Something I'm curious about: Flaubert gave us Charles' background, so we have some understanding of him, but we have less insight into how Emma became the woman she is: flighty, self-absorbed, overly romantic with no notion of how her romantic ideals would play out or ultimately end. She's terribly naive and obsessed with making her real life match her fantasy world. Did she read too many romance novels when young and think they were real, living out on the farm as she did?
Whatever's the cause, Emma's view of what her life should be bears little resemblance to what it's likely to be. Her fling with Rodolphe is a disaster, not least of which because it gives rise to rumors about the good doctor's wife--not to mention a boatload of debt. Was anyone else not surprised that she took up religion after he dumped her? That was just another variant on her romantic ideals--the abandoned lover seeking refuge in God. Tellingly, the religious books she reads don't meet her ideals either, being too full of rules. This was something foreshadowed in part 1:
"When she went to confession, she would invent little sins in order to stay there longer, on her knees in the darkness, her hands together, her face at the grille beneath the whisperings of the priest. The metaphors of betrothed, spouse, heavenly lover, and marriage everlasting that recur in sermons stirred unexpectedly sweet sensations in the depths of her soul."
Religion and faith are just the means to a romantic end for Emma, a dramatic portrayal, not a true belief.
And poor Charles. He also suffers from a form of romantic thinking, one that allows him to ignore the obvious and see things just as he wants them: a loving, beautiful, faithful wife. "He would reproach himself for forgetting Emma; as if all his thoughts belonged to her and he was stealing from her if he failed to think about her all the time." All the while clueless about what she's stealing from him: unreturned love, money, faithfulness.
I love Flaubert's ever-present sense of irony, such as when Rodolphe writes to Emma, "Fate is to blame, only fate!" and then reflects, "'There's a word that always has a nice effect,' he said to himself."
And the excruciating clubfoot surgery and its aftermath--whatever chance poor Charles had of capturing some little bit of love from Emma was destroyed there. Yet it's hard to work up sympathy for him when he's repeatedly such a chump, basically encouraging Emma to have an affair at the end of part 2. Well, not that he's thinking in those terms--but really? Begging her to stay in Rouen to keep company with the clerk.
Even if you haven't read Madame Bovary before and don't know the ending, surely you must feel some foreboding by the end of part 2. Especially if you're familiar with Lucie de Lammermoor.