In “Madame Bovary,” Lheureux provides an example of a character who is morally reprehensible on every level. While the other characters each have their reasons for acting as they do, and believe they are doing the right thing, Lheureux acts purely in the interest of financial gain. He does not care at all about what happens to Emma or anyone else that stands in his way. Lheureux is a minor character who represents the depravity and selfishness that Emma starts to fall foul to, as she attempts to buy her way into the upper class and into happiness.
From the beginning, Lheureux’s circumstances are not in his favor. When he is discussed for the first time, he is referred to as having “the cunning of the Cauchois,” and is described as being ugly (Flubert). This physical ugliness reflects his unattractive personality which lies beneath. He is perpetually ingratiating and always encouraging Emma to spend more money. The first time Emma and Lheureux formally meet, he wastes no time in dragging out “three Algerian scarves, several packets of English needles, a pair of straw slippers, and four eggcups in cocoanut wood” (Flubert).
It is clear that Lheureux wants Emma’s money, and will stop at nothing to get it. His greedy attitude causes Emma to be seduced by the spirit of spending, and leads her into financial trouble. Lheureux is aware that this will happen, but he does it anyway. He feels that her money still spends, and that it is her fault if she ends up ruined.
Later, Emma hears from Homais about an execution that is to take place the following week, and that “it’s Lheureux who is selling him out; he has killed him with bills.” (Flaubert) Another person claims that Lheureux is “a wheedler, a sneak,” and, soon after, Lheureux attempts to enter the conversation by irritatingly cajoling himself in to their social circle. This demonstrates that everyone else in the story looks down upon Lheureux as a terrible human being. Nevertheless, they continue to do business with him. Emma is included in this generalization, and this shows just how far she has fallen into depravity and selfishness.
Even after Emma’s death, Lheureux displays morally reprehensible and tactless behavior. he arrives at Emma’s funeral and immediately starts hitting Charles up for money, taking advantage of the man, as many others start to do in this period of grief (Flaubert). This cements the fact that Lheureux is a terrible human being. He benefits financially from Charles’ grief, only seeking to console him if it means more money in his own pocket.
In conclusion, Lheureux offers the most stereotypically evil perspective of the entire book. His greedy, narcissistic and opportunistic personality helps to lead Emma down the same path, and plays his part in bringing about her eventual downfall and plunge into destitution. All of his interactions with the main characters concern money and furthering his business. He never has a truly personal relationship with anyone. For him, everything is about business, and this makes him the character with the darkest priorities of anyone. While Emma is at fault for her own complacency and the mistakes she makes, Lheureux creates the opportunities for her to take dark decisions, making him one of the most important characters in the book.
Mack et al. “Madame Bovary.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature, 2nd ed, vols, D,E,F. Print.