Dak Reads Les Misérables / MARIUS: Book 5


About: Dak reads Les Misérables and recaps it here, so that she may better retain the information. Things not to expect: deep literary analysis. Things to expect: Spoilers. All the spoilers

Marius: Book 5; Forever Alone (but not really)

Hey! You remember way back in the beginning of Marius’s book when we were talking about the gamins and Gavroche and the Jondrettes: his terrible family who live in Gorbeau house next door to this mysterious man of mystery and no money named M. Marius?

I know, it’s been a while. That was one heck of a flashback. Well, we have arrived back at that point. Marius has disembarked from his schmancy hotel room next door to his buddy Courfeyrac and somehow landed himself at Gorbeau house in a closet sized room with only the bare necessities. He has three shirts, and two suits, and eats one egg and a slice of bread for breakfast. This part really goes into great detail about how he parses out the little money he does have.

The point is Marius is poor now, and the only thing he has left is his pride and his bootstraps, which he has taken a couple years (I surmise because he’s twenty now and the last time we were given his age he was only eighteen) to successfully pull himself up by to the point where he is not living in a cardboard box or dying of starvation in the street or aimlessly riding around in a cab with no idea about what to do. Hell, he’s even loaned Courfeyrac some money at this point. He’s learned English and German and has his translating job for his coin, and by the way, Marius is a lawyer now. He has apparently completed his schooling on the subject. I still have to wonder how he managed to pay for school since he’s so adamant about not taking money from his grandpa. Did Grandpa G. just foot the bill anyway? Did you only have to pay once back then and take the classes then you were a lawyer? I guess I could research how law school at this time actually functioned, but… maybe later.

Anyway, Marius in his mule-like stubbornness is dead set still against taking money from Grandpa G….which still occasionally appears at his doorstep. How does this keep happening? I can’t imagine Marius left them a forwarding address at any point, so how does his aunt keep finding him when he doesn’t even know where he’s going half the time? She’s like the alumni association at my former school. I swear, I could have an unlisted, untraceable phone that I only use once to make outgoing calls before tossing it out for a new one and they would still find me. I only wish they were trying to give me money instead of asking for it.

Marius even refuses to run up any debt at all. Unheard of in the land of studentry! Good job, Marius. If it comes down to a choice between skipping a meal or taking out credit to eat, he’s going to go hungry that day. He doesn’t have much, but he’s making it work. I was totally wrong about this kid. He’s functioning just fine on his own. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get distracted into not paying rent again since Gorbeau house is apparently the only run down tenement in all of Paris.

Still he is Marius, and we know he takes things very seriously once he manages to get focused. (He still seems unapproachable because he doesn’t talk much and this serious demeanor of his.) He’s still in mourning for his dad. Is two entire years far past the appropriate mourning period for this time, or is it just me? Because that seems extreme. He won’t even go out in his dark green suit unless it’s nighttime, because it’s not black enough. He only has two suits, so I guess he doesn’t venture out in the daytime much. Maybe somewhere up in heaven Georges is looking down saying: I love you Marius, but that’s enough, son.

Well, if there’s one thing we can learn about Marius, it’s that there is literally nothing he can’t get obsessed over, including being poor. He’s a lawyer, but he doesn’t take any cases. He squeaks by translating things and not eating, and stops just short of doing enough work to make a decent living. He’d rather be free to while away his days thinking about stuff instead of being chained to a desk for the rest of his life being a slave to the wage.

That’s not the only thing he’s being obsessive about these days. He’s also desperate to find the Thénardiers, and he’s traveling all over France in a bid to accomplish this. Yes, he wants to find the man who saved his father from the battlefield that day and do whatever he can to help the guy just as it said in his father’s will. It is really killing me that Marius is so earnest and determined about this, knowing who and what Thénardier is. He even feels bad about the hard times these people have fallen upon since they lost their inn. He wonders how it is possible he can’t find this Thénardier anywhere in France when Thénardier was able to find his dad in the midst of bullets flying and people dying everywhere at Waterloo. It surprises me too considering how often the characters in this book keep stumbling into each other in the unlikeliest of places. If only he knew. If only he knew a couple things actually.

As for Les Amis and Enjolras, they get another mention as still being friendly with Marius, so he hasn’t completely cut ties with them to become a hermit. However, a couple sentences later we are being told that his friends are Courfeyrac and Mabeuf, so I guess these two are higher up on the friend chain than the rest of them, and Mabeuf ranks higher than Courfeyrac as far as who Marius would rather hang out with if he has to hang out with other people.

It is really not surprising that Marius prefers being around people decades older than he is though, is it? (especially ones that knew his father)

We have reached year three of Marius’s estrangement from his grandfather now. Neither one of them is willing to make an overture. Marius seems to be perfectly content in his solitary life as a pauper/lawyer and just assumes that Grandpa G. hates him and never wants to see him again. Grandpa G. has done absolutely nothing to make him think otherwise. If the text wasn’t telling me that all his cane waving angry talk was his crotchety old man way of loving his dear grandson then I’d think the guy hated him too. He misses Marius a lot, but is still unwilling to admit that to anybody.

Well, at least somebody does. The Elder has no thoughts about her nephew at all, but we all know who her fave “nephew” is, and it isn’t poor old (at heart) Marius. We will learn the extent of just how much of a non-entity Marius is to her later on in this chapter, but now…

Let us embark on another interlude and learn all about our favorite Church Warden, Mabeuf!

Mabeuf, we come to find, is a great fan of plants and a devoted book lover. He’s not really here for all this political biz. He doesn’t understand why men spend time hating each other over things like charters and monarchies and democracies, etc and so forth. There are too many plants to admire and books to read to be fussed with that stuff. If we are to describe him as any “ist” (because everybody is an ist of some sort), he is a Bookist. Bookist!? Where do I sign up for this party? He doesn’t want to be a useless old man, so he reads as much as he collects books, and admiring plants doesn’t stop him gardening, something he and Georges bonded over. Of course they did! It’s officially reached the point where all this good guy gardening hardly comes as a surprise anymore. He even combined his two passions and wrote a book about plants. He owns the plates himself, so up until the July Revolution in 1830, he had made quite a tidy living selling these books in addition to being a church warden. Turns out people aren’t too fond of spending their hard earned cash on things like flower books when there’s a revolution on.

A few more tidbits about Mabeuf, he’s a little gouty, a little arthritic, doesn’t like swords or guns, has a curé brother, white hair, and rather looks like an old sheep. His dream is to naturalize the indigo plant to France, and he doesn’t have friends aside from an old bookseller and the kid. He lets Marius hang around because young people are like a sunny day to help to warm up an old guy’s soul. (I never imagined being around Marius would ever be compared to a sunny day, but there you have it!)

As for Mabeuf’s personal life, well… He likes his books the way Grandpa G. loves the ladies. He has a housekeeper whom he calls Mother Plutarch. She’s an old cat lady who spends her free time collecting white caps and admiring her linens. Her cat’s name is Sultan. They have matching whiskers.

His brother, the curé, had died in 1830, and Mabeuf had fallen on hard times due to that whole revolution business. He had to move into a smaller place where the only people allowed to visit were Marius and the bookseller friend. How does the cat have a name, but not this book guy? Can I name him Gui de Books from now on? (My spell check thinks I’m trying to spell guidebooks! Wow, pun not intended!)

As for Marius, we learn he likes Courfeyrac well enough, but he goes out of his way to visit Mabeuf. Only once or twice a month though. I guess Marius might turn into a pumpkin if he has too much human contact. (Hey, if that happens, he can wear one of those melon jackets!)  Most of the time he just walks around alone and admires gardens. Once, he spent half an entire hour in a vegetable patch…looking at cabbages and chickens and a manure pile or some such. I was wondering when Marius was going to start his transition into an old man with a garden. This is how it begins!

He has mellowed out with his political opinions during this time, so I guess he isn’t going to be climbing up on his soapbox and extolling the virtues of Napoleon in front of unreceptive audiences anymore? We also learn that Marius did have a reason for choosing the Gorbeau house, a place he stumbled upon during one of his walks. He likes the solitude and the price. Somehow, despite having a limited amount of friends and preferring to hang out with himself forever alone, staring at plants, he does get invited to parties with old military friends of his father’s that he’s met around town. He only goes out when the ground his frozen, though, because he can’t go out to these fancy parties with dirty shoes (scandal!) and he can’t afford the cab to keep his feet out of the mud. That’s really got to limit his social engagements, doesn’t it? He only goes out at night when the ground is frozen?

One more incident regarding Marius before we move on. One day he came home to his room at the Gorbeau house and the landlady/housekeeper person tells him that she’s going to kick the Jondrettes out of the house because they’re two months behind on rent. Marius hardly pays attention to these people to even know who they are, but he he pays for their rent + five extra francs with almost his entire cache of rainy day money anyway with the provision that they never know it was him that did the good deed. You are being far too kind, Marius. Really.

Meanwhile, at the Gillenormand pad, the Elder is hatching her own nefarious plot. What could she be planning? Well, guess who’s regiment is now stationed in Paris? You should be guessing Théodule because he’s the only military man we know that’s still alive. Stationed in Paris? I have a sinking feeling about this turn of events. As for the Elder and her grand scheme, she thinks if she can get Grandpa G. and his nephew together then maybe Théodule could take the place of Marius in the household or something. She wants to exchange the Lawyer for the Lieutenant. Man, is it just me, or does Mlle. here have quite a thing for her distant relative? Of course, he is the only dude that’s ever kissed her apparently, and he has the shiniest of mustaches, so I guess I can see the attraction. You don’t just replace Marius, though! C’mon, lady! Clearly he is a special boy that cannot be replicated.

As for Grandpa G. he doesn’t even know who Théodule is. Does he just not care to know, or is he having a senior moment? He’s got to be a hundred years old by now, so who knows. The Elder reminds him and then coaches Théodule for the imminent meeting by telling him to just agree with everything that comes out of the old man’s mouth.

Grandpa G. spends the entire meeting ranting and raving about those damn kids on his lawn. His Royalist leaning newspaper has told him that the students are preparing to have a debate about the National Guard artillery, but he doesn’t think it’s something to be debated. The King’s military can do no wrong, so there’s no need to discuss it. How dare they! He presumes Marius is going to be there, since he’s a student; and in addition to being generally irritated with kids these days, he’s particularly perturbed by that ungrateful grandson of his going off to be a republican.

Théodule dutifully agrees with Grandpa G.’s every crazy old man opinion, and gets called a fool for his efforts. Can anybody win with Grandpa G.?  The magic 8 ball says: Very Doubtful.

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