The chapter opens with a description of the agricultural market town of Yonville-L'Abbaye and the surrounding countryside. The narrator characterizes the area as a "mongrel region" composed of equal parts Normandy, Picardy and the Ile-de-France. It is a relatively impoverished area with poor soil, ignorant natives and limited access to the greater world. A covered market occupies half the square which is bounded by the town hall, the Lion d'Or Hotel and Monsieur Homais' pharmacy. The evening that the Bovary's are expected to arrive the mistress of the inn, Madame Lefranois, is busy preparing for market day as well as providing for her regular diners: the tax collecter Monsieur Binet who always arrives on time and has particular tastes and Monsieur Lon Dupuis the young clerk who arrives at any time and doesn't care what he eats. The pharmacist Monsieur Homais, wearing a velvet skullcap with a gold tassel, converses with the busy woman while they wait for the Bovary's to arrive. The brief appearance of the cur causes Homais to express his disgust with organized religion and reaffirm his pragmatic agnosticism to the otherwise uninterested inn keeper. Eventually the Hirondelle, the town's rattling three horse coach, arrives with its driver Hivert who begins distributing packages and news to the town folk. He apologizes for the coach's tardiness but explains that Madame Bovary's greyhound ran away during the journey and could not be found. Emma blames the dog's disappearance on her husband.
Homais greets the Bovary's and explains that he will be joining them for dinner. Monsieur Lon watches Emma warm herself by the fire and is delighted when the innkeeper suggests he join the new arrivals for dinner. While they eat the pharmacist explains the character of the region and its inhabitants to the Charles while Emma and Leon discover they have similar artistic tastes and sensibilities. Flicit leaves to prepare the Bovary's new home and Homais observes that the house benefits from a garden arbor on the river and a private entrance on the lane where they can come and go without being observed. Finally the lame stable boy comes with a lantern to lead them to their new home. Emma feels chilled by the house but she reasons that any change must be for the good and it must be better than what she has known before.
Analysis of Chapters 1-2
Although we know very little of Tostes and its inhabitants, Flaubert provides thorough descriptions of Yonville and we get to know several of its principle inhabitants even before the Bovary's arrive. We learn that Djali has disappeared during the journey from Tostes and the dog's association with her romantic dreams renders its escape foreshadows the romantic disaster that will befall her in Yonville. Though Emma has moved from her father's farm, to the village of Tostes and now to the market town of Yonville, Flaubert's descriptions of the region leave little doubt that these surroundings will fail to satisfy her romantic vision. However, as she observes at the end of the second chapter, at the very least it is a change and therefore for the better in her mind. We meet Monsieur Homais in this section and his dialogue reveals him to be a pragmatist with an Enlightenment ideology - just the sort of person Flaubert, who believed passionately in art for art's sake, would have despised in life. Emma and Lon's conversation is the first occasion that we have to hear Emma speak aloud her views. Her trite observations reveal that her opinions are simply those that she has been given by novels and fashion magazines. Homais' allusions to the garden arbor and the private entrance are important because both will make Emma's adulterous affair possible.
Madame Bovary: Novel Summary: Part II - Chapter 1- 2