Arnoux enters the room and announces he is going to visit Oudry. Frédéric figures out that Oudry keeps Rosanette. Arnoux begins inviting Frédéric to Rosanette’s house regularly. Frédéric likes Rosanette’s energy and excitement, which is much different from the calmness surrounding Madame Arnoux.
Arnoux does his best to juggle his wife and his mistress. But Rosanette tires of his antics and complains to Frédéric that Arnoux never bought her a cashmere shawl he’d promised her. She also tells Frédéric that Arnoux had forced her to sign a bill made out to Monsieur Dambreuse.
Frédéric tries to write, but he grows depressed at his unrequited love of Madame Arnoux. He decides to get Arnoux to hire Senecal, so Senecal can operate as a kind of spy. Arnoux, who is trying to build up his new factory, hires him. Frédéric begins championing Rosanette to Arnoux, trying to get him to spend more time with her so that Frédéric can spend more time with Madame Arnoux. Arnoux finally buys Rosanette the cashmere shawl. When Frédéric visits her, he suspects she is making advances, and he decides to try to make Rosanette his mistress. She rebuffs him.
Frédéric asks Pellerin to paint a portrait of Rosanette, and they spend more time together. But still she resists him.
Hussonnet and Deslauriers visit him at home and talk about their paper. Frédéric relents and gives them some money. Deslauriers complains that Frédéric has not introduced him to society, but Frédéric knows Deslauriers is much too shabby.
Frédéric pursues a career in the Council of State, with Dambreuse’s help. Rosanette ends her relationship with Oudry and makes what Frédéric interprets as an invitation to take his place. At her next party, Frédéric wanders from group to group listening to the conversations and looking at all the women. Dambreuse hints that he may be willing to get Frédéric a job in business. Filled with confidence, he tries to visit Rosanette the next evening, but she turns him away. Mademoiselle Vatnaz sees him go and complains that Delmar is with her. She tells him secrets about Rosanette’s romantic and sexual history.
Frédéric visits the Arnouxes, who are in the middle of an argument. Madame Arnoux is accusing Arnoux of having an affair—she learned of his purchase of the shawl. Arnoux leaves, and Frédéric tries to comfort her. He feels connected to her. When Arnoux returns, he reassures him, too, that everything will be okay.
Flaubert does not always fully explain the nature of the friendships and romantic relationships surrounding Frédéric, and this vagueness emphasizes that Frédéric is still an outsider in this world of high society. When Arnoux takes him to a party at Rosanette, Frédéric finds himself in a world of confusing liaisons. He meets Rosanette, Oudry, and Delmar; he once again sees Mademoiselle Vatnaz; hints are made about Arnoux’s involvement with Rosanette; and Rosanette, for some reason, winds up in tears. Although these relationships become clearer as the novel progresses, Frédéric’s first exposure to them is convoluted, secretive, and fraught. He does his best to keep up, but he is just as confused as we are about who’s sleeping with whom, who knows what, and what his position actually is in all this. He is an outsider, but as he learns more, he gains a certain privilege from his outsider status, as people feel safe telling him their secrets.
Madame Arnoux and Rosanette, Frédéric’s two romantic obsessions, are vastly different types of women. Madame Arnoux is almost always portrayed in a warm, domestic setting. She is often sitting by a fire when Frédéric arrives, she is nearly always sewing, and she frequently has a child in her lap. Frédéric thinks her movements have a peaceful grace. This image of a comfortable, calm, matronly woman contrasts with the fiery Rosanette, who, far from engaging in family life, throws parties and acts with a wildness that stuns and excites Frédéric. The two women are almost complete opposites, but both Arnoux and Frédéric are attracted to them both. Each woman seems to fulfill a different need: Madame Arnoux satisfies the desire for safety and comfort, while Rosanette satisfies more primal, sexual desires. Arnoux, more worldly than Frédéric, surely understands the attraction of his mistress. But Frédéric seems to copy Arnoux’s affections without much or any critical thought about why each woman is remarkable or why each is appealing.
The role of art changes significantly for Arnoux, Hussonnet, Pellerin, and Frédéric. Arnoux gives up his art dealership for the pottery trade, which sets him on a different, perhaps scandalous or ruinous course. He tells Frédéric that great art is no longer fashionable and claims that his factory itself is a form of beauty. Arnoux’s art magazine, meanwhile, has been appropriated by Hussonnet to use for political purposes. Pellerin embraces his painting, but he has given up on beauty and focuses instead on variety. The idea of pure beauty is no longer a consideration. Frédéric exploits Pellerin’s artistic talents for his own agenda, employing him to paint Rosanette’s portrait so he can spend more time with her. Here, too, beauty is not the purpose of this artistic endeavor; the art is being used toward some other goal. As Frédéric becomes more involved in society and pursues various women, career paths, and connections, the role of art gets muddled and bastardized, just as his own values and beliefs fade as he tries to become more like his new acquaintances.