her return home,
Emma gives her very last five-franc piece to the blind beggar. She
finds that a public notice has been posted in Yonville announcing
the auction of the Bovarys’ belongings.
Emma goes to see the town lawyer, Guillaumin, who agrees
to help her in return for sexual favors. Emma angrily refuses his
offer and leaves. Charles has still not returned home and has no
idea what is transpiring, but all the people of Yonville gossip
and wonder what will happen. Two of the townswomen spy from an attic
window as Emma goes to see Binet, the tax collector, in the attic
where he is amusing himself by making napkin-rings on a lathe. They
see Emma beg for more time to pay her taxes, then attempt to seduce
Binet. When he rebuffs her, Emma decides to go to Rodolphe, hoping
that what she believes is his love for her will enable her to get
the money from him by offering herself in return.
Rodolphe is indeed aroused by the sight of Emma, but when
he realizes the purpose of her visit, he becomes taciturn, and tells
her he has no money available. Emma angrily leaves, realizing the
full extent of her desperate situation. She goes to Homais’s apothecary
shop, where she convinces Justin to let her into the cabinet where
she knows the arsenic is kept. She eats a big handful of it straight
from the bottle, then returns home, feeling at peace. Charles has
learned about the auction and searches frantically for Emma. He
finds her in bed, and she gives him a letter, ordering him not to
open it until the next day.
At first, Emma feels nothing and imagines that she will
just fall asleep and die. Then an inky taste fills her mouth, and
she becomes violently ill, with a terrible pain in her stomach.
Charles opens her letter and reads that she has poisoned herself.
He and Homais desperately try to figure out what to do. Homais decides
that they must analyze the poison and create an antidote. Emma is
kind to Charles and little Berthe. Charles and Homais summon doctors
from Rouen, including the famous doctor Larivière, but there is
nothing to be done. The priest arrives to give her the sacrament.
Charles weeps by Emma’s bedside, and Emma also weeps. The last sound she
hears is that of the blind beggar singing underneath her window as
In the chapters leading up to Emma’s death, her financial
situation parallels and symbolizes her moral depravity. Her interactions
with men throughout the chapters demonstrate her growing moral turpitude.
When she visits the lawyer, he treats her as if she were a prostitute.
She then flirts with Binet, compromising her dignity even further.
Finally, she tries to go back to Rodolphe, essentially willing to
sell herself—in direct contrast to her outrage when Guillaumin asked
her to do exactly that only a few hours earlier. Flaubert describes
her unequivocally as a prostitute, adding only that she is “not
in the least conscious of her prostitution.” Emma is still able
to delude herself with sentimental and romantic ideas—the only difference
between selling herself to Guillaumin and to Rodolphe is that Emma
can tell herself that Rodolphe loves her.
Although Emma has carefully constructed a romantic fantasy world
for herself throughout the novel, financial reality wrenches her,
fully and finally, out of her dreams. There is no more hiding from
her debt; there is no more eluding the facts of the world around her
by seeking refuge in fantasy. Every attempt Emma makes in this section
to circumvent or overcome her problems separates her from her dreams
and demands that she face up to the ruin she has made of her life.
Leon is unable to help. She has no recourse. She is desperate to
hide her affairs and her financial indiscretions from Charles. Forced
to face the actual consequences of her actions, she decides that
she would rather die.
In the world of Madame Bovary, a woman’s
only power over a man is sexual. In this section, men hold all of
the financial power. Emma and her maid, Félicité, rack their brains
for possible solutions, but in the end, men have the ultimate power
to rescue Emma. The only strategies that Emma can employ to pull
herself out of ruin depend on her posing as a seductress. Even Emma’s
death depends on Justin’s susceptibility to her wiles. Ultimately,
women only can watch the action of men and the world. They themselves
are able to influence the world only sexually, and only in a limited
way. The townswomen who watch Emma’s unsuccessful attempt to seduce Binet
embody the status of females as spectators.
Throughout the novel, Emma has been the victim of a string
of disappointments with the physical world’s failure to fulfill
her romantic desires. Her death is her final disappointment. She
believes that she will die quietly and romantically, and an “ecstasy
of heroism” drives her to eat the arsenic. This “ecstasy” is soon
transformed into bodily agony and a stinking mess on the floor,
when she vomits, writhes in pain, and begs for the poison to work
faster. The fact that the act of poisoning herself is called “eating”
associates it with the physical act of consumption that has so disgusted
Emma and Charles throughout the book. Emma’s lifelong desire to
escape the confines of the material world is thus completely destroyed
by her death.
Flaubert’s realistic description of the material world
persists through Emma’s death scene, relentlessly suggesting that
Emma’s romantic world bears no resemblance to reality. Flaubert
litters the scene with banal commentary on the furniture and the
conversations of the men around Emma. Homais, who stands for bourgeois pomposity
and banality, seems entirely oblivious to Emma’s final throes of
agony. His pompous stupidity is contrasted with Larivière’s intelligent
simplicity and wit in just a few short phrases. When Homais says,
“I wished, doctor, to make an analysis, and primo I delicately
introduced a tube,” the doctor replies, “you would have done better
to introduce your fingers into her throat.”
Emma’s death is firmly grounded in a very realistic description
of her society. Although it seems possible in earlier sections that
Emma will transcend her class, in this section, Flaubert makes it
especially clear that Emma is a member of the bourgeois middle class.
She is neither peasant nor wealthy merchant. Flaubert highlights
her class position by introducing minor characters with class status
both below and above Emma’s. The first is Mère Rollet, the nurse
whom Emma goes to see in a moment of desperation. Mère Rollet reveals her
status as a simple peasant in her ability to tell time by holding
her fingers up to the sun. Later, left alone in Mère Rollet’s hut,
Emma can’t figure out what time it is because there is no clock.
We see that she is much less a peasant than her nursemaid. At the
opposite extreme is Guillaumet, whose splendid house Emma examines
in awe when she goes to beg him for money. By including these contrasts
at such an important moment in the book, Flaubert stresses that
Emma’s social class is essential to her situation and the events that
Ace your assignments with our guide to Madame Bovary!