"One had to discount, [Rodolphe] thought, exaggerated speeches that concealed mediocre affections; as if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest of metaphors . . ." (167)
Later, Emma to Rodolphe: "There's not a desert, not a precipice, not an ocean I wouldn't cross with you. When we're living together, our life will be like an embrace that becomes closer and more complete every day!" (174)
Gag! (And I hate Rodolphe. Why does he have to be the only perceptive one of the lot?)
My notes on MB are in my daughter's car all day, but I want to get a few vague thoughts out about Part II before I continue reading and take a final ride on the roller coaster of Emma's mood swings in Part III. Luckily I have managed to avoid ever hearing or reading how the book ends, although I can only think of two possible outcomes, one of which involves the potato garden graveyard.
In Part II, I often found myself amused and horrified at the same time (like the club foot surgery! Eek!), an effect that I'm sure was intended. Rather than the lists of details Flaubert often inserts into Part I, I felt like he used details mainly to create contrasts that had a very dissonant feeling. For instance, he writes some passages that, taken out of context, perhaps in the midst of a novel like Jane Eyre, would seem romantic and moving, but he sets them up right against a few distasteful goodies, like Rodolphe's shiny patent leather boots in which he was "trampling the horse dung underfoot," and then when he pulls out three stools instead of two for their rendezvous in the town hall. The overall effect makes the "romance" rather nauseating and Flaubert makes you see it for what it is--a load of crap, as smelly as the manure on Rodolphe's shiny shoe. But what can you expect from a romance begun at a bloodletting?
How do I feel about Emma at this point? That's still a bit complicated. I hate her as a mother, and her selfishness is aggravating. I want to sympathize with her because she is a woman trapped by her circumstances, as I have sympathized with female characters in other novels for the same reasons. She herself is a bundle of contradictions. She lives in this intangible dream world, but at the same time has an obsession with physical objects. It's almost as if they are the only things tethering her to this world. In a modern setting, I think she could be treated for bipolar disorder, but I don't quite want to let her off the hook so easily. But then again, she lives in this provincial town where the most excitement they get is a field trip to the local flax mill and a long political speech at an agricultural fair. I would worship Sir Walter Scott too.
Many thanks to Frances of Nonsuch Book for hosting this group read. I'm enjoying it immensely and getting much more out of it than if I were reading on my own. On to Part III!