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.

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Summary: Chapter I

Part Two begins with a description of Yonville-l’Abbaye, the town to which the Bovarys are moving. The most notable features of the town are the Lion d’Or inn, the pharmacy of Monsieur Homais, and the graveyard, where the gravedigger, Lestiboudois, also grows potatoes. The village folk await the arrival of the evening coach. It arrives late, carrying Charles and Emma. The delay has occured because Emma’s little dog escaped and ran away during the journey.

Summary: Chapter II

Charles’s correspondent in Yonville, a pompous, obnoxious apothecary named Homais, dines at the inn with the newly arrived Bovarys. His boarder, a young law clerk named Leon, is invited to join them. While Charles and Homais discuss medicine, Emma and Leon spend much of the meal discovering their affinities. Emma learns that Leon also loves romantic novels and lofty ideals. Sharing these leanings, the two feel an immediate closeness and believe that their conversation is quite profound. When the Bovarys arrive at their new house, Emma hopes that her life will change for the better, and that her unhappiness will finally subside.

Summary: Chapter III

Leon thinks about Emma constantly. Charles’s medical practice gets off to a slow start, but Charles is excited about the coming of the baby. Finally, the baby is born. It is a girl, contrary to Emma’s wishes. They name her Berthe, and Charles’s parents stay with them for a month after the christening party. One day, Emma decides to visit the baby at the house of her wet nurse, who asks her for a few extra amenities. On the way there, Emma feels weak, so she asks Leon to accompany her. Rumors begin to spread through the village that they are having an affair. After the visit to the nurse’s house, Emma and Leon go for a walk by the river, during which they feel passionately romantic toward each other.

Analysis: Part Two, Chapters I–III

The superficiality of Emma’s romanticism becomes clear in her interactions with Leon, who shares her love for sentiment and passionate excess. Emma’s conversation with Leon at dinner is trite and sentimental—they discuss how books transport them away from their everyday lives—but to the two of them, it seems rapturous and meaningful. She challenges her stable but unsatisfying marriage with a relationship that is based on falsely profound declarations rather than true sentiment.

The birth of Emma’s daughter underlines the materialism of her sentiments, but it also introduces some of the novel’s feminist arguments. Emma desires to be a maternal figure only when it seems as though the role might be glamorous. As soon as she realizes that she can’t buy expensive clothes and furniture for the baby, however, her interest fades, and we see that her only interest in the child is as a vehicle for her own desires. Emma dreams of having a son because she believes that a male child will have the power she lacks. This frank statement shows that Flaubert was aware and perhaps disapproved of the abridged liberties afforded to women in the late nineteenth century. Emma observes that “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.” Emma’s lovers always enjoy freedom that she cannot.

Flaubert’s description of the mundane world around Emma is realistic, but somewhat exaggerated. He uses flowery, poetic language to describe Yonville, writing that “the country is like a great unfolded mantle with a green velvet cape bordered with a fringe of silver.” But Flaubert also recognizes the banality of the setting as “a mongrel land whose language, like its landscape, is without accent or character.” By describing the same scene in contrasting ways, Flaubert accomplishes two effects. First, he sets himself apart from his romantic predecessors, who would have appraised a dull scene as unworthy of their attention. Second, he contrasts the banality that Emma sees with the beauty that an outsider might instead perceive. Flaubert thereby establishes that while Emma may be right about the boredom of village life, she is also missing a layer of beauty that her perspective is too narrow to contain.

The villagers who surround Emma provide us with a context for historically understanding Emma’s social position. The wet nurse whom Emma visits, for example, lives in a small hut with the children she nurses. When she sees Emma, she begs her for little necessities—a bit of coffee, some soap, some brandy. Although Emma remains unhappy because she can’t socialize with the aristocracy in Paris, her visit to the wet nurse reminds us that she is comparatively well-off. The village innkeeper, meanwhile, is a down-to-earth woman whose only concerns are whether the meal will be served on time and whether the drunkards who frequent the inn will destroy the billiards table. Although she does lack imagination, she also represents something that Emma is not: a woman who accepts and enjoys her lot in life.