Madame Bovary

by: Gustave Flaubert

Part Two, Chapters I–III

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.