Fumichon, an industrialist, speaks passionately about the right to own property. Arnoux tries to argue that there are two types of socialism, but Fumichon dismisses him, saying he would strangle Proudhon (a socialist who claimed that “property is theft”). Hussonnet arrives, bringing Dambreuse a reactionary pamphlet. Talk turns to the rift between the workers and the bourgeoisie.
Louise, watching Madame Dambreuse act flirtatiously with Frédéric, reveals to Madame Arnoux that she is in love with him. Madame Arnoux tells her he has deceived other women and not to trust him. Madame Dambreuse teases Frédéric about Louise’s obvious infatuation; he is flattered. Frédéric feels comfortable and confident at the party and makes a good impression on the guests. Before he leaves, Louise corners him and makes him swear he loves her. She tells him to ask for her hand in marriage, but Frédéric explains that marriage is not wise for him right now. Later, he goes to Rosanette’s.
That night, Louise and her maid, Caroline, sneak out to go see Frédéric. But his concierge tells them he hasn’t slept at home for three months. Louise is heartbroken.
As the revolution topples the monarchy and the Republic prevails, Frédéric gets caught up in the political situation and engages with the world outside of his personal affairs. The new Republic brings with it the possibility of socialism, which terrifies the bourgeoisie (middle class) who fear they will lose their wealth and property. The workers and the bourgeoisie had wanted to overthrow King Philippe’s reign, but now the bourgeoisie and the workers are separating and beginning to fight against each other. Rosanette, who has no wealth of her own, resents Frédéric for his support of the Republic, fearing that she’ll die poor. She believes France was better off with a king. Although Frédéric will grow closer to Rosanette and continue his involvement with her, their political differences create a bitter undercurrent that places them on opposite sides of a political dividing line.
Mademoiselle Vatnaz and Rosanette, one a spinster and the other a woman of ill repute, embody very different ideas about the role of women in society. Mademoiselle Vatnaz adamantly supports giving women more rights and power, and she supports the Republic and socialism in the hope of furthering her cause. Her views run to the extremes—for example, she believes that the institution of marriage should be abolished. Rosanette, meanwhile, believes that women are meant to be lovers, mothers, and wives, and the two women argue vehemently. Despite their radically different viewpoints, the women share one thing in common: the actor Delmar. A lover or former lover of both women, Delmar and their affection for him trumps their political opinions as the root of their most bitter arguments. These very different women, Flaubert seems to suggest, are not so different in matters of the heart.
When Frédéric and Rosanette spend time alone in Fontainebleau, they achieve a happy equilibrium away from the politics and romantic intrigue of Paris. Without any outside forces to create obstacles, jealousies, or rivals, Frédéric feels peaceful with her; when he suspects he is not too smart, he dismisses the thought. He displays a kindness with Rosanette that he has not yet displayed with any other woman, avoiding plots and conniving. He has the woman he wants, and he does not need to use trickery to keep her. However, this apparent love is not as pure as this description suggests. Rosanette in some ways has taken on the qualities of Madame Arnoux. Before their trip, Frédéric saw her sitting by a fire, sewing, as he so often saw Madame Arnoux do. Without an audience or her array of admirers, Rosanette is calmer and more demure. It is possible that Frédéric is using Rosanette as a kind of stand-in for Madame Arnoux, transferring his love out of necessity. She is twenty-nine, which Frédéric considers old, and he vividly imagines a happy future with her, just as he did with Madame Arnoux. Stand-in or not, however, he seems utterly convinced that he loves her, although it is curious that this devotion becomes possible only when they are outside of their real life in Paris.
The party at the Dambreuses’ repositions Frédéric as a favored member of society, but to maintain this status he must extricate himself from Louise. Louise, who had seemed so youthful and appealing when Frédéric was in Nogent, wilts and loses her beauty when she is in the sophisticated company of Madame Dambreuse and Madame Arnoux. Out of her element, she is shocked to see Madame Dambreuse flirting with Frédéric, which leads Madame Arnoux to warn her not to trust him. Her obvious love for Frédéric makes him feel superior and self-confident, and it increases his social standing in the eyes of Madame Dambreuse. He dismisses her deftly at the end of the party, standing up for the women there when she claims they are spiteful, and although he swears he still loves her, he is certain he is cut out for better things. He heads immediately to Rosanette’s house, leaving Louise, with her pure love for him and her father’s fortune, behind.