Some of My Favorite Passages from Madame Bovary

Page 38

But a man, surely, should know everything, should excel at many different things, should initiate you into the intensities of passion, into the refinements, into all its mysteries? But this man taught nothing, knew nothing, desired nothing. He believed she was happy; and she resented him for this settled calm of his, for his untroubled dullness, for the very happiness she brought him.

Page 85

Future joys, like tropical shores, project a natural indolence that drifts like a perfumed breeze across the vast spaces that precede it, and those who journey there are lulled by its enchantment, and never even wonder what lies beyond the unseen horizon.

Page 170

Emma was just like all his mistresses, and the charm of novelty, gradually falling away like a garment, laid bare the eternal monotony of passion, which never varies in its forms and its expression. He could not see — this man of such broad experience — the difference of feeling, beneath the similarity of expression. Because wanton or venal lips had murmured the same words to him, he only half believed in the sincerity of those he was hearing now; to a large extent they should be disregarded, he believed, because such exaggerated language must surely mask commonplace feelings:as if the soul in its fullness did not sometimes overflow into the most barren metaphors, since no one can ever tell the precise measure of his own needs, of his own ideas, of his own pain, and human language is like a cracked kettledrum on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when what we long to do is make music that will move the stars to pity.

Page 258

They knew one other too well to experience that wonderment in mutual possession that increases its joy a hundredfold. She was as sick of him as he was weary of her. Emma was rediscovering, in adultery, all the banality of marriage.

Pages 274-275

And, in any case, if he seemed reluctant to help her, she'd know how to persuade him, by reminding him, with a single glance, of their lost love. So she set off for La Huchette, quite unaware that she was now eager to strike the very bargain that had so enraged her only hours before, and never for a moment suspecting that she was about to prostitute herself.

Madame Bovary is considered one of the best novels ever written, but it is rare that I enjoy classic works as much as I did this one.