When Frédéric’s love of Madame Arnoux flares up again and, for the first time, he manages to actually forge a romantic relationship with her, his delight in her and in their future is so effusive that it foreshadows a disastrous conclusion. Frédéric, who tends toward extremes, claims that he cannot live without her. For her part, Madame Arnoux believes the love she feels is deserved because of her past bad luck. However, Frédéric has exhibited similar brash desires before: he wanted to come to Paris, to enter bourgeois society, to have wealth, to become Rosanette’s lover, and to earn favor with Dambreuse. In almost every case, when he achieved or came close to achieving what he desired, he no longer wanted it as strongly, or at all. Frédéric has proven to be more interested in the thrill of the chase than in the intended goal, and now that Madame Arnoux is within reach, it seems unlikely that he will be satisfied.

Although both Frédéric and Madame Arnoux curse fate for their inability to live together as a couple, the only thing keeping them apart is Madame Arnoux’s reluctance to commit adultery and Frédéric’s determination that he must wait for her to change her mind. Their world is full of people who are involved in various affairs—nearly everyone they know has a lover, a mistress, or some sort of illicit admiration for someone forbidden. Frédéric and Madame Arnoux complain about fate, but, alone in the country with no possibility of being discovered, it is more likely something within themselves that stops them from pursuing their affair any further. Frédéric wants Madame Arnoux to come to him of her own accord, but the fact that he waits so passively suggests that he, too, is hesitating and is all too willing to find an excuse to hold back. He does make an effort to conquer her by arranging a walk and secretly renting a streetside apartment, but these efforts are invisible to her and instead serve only to increase Frédéric’s frustration. When Madame Arnoux fails to show up and decides that her son’s illness was a sign from God, she is quick to swear off the affair—and Frédéric is just as quick to run to the arms of Rosanette.