Madame Bovary

Author: Gustave Flaubert  | Date: 1856


Madame Bovary’s new home: Bridal bouquets:

Changes in the house: A new trap: Charles finds happiness:

Blowing kisses: The devoted husband:

Life and the books.

THE brick front looked straight on to the street, or rather road. Hanging up behind the front door were a cloak with a narrow collar, a bridle, a black leather cap, and, in the corner, on the floor, a pair of leggings covered with stale mud. To the right was the parlour, that is to say, the room where they lived and had their meals. The canary-yellow wallpaper, relieved by a frieze of pallid flowers, shook all over the badly hung canvas. White calico curtains with a red border were hung crosswise along the windows and on the narrow chimneypiece there stood, in all its glory, a clock adorned with a bust of Hippocrates, between two plated candlesticks under a pair of oval shades. On the other side of the passage was Charles’s consulting-room, a little box of a place about six feet wide, furnished with a table, three upright chairs and one arm-chair. A set of the Dictionary of Medical Science , the leaves of which were uncut, but which bore evidence of the number of times it had changed hands, took up almost all the six rows of the deal bookcase. The smell of cooking would come in through the partition during consultations, and if you were in the kitchen you could hear the patients coughing and telling the doctor all about their ailments as plainly as if you were in the room. Next, opening straight on to the yard, was a great ramshackle room, fitted with a cooking range, which was used as a place for storing wood and general lumber. It was full of old iron, empty casks, worn-out gardening tools and all manner of other dusty objects the use of which it was impossible to determine. The garden, which was a good deal longer than it was broad, was flanked by two cob walls covered with espaliered apricot trees, and extended as far as the thorn hedge at the bottom, which divided it from the open fields. In the middle there was a sundial made of slate standing on a plaster pedestal. Four beds, planted with feeble-looking rose-trees, were ranged symmetrically around a square plot that was devoted to the rearing of more serviceable vegetation. At the far end, under some spruce trees, a plaster cure was poring over his breviary.

Emma went up to see the bedrooms. The first one was not furnished at all, but the second, the nuptial chamber, had a mahogany bed in an alcove with red hangings. A box made of cockle-shells adorned the chest of drawers, and on the secretaire , by the window, stood a glass bottle with a bunch of orange-blossom in it, tied with white satin ribbon. It was a bridal bouquet, his first wife’s bouquet. Her eyes fell on it. Charles saw her looking at it, and took it up into the attic. Sitting back in an arm-chair, while her things were being unpacked, Emma’s thoughts strayed to her own wedding bouquet, which was stowed away in a bandbox, and she wondered, in a vague sort of way, what would happen to it, if by chance she came to die.

She at once set about making plans for alterations in her house. She took the globes off the candlesticks, had the walls repapered, the staircase painted and seats put in the garden, round the sundial. She even wondered if it would be possible to have a little pond for goldfish, with a fountain playing in the centre. And then her husband, knowing how fond she was of driving, picked up a trap that was going cheap. With a couple of new lamps and a pair of shiny leather splashboards, it looked almost as smart as a tilbury.

He was a happy man now, with never a care in the world. A meal, with her sitting opposite him, a stroll along the highway of an evening, the gleam of her hand as she set a ringlet straight, the sight of her straw hat hung up on a window catch, and a host of other things which Charles had never deemed capable of affording pleasure, brought him a continuous succession of delights. In bed, of a morning, with her head on the pillow beside him, he would gaze at the sunbeams playing on the soft bloom of her cheek, half-hidden by the scalloped strings of her night-cap. Looked at from so near, he thought her eyes bigger than ever, especially when she first woke and blinked them many times in succession. Black in the shade, deep blue in the daylight, they seemed to be made of flakes of different colours, dark and shadowy far down, brighter and brighter as they neared the surface. His gaze would lose itself in their deeps, and he could see within them a tiny picture of himself, down to the shoulders, with his silk foulard about his head and the collar of his night-shirt agape. Then he would get up and dress. She would post herself at the window to see him start, and sit there leaning her elbows on the sill between a pair of geraniums, wrapped in a dressing-gown that hung in soft folds about her. Down in the street below, Charles would be fixing on his spurs with his foot up on the kerb, while she went on talking to him from above, pulling off with her lips a bud or a blade of grass which she blew down to him and which, eddying, floating, wheeling in the air like a bird, caught, ere it fell to earth, in the tangled mane of the old white mare, standing stock-still at the door. Mounted in the saddle, Charles would blow her a kiss, and she would wave back to him. Then she would shut the window, and off he would go. And up on the main road which stretched, an endless riband of white dust, before him; down steep lanes where the trees hung over like the hood of a cradle; through bridle-paths where the corn stood as high as his knees, with the sun on his back, the morning air in his nostrils, and sweet memories of the night in his heart, he went his way, calm in mind and contented in body, ruminating on his good fortune, even as men who have well dined recall the savour of the delicacies they have eaten.

When, until now, had he had a taste of life’s good things? Was it in his schooldays, shut up behind high walls, lonely and friendless, among boys who were richer or cleverer than he, who mocked his country speech, who jeered at his clothes and whose mothers came with their muffs crammed full of pastries and good things? Or later when he was studying medicine and never had the wherewithal to stand treat to some little work-girl or other who might have become his mistress. After that he had had fourteen months of married life with the widow, whose feet, in bed, were like lumps of ice. But now this pretty little woman whom he worshipped, was his for life. For him the whole universe was contained within the silken circumference of her skirt. He reproached himself for not making enough fuss of her; he was always longing for the sight of her; he hurried back home, and mounted the stairs with a beating heart. Emma, in the bedroom, would, perhaps, be seated at her mirror. He would steal up noiselessly behind her, and kiss her on the back, and she would give a little scream. He couldn’t help fiddling with her comb, her rings, her pieces of lace. Sometimes he would give her great big kisses on the cheek, or else a series of little ones all along her bare arm, from the tips of her fingers right up to her shoulder. And she would push him away, half-playful, half-impatient, as you do with a child that will cling on behind you.

Before she married, she thought she was in love; but the happiness that should have resulted from that love, somehow had not come. It seemed to her that she must have made a mistake, have misunderstood in some way or another. And Emma tried hard to discover what, precisely, it was in life that was denoted by the words joy, passion, intoxication , which had always looked so fine to her in books.


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Chicago: Gustave Flaubert, "5," Madame Bovary, trans. J. Lewis May Original Sources, accessed June 2, 2023,

MLA: Flaubert, Gustave. "5." Madame Bovary, translted by J. Lewis May, Original Sources. 2 Jun. 2023.

Harvard: Flaubert, G, '5' in Madame Bovary, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 2 June 2023, from