Flaubert gives us a clue that perhaps a proper education would have helped to feed Emma Bovary’s mind. This would have given her some satisfaction and perhaps bigger ideas and would have helped her to get a grip on her life. This would have changed her completely, though, and she wouldn’t be the fascinating but terrible character that Flaubert chose to make her in the book.
The book is about Emma Bovary, as the title suggests, but it starts before she enters the scene and ends long after she is dead. Flaubert is interested in the whole social context of that time and he has a mission to explain how bad some of the middle-class attitudes of many characters actually are. He wanted to show Emma’s effect on her surroundings as well as what goes on in her own mind, and so he continued to show how Charles and Berthe coped (or more accurately failed to cope) with the terrible legacy that she left behind. Emma is selfish but Flaubert shows us at the end of the book that she is not the only important person in the world. The story goes on without her, and her death has brought nothing good.
The pharmacist Homais is not a sympathetic character. He is a busybody who is always looking for his own advantage. Flaubert shows him being rewarded for these unattractive features and this is his way of saying that the values in French society at the time favour this unattractive kind of person. He is not that different from Emma in some ways, but he is rewarded while she is frustrated. Perhaps Flaubert also wants to show how sexist French society is?