Madame Bovary

by: Gustave Flaubert

Part Three, Chapters I–III

Summary Part Three, Chapters I–III

The lyricism of Flaubert’s prose in this section illustrates the belief of both Emma and Leon that their love affair is fantastically romantic, while ironically communicating the narrator’s awareness that the affair is cheap and tawdry. On the one hand, Flaubert uses lyrical, poetic language to capture the mood of his characters, writing of Emma, “at times the shadows of the willows hid her completely; then she reappeared suddenly, like a vision in the moonlight.” On the other hand, he maintains a detached irony, writing, “they did not fail to make fine phrases about how melancholical and poetic [the moon] appeared to them.” The narrator’s use of poetic language to describe Emma is not sarcastic; instead, it conveys both the beauty and the absurdity of the situation. Flaubert is never entirely condescending towards his characters, nor does he ever entirely embrace their naiveté.