On a cold Sunday afternoon in February, Monsieur and Madame Bovary, Homais and Lon, the Homais children (Napolon and Athalie) and Justin go to view a flax mill being built outside of town. The sight is dull and Emma, watching her husband, is disgusted by his stupidity and dullness. She contrasts his appearance with Lon's much more desirable countenance and later that evening, alone in her home, comes to the sudden realization that the clerk is in love with her. This pleases her but she again laments that she is married to Charles. The next day Monsieur Lheureux, the owner of the dry-goods store, visits and tries to tempt her with the fine things he can procure for her on credit. She politely refuses and congratulates herself for her thrift. That evening Lon visits her but finds Madame Bovary distracted. To his chagrin she refers several times to the duties of home and hearth. In the following days she exerts herself to be a devoted mother and wife and Lon determines that she is inaccessible. Over the following weeks Emma grows thinner, more melancholy, sweet and subdued. Inside, however, she is torn by passionate love for Lon. Emma's suppressed feelings and unrealized dreams cause her torment and her husband's complete ignorance of her suffering exasperates her even more. Over time Charles becomes the object of her resentment. Only Flicit notices her mistress' sorrow but Emma blames it on nerves.
One evening, while sitting at her window, Emma hears the church bell tolling and she is reminded of her girlhood in the convent. Seeking spiritual guidance she makes her way to the church where the boys from the village are gathering for catechism. She finds the abb, Monsieur Bournisien, in a distracted state of mind and despite her attempt to draw him into a conversation about her spiritual crises he does not glean the true reason for her visit and offers only banalities. He cannot fathom why anyone who is warm and fed would have troubles. At home she falls into a foul mood and when Berthe pesters her she pushes the child who falls and suffers a cut to her cheek. Emma immediately calls for help and Charles dresses the wound but that evening the mother watches the sleeping child closely. She notices with some surprise that her daughter is ugly. Lon becomes exceedingly morose and dissatisfied with life in Yonville and he finally resolves to move to Paris to complete his law studies. Lon and Emma part awkwardly and leaving much unsaid. Homais visits that night as usual and Emma suffers greatly as he and Charles discuss all the distractions and trappings of society that Lon will experience in Paris. Before he leaves, Homais mentions that there is a rumor that the region's annual Agricultural Show will be held in Yonville.
Analysis of Chapters 5-6
Emma's conviction that her happiness is dependent upon the proper surroundings leads her to associate her disgust with the dullness of the landscape and the flax mill with her disgust for Charles. In this manner she realizes that Lon, who stands apart from the drabness of Yonville, is in love with her. Shackled by propriety to her marriage she can only suffer as her love for the clerk mounts. Nevertheless she not only resists the urge to act on her love but she continues to be a responsible wife as evidenced of her refusal to purchase expensive goods from Lheureux. This is the first appearance of the merchant and his promise to her that he knows what ladies want indicates that he intends to make Emma a regular customer. Her attempt to find comfort in religion is deterred by the abbe's small-minded failure to appreciate the nature of her crises. This attitude is in keeping with the nineteenth century conception of women as mere recipients of a man's desires without their own sexual agenda or need for pleasure. Although Emma is trapped by her gender and marital status, Lon is a single man and he has the choice of escaping to Paris. This fact is particularly painful to Emma when she hears Homais and her husband, both of whom could have presumably exercised the same freedom at some point in their lives, discuss the clerk's future. Emma is revealed to be a caring mother when she worries over her daughter following her injury but her observation that her daughter is ugly reveals that she feels no great emotional identification with the child.
Madame Bovary: Novel Summary: Part II - Chapter 5 -6