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MADAME BOVARY

by: Gustave Flaubert


Charles had seen in marriage the advent of an easier life, thinking he would be more free to do as he liked with himself and his money. But his wife was master; he had to say this and not say that in company, to fast every Friday, dress as she liked, harass at her bidding those patients who did not pay. She opened his letter, watched his comings and goings, and listened at the partition-wall when women came to consult him in his surgery. She must have her chocolate every morning, attentions without end. She constantly complained of her nerves, her chest, her liver. The noise of footsteps made her ill; when people left her, solitude became odious to her; if they came back, it was doubtless to see her die. When Charles returned in the evening, she stretched forth two long thin arms from beneath the sheets, put them round his neck, and having made him sit down on the edge of the bed, began to talk to him of her troubles: he was neglecting her, he loved another. She had been warned she would be unhappy; and she ended by asking him for a dose of medicine and a little more love.

--Part I, Chapter I

He was happy now, without a care in the world. A meal alone with her, a stroll along the highway in the evening, the way she touched her hand to her hair, the sight of her straw hat hanging from a window hasp, and many other things in which it had never occurred to him to look for pleasure -- such now formed the steady current of his happiness.

--Part I, Chapter V

Seen from close, her eyes appeared larger than life, especially when she opened and shut her eyelids several times on awakening: black when looked at in the shadow, dark blue in bright light, they seemed to contain layer upon layer of color, thicker and cloudier beneath, lighter and more transparent toward the lustrous surface.

--Part I, Chapter V

Before her marriage she had thought that she had love within her grasp but since the happiness which she had expected this love to bring her hadn't come, she supposed she must have been mistaken. Emma tried to imagine just what was meant, in life, by the words "bliss," "passion," and "rapture" -- words that had seemed so beautiful to her in books.

--Part I, Chapter V

She loved the sea for its storms alone, cared for vegetation only when it grew here and there among ruins. She had to extract a kind of personal advantage from things and she rejected as useless everything that promised no immediate gratification -- for her temperament was more sentimental than artistic, and what she was looking for was emotions, not scenery.

--Part I, Chapter VI

The sentimental songs she sang in music class were all about little angels with golden wings, madonnas, lagoons, gondoliers -- mawkish compositions that allowed her to glimpse, through the silliness of the words and the indiscretions of the music, the alluring, phantasmagoric realm of genuine feeling.

--Part I, Chapter VI

It seemed to her that certain portions of the earth must produce happiness -- as though it were a plant native only to those soils and doomed to languish elsewhere. Why couldn't she be leaning over the balcony of some Swiss chalet? Or nursing her melancholy in a cottage in Scotland, with a husband clad in a long black velvet coat and wearing soft leather shoes, a high-crowned hat and fancy cuffs?

--Part I, Chapter VII

She might have been glad to confide all these things to someone. But how to speak about so elusive a malaise, one that keeps changing its shape like the clouds and its direction like the wind? She could find no words; and hence neither occasion nor courage came to hand.

--Part I, Chapter VII

Even as they were brought closer together by the details of daily life, she was separated from him by a growing sense of inward detachment. Charles' conversation was flat as a sidewalk, a place of passage for the ideas of everyman; they wore drab everyday clothes, and they inspired neither laughter nor dreams.

--Part I, Chapter VII

He took it for granted that she was content; and she resented his settled calm, his serene dullness, the very happiness she herself brought him.

--Part I, Chapter VII

Her life was as cold as an attic facing north; and boredom, like a silent spider, was weaving its web in the shadows, in every corner of her heart.

--Part I, Chapter VII

Everything immediately surrounding her -- boring countryside, inane petty bourgeois, the mediocrity of daily life -- seemed to her the exception rather than the rule. She had been caught in it all by some accident: out beyond, there stretched as far as the eye could see the immense territory of rapture and passions. In her longing she made no difference between the pleasures of luxury and the joys of the heart, between elegant living and sensitive feeling. Didn't love, like Indian plants, require rich soils, special temperatures?

--Part I, Chapter IX

Though she had no one to write to, she had bought herself a blotter, a writing case, a pen and envelopes; she would dust off her whatnot, look at herself in the mirror, take up a book, and then begin to daydream and let it fall to her lap.... She wanted to die. And she wanted to live in Paris.

--Part I, Chapter IX

Deep down, all the while, she was waiting for something to happen. Like a sailor in distress, she kept casting desperate glances over the solitary waster of her life, seeking some white sail in the distant mists of the horizon. She had no idea by what wind it would reach her, toward what shore it would bear her, or what kind of craft it would be – tiny boat or towering vessel, laden with heartbreaks or filled to the gunwhales with rapture. But every morning when she awoke she hoped that today would be the day; she listened for every sound, gave sudden starts, was surprised when nothing happened; and then, sadder with each succeeding sunset, she longed for tomorrow.

--Part I, Chapter IX

The future was a pitch-black tunnel, ending in a locked door.

--Part I, Chapter IX

My God is the God of Socrates, of Franklin, of Voltaire.... I have no use for the kind of God who goes walking in his garden with a stick, sends his friends to live in the bellies of whales, gives up the ghost with a groan and then comes back to life three days later! Those things aren't only absurd in and of themselves, Madame -- they're completely opposed to all physical laws!

--Part II, Chapter I

What's more delightful than an evening beside the fire with a nice bright lamp and a book, listening to the wind beating against the windows?... I'm absolutely removed from the world at such times.... The hours go by without my knowing it. Sitting there I'm wandering in countries I can see every detail of -- I'm playing a role in the story I'm reading. I actually feel I'm the characters -- I live and breathe with them.

--Part II, Chapter II

Noble characters and pure affections and happy scenes are very comforting things. They're a refuge from life's disillusionments.

--Part II, Chapter II

Had they nothing more to say to each other? Their eyes, certainly, were full of more meaningful talk; and as they made themselves utter banalities they sensed the same languor invading them both: it was like a murmur of the soul, deep and continuous, more clearly audible than the sound of their words.

--Part II, Chapter III

Future joys are like tropic shores: out into the immensity that lies before them they waft their native softness, a fragrant breeze that drugs the traveler into drowsiness and makes him careless of what awaits him on the horizon beyond his view.

--Part II, Chapter III

She was torn by wild desires, by rage, by hatred. The trim folds of her dress hid a heart in turmoil, and her reticent lips told nothing of the storm. She was in love with Léon, and she sought the solitude that allowed her to revel undisturbed in his image.

--Part II, Chapter V

Nevertheless the flames did die down -- whether exhausted from lack of supplies or choked by excessive feeding. Little by little, love was quenched by absence; regret was smothered by routine; and the fiery glow that had reddened her pale sky grew gray and gradually vanished.... But the storm kept raging, her passion burned itself to ashes, no help was forthcoming, no new sun rose to the horizon. Night closed in completely around her, and she was left alone in a horrible void of piercing cold.

--Part II, Chapter VII

Poor little thing! She's gasping for love like a carp on a kitchen table gasping for water.

--Part II, Chapter VII

They talked about the mediocrity of provincial life, so suffocating, so fatal to all noble dreams.

--Part II, Chapter VIII

Our duty is to feel what is great and love what is beautiful -- not to accept all the social conventions and the infamies they impose on us.

--Part II, Chapter VIII

Never had her eyes been so enormous, so dark, so deep: her whole being was transfigured by some subtle emanation.

--Part II, Chapter IX

She remembered the heroines of novels she had read, and the lyrical legion of those adulterous women began to sing in her memory with sisterly voices that enchanted her. Now she saw herself as one of those amoureuses whom she had so envied: she was becoming, in reality, one of that gallery of fictional figures; the long dream of her youth was coming true. She was full of a delicious sense of vengeance. How she had suffered! But now her hour of triumph had come; and love, so long repressed was gushing forth in joyful effervescence. She savored it without remorse, without anxiety, without distress.

--Part II, Chapter IX

At last she was going to know the joys of love, the fever of the happiness she had despaired of. She was entering a marvelous realm where all would be passion, ecstasy, rapture: she was in the midst of an endless blue expanse, scaling the glittering heights of passion; everyday life had receded, and lay far below, in the shadows between those peaks.

--Part II, Chapter IX

How happy she had been in those days! How free! How full of hope! How rich in illusions! There were no illusions left now. She had had to part with some each time she had ventured on a new path, in each of her successive conditions -- as virgin, as wife, as mistress; all along the course of her life she had been losing them, like a traveler leaving a bit of his fortune in every inn along the road.

--Part II, Chapter X

She repented her virtue of days past as though it had been a crime; and what virtue she had left now crumbled under the furious assault of her pride. Adultery was triumphant; and she reveled in the prospect of its sordid ironies. The thought of her lover made her reel with desire; heart and soul she flung herself into her longing, borne toward him on waves of new rapture; and Charles seemed to her as detached from her life, as irrevocably gone, as impossible and done for, as though he were a dying man, gasping his last before her eyes.

--Part II, Chapter XI

He saw no reason why there should be all this to-do about so simple a thing as love-making.

--Part II, Chapter XII

He had had such things said to him so many times that none of them had any freshness for him. Emma was like all his other mistresses; and as the charm of novelty gradually slipped from her like a piece of her clothing, he saw revealed in all its nakedness the eternal monotony of passion, which always assumes the same forms and always speaks the same language.

Part II, Chapter XII

The more flowery a person's speech ... the more suspect the feelings, or lack of feelings, it concealed.

--Part II, Chapter XII

None of us can ever express the exact measure of his needs or his thoughts or his sorrows ... human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.

--Part II, Chapter XII

Never had Madame Bovary been as beautiful as now. She had that indefinable beauty that comes from happiness, enthusiasm, success -- a beauty that is nothing more or less than a harmony of temperament and circumstances. Her desires, her sorrows, her experience of sensuality, her ever-green illusions, had developed her step by step, like a flower nourished by manure and by the rain, by the wind and the sun; and she was finally blooming in the fullness of her nature.

--Part II, Chapter XII

Some day sooner or later our passion would have cooled -- inevitably -- it's the way with everything human.

--Part II, Chapter XIII

She was filled with wonderment at the discovery that there was a bliss greater than mere happiness -- a love different from and transcending all others -- a love without break and without end, a love that increased throughout eternity!... She conceived the idea of becoming a saint. She bought rosaries and festooned herself with holy medals; she wished she had an emerald-studded reliquary within reach at her bed's head, to kiss every night.

--Part II, Chapter XIV

When she knelt at the gothic prie-dieu she addressed the Lord with the same ardent words she had formerly murmured to her lover in the ecstasies of adultery. It was her way of praying for faith; but heaven showered no joy upon her, and she would rise, her limbs aching, with a vague feeling that it was all a vast fraud.

--Part II, Chapter XV

Self-confidence depends on surroundings: the same person talks quite differently in the drawing room and in the garret, and a rich woman's virtue is protected by her banknotes quite effectively as by any cuirass worn under a corset.

--Part III, Chapter I

Speech is a rolling-machine that always stretches the feelings it expresses.

--Part III, Chapter I

His rage had sent him into Latin: he would have spouted Chinese or Greenlandic had he been able to, for he was in the throes of one of those crises in which the soul lays bare its every last corners, just as the ocean, in the travail of a storm, splits open to display everything from the seaweed on its shores to the sand of its deepest bottom.

--Part III, Chapter II

She was the amoureuse of all the novels, the heroine of all the plays, the vague "she" of all the poetry books.

--Part III, Chapter V

A clear day's warmth will often move
A lass to stray in dreams of love.

--Part III, Chapter V

A man of science can't be expected to burden himself with the practical details of existence.

--Part III, Chapter V

Casting aspersions on those we love always does something to loosen our ties. We shouldn't maltreat our idols: the gilt comes off on our hands.

--Part III, Chapter VI

He even did his best to stop loving her; then at the sound of her footsteps he would feel his will desert him, like a drunkard at the sight of strong liquor.

--Part III, Chapter VI

Why was life so unsatisfactory? Why did everything she leaned on crumble instantly to dust?... Nothing was worth looking for: everything was a lie! Every smile concealed a yawn of boredom; every joy, a curse; every pleasure, its own surfeit; and the sweetest kisses left on one's lips but a vain longing for a fuller delight.

--Part III, Chapter VI

There isn't a bourgeois alive who in the ferment of his youth, if only for a day or for a minute, hasn't thought himself capable of boundless passions and noble exploits. The sorriest little woman-chaser has dreamed of Oriental queens; in a corner of every notary's heart lie the moldy remains of a poet.

--Part III, Chapter VI

Adultery ... could be as banal as marriage.

--Part III, Chapter VI

Of all the icy blasts that blow on love, a request for money is the most chilling and havoc-wreaking.

--Part III, Chapter VIII

First he anointed her eyes, once so covetous of all earthly luxuries; then her nostrils, so gluttonous of caressing breezes and amorous scents; then her mouth, so prompt to lie, so defiant in pride, so loud in lust; then her hands that had thrilled to voluptuous contacts; and finally the soles of her feet, once so swift when she had hastened to slake her desires, and now never to walk again.

--Part III, Chapter VIII