Madame Bovary | Gustave Flaubert

Summary of: Madame Bovary
By: Gustave Flaubert

Emma’s Heartbreak

Emma falls deeply in love with Rodolphe and goes to great lengths to please him, including buying expensive fashion items and planning to run away with him and her daughter. However, Rodolphe sees her as just another lover and humiliates her. In a moment of weakness, he agrees to her plan to run away together, but ultimately breaks her heart by reneging on his promise. He writes her a fake letter, claiming he cried when writing it, to soften the blow. Emma is left heartbroken, having sacrificed so much for a love that was never truly reciprocated.


Embark on a vivid journey through the life and struggles of Emma Bovary in Gustave Flaubert’s masterpiece, ‘Madame Bovary.’ We delve deep into the captivating world of a woman stifled by her mundane existence and her desperate quest for love, passion, adventure, and a life outside the confines of her domestic sphere. Discover the heart-wrenching consequences of Emma’s pursuit of an idealized world, and witness her misaligned expectations culminate into a spiral of debt, despair, and disillusionment. This emotional rollercoaster explores the human condition, desires, and the dangers of fantasy, while depicting a vivid portrayal of 19th-century French society.

Madame Bovary’s Trap

Charles Bovary, an average student, is forced into a life he never wanted with a wife he can’t stand. Madame Bovary senior’s ambitious plans for her son were the catalyst for his mother finding him a wife, the wealthy Héloïse Dubuc. An unhappy Héloïse became jealous and desperate for reassurance which led to her spying on Charles and reading his mail. This manufactured life in Tostes was the beginning of Madame Bovary’s trap, which Charles was never able to fully escape from.

The Tragic Love Affair

Charles falls for Emma Rouault, but his previous marriage and financial troubles lead to a tragic end.

Charles, a doctor, is called to the house of Monsieur Rouault to tend to his broken leg and meets his beautiful daughter, Emma. Charles is captivated by Emma’s beauty, elegance, and lack of artifice, and he finds himself visiting the Rouaults frequently. However, Charles’ wife, Héloïse, becomes suspicious, and their marriage deteriorates. Meanwhile, Charles discovers that Héloïse’s wealth is not as extensive as he had believed, further complicating matters. The situation comes to a head when Héloïse dies of a hemorrhage, leaving Charles a bachelor once again. The tragic love affair between Charles and Emma is a cautionary tale of the consequences of infidelity and financial deception.

Madame Bovary’s Wedding

Monsieur Rouault, father of Héloïse, suggests Charles marry Emma. After weeks of building courage, Charles proposes and Emma accepts, leading to a three-day wedding feast. However, Emma’s mother-in-law is unhappy because she wasn’t involved in the preparations.

Emma’s Dissatisfaction

Charles and Emma’s marriage starts on a high note, but Emma’s juvenile fantasies clash with the reality of her marriage. Emma’s childhood convent education introduced her to romantic novels that fueled her dream of a medieval romance. However, Charles fails to live up to her expectations, and her enthusiasm for their union dwindles fast. Charles savors their domestic moments, but Emma feels distant from her dream and starts to feel unfulfilled with Charles.

Emma’s Romantic Encounter

Emma desperately longs for excitement and romance in her otherwise mundane life. Her attempts at instilling such passion into her marriage, however, conflict with her husband Charles’s practical nature. Finally, an invitation to a ball from the Marquis d’Andervilliers provides Emma with the thrill she’s been seeking. She spends the night dancing and immersed in the lights, food, and people, forgetting about Charles. But while Emma revels in the newfound amusement, her husband remains eager to return to their uneventful life at Tostes.

Trapped in Boredom

Emma is trapped in a narrow-minded and dull life. She yearns for excitement, devours books and magazines, and resents her mediocre husband. Her life grows increasingly cold, leading to illness and melancholy. Charles attempts to cure her by moving them to a new village, but Emma remains unfulfilled, and the move only worsens her condition.

Emma and Léon’s Forbidden Love

Emma and Charles move to Yonville-l’Abbaye where they find little excitement. Emma befriends Léon, a young clerk, and they share a mutual love for all things new. Charles is unhappy with his lack of patients and money troubles. The birth of their child, Berthe, brings them only temporary happiness as Emma soon grows tired of her. During one visit to see Berthe, Emma crosses paths with Léon, who becomes increasingly drawn to her. Emma also begins to feel a deep connection to Léon but is too afraid to act on it. Meanwhile, the rumors of their attraction spread throughout the village.

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