Also Part the Final, and warning: spoilers ahead.
"With a slight shrug, Emma interrupted him to lament the illness during which she had nearly died; what a shame!--she would no longer be suffering now. Leon immediately envied the tranquillity of the grave, and one night he had even written out his will, requesting that he be buried in that beautiful coverlet, with its bands of velvet, that she had given him; for this was the way they would have liked to be--they were both creating for themselves an ideal against which they were now adjusting their past lives."
Not just their past lives, but their future, and by imagining death as an idealized state, Emma now moves into a tragic way of thinking that will not only destroy her own life, but that of her husband and daughter. As Arthur Miller said in "A View From the Bridge," "A suicide kills two people, Maggie, that's what it's for!" Of course, Emma is thinking only of herself--she can't even begin to think about what her death will do to those who do love her, because their love isn't what she wants.
It's a shockingly selfish gesture. In all of her adult married life, Emma has been after only those things that might bring her pleasure, and when all fails, and the men betray her, and the debts pile up, she chooses what seems to be the romantic way out.
Interesting how Flaubert describes her death in excruciating detail. No romantic death at all, he seems to say. Yet another self-delusion Emma gives into wholeheartedly.
"From that moment on, her life was no more than a confection of lies in which she wrapped her love, as though in veils, to hide it."
This is such a perfect line--it's not just about Emma's infidelities, but about her whole life, and her death.
Even as she's going through the sickening and painful death by poisoning, a last bit of religious romanticism appears:
"She slowly turned her face and seemed overcome with joy at the sudden sight of the violet stole, no doubt reexperiencing, in the midst of this extraordinary feeling of peace, the lost ecstasy of her first mystical yearnings, alongside the first visions of eternal beatitude."
In a melodrama, this would be her death moment--her reconnection with God and ascendance to heaven. But instead, her life ends when she hears the Blind Man singing his little song about the maiden in search of love. She "ceased to exist"--and it almost felt like Flaubert had enjoyed putting Emma on the rack for her misdeeds at the end. The following details, how Charles suffers and finally dies and little Berthe is left alone and destitute, show just how deeply Emma ceases to exist. Only Charles loved (or thought he loved) her enough to really miss her; Berthe certainly can't have many good memories or thoughts; and Rodolphe and Leon are shown to survive quite well without her. She wanted to be the center of the world on her terms, and she failed.
Rather a bleak book. But I loved rereading it, and while I can't compare it to other editions (or to the French), I found Lydia Davis' translation to be beautiful. I marked dozens of passages that were lovely. It's a wonderful thing to revisit a classic read years ago and still find it worth the read.