Dak Reads Les Misérables / MARIUS: Book 4


 

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 4; They’re Historic to Me!

First a correction! Théodule, I realize now, Is Grandpa G.’s great nephew. That makes total sense. I guess I mixed up my M.s and my Mlle.s To be fair though, he still referred to the Elder as Aunt, so you can see the confusion, right?

Moving right along… I know what you were thinking: This book does not have enough amazing characters in it. We need at the very least nine more to love. It’s time to meet Enjolras and his crew: Smarty, Friendly, Unlucky, Fighty, Drunky, Little Orphan Feuilly, and of course, Bashful and Doc. In case you didn’t get where I was going with that. Bring it on, and bring on the puns in all their glorious glory.

So, Paris at this time was in some sort of pre-revolution period. The rumblings of unrest were stirring, and although there was no massive organized group of dissidents, there were starting to crop up underground groups here and there.

A man named Enjolras headed up one small secret group known as Les Amis de l’ABC: Friends of the ABC translated.  However, in French, ABC pronounced like Ah-Bay-Say, which is pronounced like the French word abaissé , The Abased in English; aka the People. This is who they advocated for. Down with the Monarchy, up with the People, etc… They met in at the bistro Corinth near the workers or in the backroom at the café Musain, near the students where they hung up a map of the old Republic and discussed their plans and ideas and drank and had fun and talked about about life and anything and everything, sometimes all at the same time as we will see a little later in this chapter. Most of them were students, a couple were not. They were more than mere friends. They had formed a little family.

Let us get to know their names and their distinct and delightful personalities.  (They have them!) Y’know, before a truly terrible fate is going to befall all of them. Yes, the text straight up warns us right here and now this will definitely be happening. I hope you’ve enjoyed most of your faves being alive for half the book so far. Seriously though, by the end of this you are going to feel like you’ve been stabbed in the heart. Repeatedly. So, fair warning.

First and foremost; Enjolras: “Marble Lover of Liberty”, the only son from a rich family. He is often compared to a statue and by all accounts is the fairest of them all. No, seriously, Enjolras is one beautiful guy.

He’s in his early twenties, but still has the youthful appearance of a teenager. Blue eyes, fair skin, rosy cheeks, long lashes, red lips, blond hair flowing in the wind. (I’m not making up the blowing in the wind part. Apparently this is a thing that Enjolras’s hair actually does. Maybe Feuilly follows him around with a fan sometimes?)

Watch out, ladies! No, really. watch out. Because, woe…actual WOE unto the poor woman that gets her sights set on this guy. It’s never going to happen. He’s just not that into you, ladies. Anybody that would happen to try it on will just get a death glare in return for their troubles.

Though he has this fresh faced and youthful appearance, there is something in his eyes like he’s seen it all before in some other life maybe; Revolution. He is a warrior at heart, “officiating and militant”, “Soldier of Democracy.” He’s not mindful of much else aside from justice and the Republic, not women, not spring, not stopping and smelling the roses. He’s definitely charming, inspiring in his speeches, leader of men, also…here it says capable of being intimidating. I’ve seen others where it says terrible instead of intimidating, but either way he’s not someone to be trifled with.

Don’t mess with Enjolras. Don’t underestimate him. He’ll fuck you up if you get in his way.

Here’s a few people he gets compared to in this section: Antoinous, Gracchus, Harmodious.

Thankfully there is someone there to temper him before he jumps headfirst into a fire without thinking it through. Enjolras’s second in command, Combeferre. He is the calm, the voice reason, to go with Enjolras’s passion. A student of philosophy, and everything, really. Combeferre knows all the things. Don’t challenge him to a game of Trivial Pursuit, because you will lose. He’s one smart cookie.

He’s really concerned about the state of education these days, because he thinks society should work towards gaining more knowledge and throwing more ideas out into the world. He’s a big fan of innovation, and he is afraid that the methods of the day, the routine, and the dogmatism is just stagnating. That the world is just going to slip into complacency. Preach it, Combeferre.

Combeferre is Enjolras’s “guide” here. Though he’s not against a fight. He can throw down with the best of them if it comes to that. He would prefer to solve the problems of the world with enlightenment though. While his brethren were ready for revolutionary adventure time, he was okay with progress’s natural and slow but inevitable march forward.

Then there’s Jean Prouvaire. He’s rich and an only child like Enjolras and he even gets a first name! He calls himself Jehan. He is soft-spoken, seemingly shy, but underneath his mannerisms, Jehan is brave and strong and definitely isn’t afraid of speaking up when the time calls for it. He writes poems, plays the flute, is prone to crying, blushes often, has awkward hair, a terrible fashion sense, and cultivates a pot of flowers, so we know for a fact he’s a good person right down to his core. Hah! I really hope this isn’t the last mention of Jehan and his flowers, because wandering around fandom makes it feel like he has such an epic love of flora that he’s got them sprouting out from his heels wherever he walks, Fern Gully style.

Actually that’s not too far off. He does enjoy a good frolic in fields of wheat and bluebells while observing the clouds. Is he Bambi? What is happening? Wait, no, strike that…he would totally be Flower if we’re talking in Bambi metaphors now. (We all know Marius would be the Bambi in this scenario anyway! Courfeyrac is Thumper.)

Jehan is who we’re talking about now though! He’s a well read individual, and knows at least three languages so he can read Dante, Juvenal, Aeschylus, and Isaiah, and when he’s not pondering clouds, he’s pondering social issues of the day.

rashwaistcoat.jpg

Next up, Bahorel. His parents are country folk, but he’s been a professional student for long enough that he knows his way around Paris and is the string that connects these newly forming revolutionary groups around town. His an idler, has a hat, and wears rash waistcoats… How can a waistcoat be rash? Help me translation gods, I don’t understand what this means! Bold colours to go with his personality? I don’t know. (It’s going into the closet with the “melon jackets”) He’s also full of good humor, talkative, friendly, brave, spends money like it’s going out of style, loves escalating an argument into a good brawl and is always up for taking down a government. He was even involved in the insurrections during the Workers movement in the early 1820s.

He’d studied law once, but it isn’t really for him apparently since his motto is “Never a Lawyer”. Good motto! He’s been a student for a while now though, I have no idea what he’s studying now if not law? Is he just sitting there in school, taking up space, thinking up songs and doodling his in the margins of his notebooks while pondering his next great adventure? Well, whatever is going on with his studies, he does in fact do a whole lot of nothing on top of that, and has apparently a huge allowance to do it with. (3,000 francs approximately) I guess his parents are pretty successful at whatever it is they’re doing out in the country.

Lesgle, aka L’Aigle, aka L’Aigle de Meaux (Eagle of Meaux), aka Lésgle aka Bossuet aka OMG why do you have all these names, Lesgle?

Okay, there is a story. Let us hear it told: Once upon a time a man presented a petition to the King, because he wanted a post office. This dude was called L’Aigle. The king was not pleased with this name at first. (I’m assuming because of This Guy?), but then he saw the name on the petition was signed “Lesgle” This made the king happy because it wasn’t a Bonapartist spelling.

To make a long story even longer, this L’Aigle character goes on to explain that his non-specific ancestor with a very specific occupation (dog trainer) was actually named Lesgueules. He’d contracted it to Lesgle, and further into L’Aigle. Somehow this story that has nothing to do with anything really, least of all why this guy should get a post office, has pleased the king even further. He gives the guy his post office either “intentionally, or inadvertently”.

How do you accidentally give a man a post office? How does that happen? We may never know.

In any case, this post office was in Meaux, and this guy had a son. This son is the L’Aigle de Meaux we will come to know and love. His friends call him Bossuet, for “brevity’s” sake. I assume because, if he went by L’Aigle, they’d have to tell the entire post office story every time they said it?

So, I’m making an executive decision to call him Bossuet from now on, since we’re all friends here. He is the unluckiest Eagle to have ever perched in France apparently. He can’t do anything right. He’s bald at twenty five, he lost all the money and land his father left him in bad investments. Therefor, he has a great sense of humour about life, probably because if he didn’t laugh, he would have to cry. He is also a law student in the way Bahorel is a law student (Law students against lawyers?) and he’s kind of homeless. He splits his time living with his friends, most often at Joly’s place.

If there’s one thing you should take from this passage it is this: Bossuet’s nickname is the Eagle. He is bald. You realize this makes him a bald eagle, yes? In a chapter full of puns, I feel like this is a thing that needed to be said.

Joly is two years younger than Bossuet (so 23). He is the resident hypochondriac doctor in training! Well, being in doctor school (congratulations on not being a lawyer, Joly!) has put him on the lookout for anything and everything that could be a sign that something is going wrong with him. He spends a great amount of time peering at his tongue in the mirror and positioning his bed to get the most out of the Earth’s magnetic fields. Despite being so neurotic about his health, he is the most jovial in a group that seems to packed to the brim with good humour. Seriously, they seem like a swell bunch of guys to hang out with.

His friends call him Jolllly sometimes, because he can soar on four L’s says Jehan. Ailes = wings in English. Get it? You guys are just being silly now! These name puns will be the death of me! I will die laughing.

He rubs his nose with his cane as a habit, which is apparently a sign of a sharp mind (or an itchy nose?)

Courfeyrac is the son of an M. de Courfeyrac. Back in the day the “de” was highly valued by the bourgeois, so much so that your average man would just drop it from their name. Courfeyrac’s father dropped the “de” and this is why Courfeyrac has no participle in his name, because I know that is something you were wondering about.  He kept it the way his father had, because he didn’t want to go backsliding into the past. He is the centre of the group, the heart if you will, but there is not too much description about him, because he is described as: Felix Tholomyès. You remember Tholomyès, right? I know, I know, I was trying to forget that guy too.

Wait, before you get out your pitchforks and come for Courfeyrac, let us explain the defining way in which he is not like Tholomyès.

Courfeyrac is honourable where Tholomyès was not. I presume this to mean that Courfeyrac is a magnetic personality. He’s friendly and charming and talkative and everybody loves him, but should he happen to knock up one of his mistresses, he would at the very least take care of them in some way rather than playing the worst practical “joke” to have ever existed in the whole of human history them? I don’t really like this as a shortcut for a description, because I don’t really want to think of Courfeyrac and Tholomyès in the same sentence. Boo.

Feuilly is a working man. He makes fans for a living. This is his legitimate occupation, and it’s hard work! He only makes 3 francs a day doing this. It’s a living, I guess. He is a generous guy and a self-taught man. He learned how to read and write on his own and is a big fan (no pun intended! There’s enough of them already.) of learning stuff.

Feuilly is an orphan in the world. He doesn’t know where he came from, and having no mother he’s embraced the country as one and the people as his family. He doesn’t believe anybody should be without country and has studied histories expressly so he can indignant about societies’ struggles and all the injustices through the ages and ongoing forever to this very day. Everybody else here was mainly preoccupied with France’s struggles…seeing as they’re right smack in the middle of it, but Feuilly’s embrace is wide and his specialties are Greece, Poland, Romania, Italy, and Hungary. He gets especially fired up about the Partitions of Poland.

And then there’s Grantaire. Last, but not least because one of these things is not like the others. Grantaire is the resident cynic. He’s often drunk and takes great care not to give a shit about anything (caring hurts, yo!), especially all the causes his friends so passionately believe in. He knows all the best places for everything around Paris (coffee? check. Girls? Check. Drinks? Double-Check PLUS!) and signs his name “R”…because in French a way to pronounce Capital R is “Grand Err”. It sounds like Grantaire, you see. Get it? I’m dead now.

In addition to being a hard drinking cynic, Grantaire is handy with single stick combat, and just really very ugly. Impossibly even. Irma Bossy, the prettiest boot stitcher around, says so. His self-esteem doesn’t suffer for this though. He continues to stare tenderly at all the ladies: “Appearing to say about all of them: if only I wanted to ; and trying to make his comrades believe that he was in general demand”. I’m just quoting that because this sentence makes me think there is no actual demand. He is also described as a drunken-roving-libertine, and a general annoyance to his friends by constantly singing “I loves the girls, and I loves good wine” to the tune of this song: Vive Henri IV . Yes. That would be rather annoying, I should think.

Now, you may be asking yourself why this cynic is even hanging out with this group of idealists if he doesn’t give a whit about their causes or their beliefs. Aside from a couple literary devices to make things interesting: Juxtaposition and Irony (Hipster before it was cool? Just kidding, it was never cool.) One word:

Enjolras.

Yes, that is right. Enjolras is why he is there. Okay, he does like being surrounded by friends and good company despite his general lack of faith in the human race as a species, but mostly Enjolras. He is the one thing Grantaire actually believes in. Grantaire is this young man’s obverse: Enjolras is beautiful and Grantaire is ugly, Grantaire is the green to his red, the opposite side of his coin, the yin to his yang. Enjolras doesn’t really get a pov here, but as far as Grantaire is concerned, he needs this guy like a person needs a beating heart and even he is unsure of why that is. It just is. Some men are just born to be the opposite of others, or as the book says way more eloquently: “We are attracted to what we lack” and “Nobody loves the light like a blind man”

Even though Grantaire can’t bring himself to believe, he loves to watch Enjolras with his super passionate faith and conviction in France, the people, the Republic, and revolution on which he speaks.

Grantaire also gets a list of peeps to be compared to:

Pollux, Patroclus, Nisus , Eudamidas, Ephestion, Pechmeja, and particularly Orestes and Pylades..

There’s a bunch of links for a quick look, so you can make like Combeferre and be educated. (Not that wikipedia is the best source, just the quickest.  I urge you to go forth and engage further with History)  I’m not going to pretend to be the all-knowing interpreter of texts. You can come to your own conclusions. If you want to know what I think, I’m hard pressed to interpret this as anything other than Grantaire being head over heels for and totally devoted to this Enjolras fellow.

As for Enjolras, he needs Grantaire about as much as an appendix, or tonsils or something, and really only has disdain for the non-believer, and pity for the drunk. And whenever he kicks Grantaire down, Grantaire always pops back up proclaiming, “What fine marble!”

That doesn’t sound like the most healthy of relationships, R. Woe indeed.

And there you have it: Les Amis de l’ABC!

Now, back to the story at hand. Let us hop in Théodule’s time machine and travel back to the day Marius’s massive Bonapartism was discovered by Grandpa G. As we know, he has been riding around in a cab with no aim or direction, when he just so happens to pause by a cafe where our friend Bossuet was hanging out in front “Like a Caryatid on vacation” I am quoting that because this is absolutely my new favorite way of describing someone who is slouching against a building.

A caryatid, for those that don’t know is an architectural term for a pillar on a building that is shaped like a person. I did not know this from art school. Thanks a lot, art school. It’s from looking up the song “Caryatid Easy” by the band Son Volt. I wasn’t able to find it at first because I always thought it was “Carrie Had it Easy”. I eventually figured out I was wrong, then I had to go look up what in the wide wide world of sports a caryatid is anyway.

This mostly irrelevant tangent was brought to you by Victor Hugo. I’ve been reading this so long that he’s rubbing off on me now.

Anyway, so Bossuet sees this cab and notices Marius’s bag in full view. There is a card visible on it. Like, how close is this cab to this building? How large is Marius’s name on this card? Maybe Bossuet has amazing super vision, which is kind of surprising. I mean considering his luck it’s a wonder he hasn’t managed to go blind somehow by now. He only notices this cab in the first place because it’s going at a slow pace with no particular destination.

It’s a good thing his eagle eyes spotted this though, because he’s been looking for this Pontmercy character! He calls out to the cab and tells Marius as much. Marius is naturally extremely confused by this, because he doesn’t even know anybody under the age of fifty, so why would this bald dude he’s never met in his life be looking for him? Well, Bossuet is going to tell us. I just have to say I love the way he tells this story. I’d like to imagine a lot of theatrical hand gestures and animated expressions go along with it.

Okay, so Bossuet was just attending lawyer class like a good student for once. It happens sometimes.  The teacher was taking roll. This guy’s name is Blondeau. Apparently they are operating on some sort of three strikes policy, so if your name is said three times with no answer than you are out and Blondeau takes malicious pleasure in striking names off the roll. Everybody on this list so far had dutifully answered the call, even though he’s going out of alphabetical order. Bossuet is pretty pleased that this guy’s evil plot is being foiled, while Blondeau is pretty disappointed that he isn’t teaching a class full of truants, that is until he comes to the “P”s. I’m not sure exactly how far back this story goes, but Pontmercy was probably off wandering around somewhere in Vernon, or reading up on Napoleon or something, and most definitely not in class learning to be a lawyer like he’s supposed to be doing.

Blondeau is really excited when he doesn’t get an answer. He gets his pen ready in anticipation to mark Pontmercy off. Bossuet wonders who this absent guy is and what he could be doing that’s more important than ruining Blondeau’s fun. He could be doing anything out there, even hooking up with Bossuet’s mistress or something. Bossuet isn’t going to let this stand though. I mean the attendance thing, not the mistress thing. He’s always up for lending a helping hand to a fellow slacker. Down with Blondeau! He answers the call in Marius’s stead! Day saved, right?

Wrong.

Blondeau immediately jumps from P to the L’s after this and calls out Bossuet’s name (if you recall, his real name begins with an L. L’Aigle…it’s a name that Marius is really enthusiastic about when they meet here, incidentally). This was destined to happen of course, because Bossuet is the luckiest person to have ever walked the planet. Somebody get this man a four leaf clover or a rabbit foot or something!

He tries to answer the call again, but Blondeau wasn’t born last night. How can Bossuet and Pontmercy be the same person? He marks Bossuet out.

It’s nice to see that kids have been trying to scam their professors on attendance for hundreds of years. Does he pay that nerd Combeferre to sit in and take his tests for him too?

Upon hearing this story, Marius is super apologetic. Like, if he could give Bossuet his firstborn he probably would-apologetic.

Now, I know Marius doesn’t people, but I don’t think Bossuet’s angry. I’m pretty sure he’s aware that this situation is his own damn unlucky fault and he’s accustom to the point of being unfazed about these inauspicious things that happen to him. In fact, he’s less than mad, he’s grateful that Marius has saved him from having to be a lawyer he says. He eventually asks where Marius is living so he can call and thank him for saving him from a life of litigation, and Marius answers that he’s living in the cab.

Oh, really? Is the driver aware that he’s adopted a vagrant?

Bossuet thinks this is as amusing as I do, because he says exactly what I was thinking: that’s going to be some damn expensive rent, living in a cab. Marius must be baron moneybags over here.

While they’re having this conversation about Marius’s impending gigantic cab fare, Courfeyrac exits the café and joins them to see what’s up. When he finds out Marius is homeless, being the “knight-errant” he is, he immediately offers to take him home right then and there without a question asked. He has never seen this kid before in his life, but as far as he’s concerned it’s total nonsense that this cab dwelling stranger doesn’t have a place to stay, not while Courfeyrac is around!

Bossuet puts up a token amount of protest since he doesn’t actually have his own place to offer. He’s the one who saw Marius first after all!

C’mon guys. Let’s night fight over who gets to take the kitten home. You might come to regret it later.

Courfeyrac gets him a room next door at the hotel he’s living in and Marius, after so many years on this green earth, finally gets a friend. It only takes a couple of days for him and Courfeyrac to become buddies for life, but I gather that it’s nigh unto impossible not to become Courfeyrac’s BFF once you’re pulled into his orbit.

As for Marius, he feels great about this new turn of events. He’s a new man, finally comfortable in his own skin around Courfeyrac, because the guy asks nothing of him. You know, until that one day he asks what Marius’s politics are. Nothing lasts forever, right? Marius tells him what’s up; and Courfeyrac is pleased, because he has a new recruit. He takes Marius to his first Les Amis de L’ABC meeting.

And now Marius is thrust into this den of free-thinking radical revolutionary minded individuals that are even lefter in their politics than he is. Just throw him right into the deep end of the pool, why don’t you, Courfeyrac? It’s all kind of overwhelming for him to be surrounded by people openly discussing all manner of thoughts and ideas on many a subject after the full-geriatric-ultra-immersion that had lasted his entire life up until he met Mabeuf.

I’m not sure how much time passes between his first meeting and this next incident in Marius’s progression here, but I gather he’s been hanging around these people taking everything in for at least a little while before this happens.

Let us set the scene.

Everybody’s chattering about this and that around the back room at the Café Musain with the exception of Enjolras and Marius, who are just sitting there in silence.

In one corner Grantaire is loudly giving this massive pages long speech. I am absolutely not joking about the length of this. It’s three entire uninterrupted pages of Grantaire talking about the state of the terrible world and the terrible people in it (who will never ever learn) He needs a drink, life is a cruel joke, and why should any place or anyone in the world be admired over another because the world is a massive ball of suck at the end of the day no matter where you are. Once upon a time he used to be a student of Gros. He was supposed to be painting, but he stole apples instead.

Dang, Grantair, stealing apples? That’s a dangerous game! You could have Valjeaned yourself into a lifetime prison sentence for that!

His spleen is suffering from melancholia, and God sure did make a terrible mistake when he invented people, because we are just the worst. Butterflies are okay though. I’m not sure anybody is actually listening to him. You should read it though! If I had my druthers, I’d probably just direct quote every word that comes out of Grantaire’s mouth. I will try to contain myself.

While he’s on his tear, his friends are calling him  Capital R…, which looks silly, because that just takes all the fun out of the pun and makes them sound kind of insane, because it sounds nothing like his name in English!

Bossuet eventually just puts a hand on him in an attempt to quiet him.

Grantaire tells him: “Eagle of Meaux, down with your claws!”…which is a line of dialogue that is totally cracking me up right now for reasons I can’t entirely explain.

His claws being ineffective, Bossuet just finally straight out tells him to shut-up already since he’s trying to carry on a different conversation and Grantaire is being loud as hell..

In another corner, Joly and Bahorel are playing dominoes talking about love. They are having a small disagreement over whether or not a laughing mistress is a good thing. (Joly says yes of course, Bahorel says no, happy mistresses make one feel less guilty.) This naturally leads to friendly conversation about Joly’s tiny footed, literary minded mistress, Musichetta, who he has apparently had some sort of falling out with. Bahorel thinks he should move on, but it isn’t that easy since Joly is crazy about her.

Well, in that case, Bahorel has some sage advice for this situation. Show a little more leg. Keep her interested. He knows where Joly can get just the right trousers for it. I love that Bahorel is the first guy you’d go to for a helping hand in a fight and also for fashion advice on how to please your lady. (Also, Joly and Bahorel shopping for trousers? Somebody write the fic!)

In another corner Jehan is discussing mythology. I don’t know who he’s talking to, but the point is he’s really fired up about it. Just pointing out that he can be timid, but once he’s on a topic of interest there’s no stopping his enthusiasm.

Over in the last corner is a discussion about politics. Courfeyrac and Combeferre are having a lively chat about the charter of Louis XVIII. Combeferre is kind of defending it, but Courfeyrac is really giving it the what for. No Kings. No Charters. To illustrate his point, he throws the copy of this charter that just happens to be there right into the fire. So there.

In midst of all this hoo-ha, one date spoken emerges to inject some seriousness into the proceedings. It is some kind of mysterious mystery how Bossuet manages to bring up Waterloo as some sort of addendum to something Combeferre is saying. This isn’t me being confused, because goodness knows, I’m oft confused, but we actually aren’t told what conversation leads to this.

The mention of Waterloo has piqued Marius’s interest, though. This is something that Marius thinks he knows a thing or three about. Courfeyrac goes on to describe how the number 18 is interesting, Napoleon’s “fatal number”. Enjolras has also been roused out of silence. He calls it a crime.

Marius isn’t going to stand for anybody calling anything to do with Napoleon a crime. He’s held his tongue long enough, so he goes to the map to point out Corsica and claim that it is an island that made France great. Marius has managed to shock everybody into silence by doing this. I think they know something is about to go down

And it is, because Enjolras isn’t going to let that go either. He says that France is great because France is France. She doesn’t need any islands where any former emperors were born to achieve greatness.

Marius just isn’t going to take a hint and back down on this topic though. He goes on to give this really long impassioned speech, only spurred on by everyone’s silence an sudden inability to look him in the eye, about how awesome and great Napoleon is and why do you guys pronounce his name like a bunch of Royalists, huh? Why shouldn’t you worship Napoleon? What could be better than the most awesomest Emperor to have ever Empered?

“To be Free,” says Combeferre.

Oooooo, Snap!, Marius. You just got told! Also, I have to say, Pontmercy, trying to pick a fight with Enjolras of all the people in the room on that topic of all the topics in the world? Okay, granted, Marius doesn’t seem to ever know what he’s getting himself into until he’s up to his ear in it, or that Enjolras’s passion for the Republic burns with the intensity of a zillion suns going supernova and consuming everything their path, but still… Congratulations on having the balls.

It’s Marius’s turn to avoid eye contact with everybody in the room now, because Combeferre’s words have really gotten to him and stopped him cold. When he looks up the only one that’s still there is Enjolras, who is just staring him down. Combeferre, thinking the situation has been resolved, had gone outside and everyone else had followed.

Marius isn’t ready to give up the final word though. He’s about to continue to get into it further with Enjolras, when the silence is broken by Combeferre singing a song from outside.

If Ceasar had given me
Glory and war,And if I must abandon
the love of my mother,
I would say to great Caesar:
Take your scepter and chariot
I love my mother more, alas!
I love my mother more.
Combeferre, diffusing situations when he’s not even in the room.

Marius tries to complete a thought about his mother but just trails off instead.

Enjolras, who by this time has stood up to place a hand on Marius’s shoulder, says that his mother is the Republic.

Later, after this whole Napoleon debacle, Marius’s brain space is in utter chaos and it’s really making him sad, being on the outs with not only Grandpa G, but his new friends too. He’s stuck in this netherworld between two beliefs. He’s kind of starting to see the world in another whole new light again, but so soon after he ditched the ultras and started following in his father’s footsteps? He feels like if he were to go in with Enjolras and his crew and start opening his mind fully to all their ideas now that it will be doing his father a disservice. He just can’t do what he thinks might take him further away from Georges’s memory, so he stops going to Les Amis meetings after that. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose.

Now, Marius is broker than broke as he lives in this hotel next to Courfeyrac. What would have become of the lamb had Bossuet not gone rogue on the attendance that day; I have to wonder. Seriously, he just doesn’t actually know how to function out in the world beyond Grandpa G.s walls; does he? It doesn’t help that he can’t seem to focus on more than one thing at a time, and right now he’s so messed up with all the thoughts that are now swirling around in his brain instigating yet another self-identity crisis, that he’s not even paying his rent. You don’t just not pay rent, Marius. Geez. I think he needs a new title: Marius Pontmercy, Baron of Being Distracted. The landlord of course takes issue with this freeloading and Marius tells him to go get Courfeyrac instead of paying the bill. See what happens when you take in strays, Courfeyrac?

Instead of, you know, leaving Pontmercy a note to fend for himself and it was nice knowing him, then absconding in a cab to become a fat country lawyer never to be seen again, Courfeyrac is more than patient and helpful when he finds out Marius’s big secret (that he has been disowned and has no family anymore.) He asks Marius if he wants a loan. Marius does not. So, instead, he helps Marius figure out how to get some cash by selling some of his things for the delinquent rent money and tries to help him find one of those job thingies, so this doesn’t happen again. There’s an opening for a translator, but unfortunately Marius doesn’t know any German or English. He damn well is determined to learn if it means he gets to continue to eat and have a room.

And we know Marius is determined as hell to make it on his own, because on top of refusing Courfeyrac’s loan offer, Grandpa’s sixty pistoles arrives at his doorstep one day after school, and dirt poor Marius with only ten francs to his name and more like his dad than he ever knew, just sends it all back. He’s absolutely not going to take Grandpa G.’s money. It’s not worth his pride. Stick it to the man, Marius!

Back at the Gillenormand abode, The Elder is the one to receive the money back. She doesn’t tell Grandpa G. about it though. She rationalizes not telling him that Marius has refused it, because didn’t Grandpa G. tell her he never wanted to hear another word about the kid?

And nary a word shall he hear!

By the way, Marius leaves the hotel after this, so he doesn’t fall into debt. And so we end this section just as it started, with Marius homeless with nowhere to go.

Dak Reads Les Misérables / MARIUS: Book 3


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 3; Marius Does a Spectacular One-Eighty

So, now it is time to learn all about this brigand of a son-in-law that is such a disgrace to M. Gillenormand. Seems, he’s been all over the place as a career military man, gathering accolades and rank left and right. He suffered a gash across his face at Waterloo, barely survived falling in the sunken road… If you haven’t sussed it out by now, this son-in-law is the Pontmercy that Thénardier accidentally saved by pulling him out from under a pile of dudes so that he might loot the body. He even gets a first name! Georges “The ‘S’ is silent, why do you even have letters at the end of things if you’re not going to use them, French language?” Pontmercy.

He was forced out of active duty and lives off a meager pay now after a change in regime, and moved to a place down by the river in Vernon in the smallest house available. He lived there with his lovely wife Mlle. Gillenormand the younger, that he loved, despite her father’s very grudging approval of their marriage.

Seems like a cozy little life until she died in childbirth. No! At least he has his son… Wait, what is this you’re telling me, book? Gillenormand swooped in and took the baby away from his father?

Yes, he did. The grandfather absconded with the child under threat of disinheritance. Georges knew that he had to let go to do what was best for his kid, so that he could have a better life growing up. This really bums me out majorly, single parents getting taken advantage of all over, I have to say. Not only that, but being a Napoleon fan and such, now that the Bourbons are back in charge, the powers that be have got an eye on him. His rank is no longer recognized, and neither is his title of Baron nor his position in the Legion of Honour. That isn’t to say Pontmercy abides by any of this. He still wears his Legion of Honour Rosette out, despite receiving repeated letters that he would be prosecuted for it since it is illegal, and gosh-darn, he is going to sign his name Colonel Baron Pontmercy every chance he gets regardless. He even runs into the prosecutor on the road one day and goes up to him on his own accord to rather sarcastically ask if he’s still allowed to wear his scars. Stick it to the man, Georges!

Now, getting back to Georges’s home life. He is the old scarred up man in the loneliest little house. He spends his days tending his postage stamp of a garden, because that is all he has left. His flowers. He spends time thinking about his salad days on the battlefield and about how he spends his time now, innocently pruning his hedges and hanging out with his friend Abbé Mabeuf ? Name to remember alert.

Why is it that the good guys in this book are all really awesome at cultivating and taking care of gardens? Valjean and Champmatheiu were pruners at Faveroles, Fauchelevent has his nun garden, and now Pontmercy. Not that we know too terribly much about Georges, but he doesn’t seem like a bad guy so far. This imagery recurs too often. My symbolism detector is going off, and here I thought it was totally broken to everything except anvils falling on my head. (The Internet says: yes it is. This explains everything, but we are not here for deep literary analysis! *runs away from symbolism*)

So, what is Gillenormand up to when he’s not extorting good men into giving up their parental rights? Well, he’s just hanging out at Madame de T’s Salon. A Salon is basically just a place where a bunch of wealthy/society people gather to gab about things, not a place to get your hair cut (it can be that too, but we’re not talking about that). Apparently when he’s not waving his anger-cane at his grandson, Old G. cuts quite the clever and charming figure.

Here at these Salons they discuss current events and art and politics in the form of punnery, poetry, and clever songs, because I guess this is what idle rich people do when they’re being idle and rich. WORD PLAY!

He attends these gatherings often with his daughter and the little boy. If it wasn’t completely obvious to you by now, this kid’s name is Marius. The only thing he knows of his father is that he has one, since M. Gillenormand refuses to talk about the guy unless it’s to poke fun at his Baronry with his Salon friends. Possibly in rhyming couplets with piano accompaniment.

As baby Maris gets older, he starts to absorb the whisperings of these people about his dad. As we know, they don’t think much of him and regard him as a brigand and a disgrace, therefore Marius’s little heart has been poisoned against his dad before Georges even got a chance. This is totally not okay. Especially since the only thing Georges ever did as far as Gillenormand is concerned was standing on the “wrong” side of politics.

Now, little Marius is allowed to write a letter to his dad only twice a year as dictated by his aunt, who…by the way, is the one with all the money Marius stands to inherit, not Old G. C’mon, Mlle!  Why are you complicit in your dad’s curmudgeonly doings? Maybe she agrees with him? Maybe Old G. is someone she just can’t say no to.

As for the letters they are basically a rather cold affair more out of obligation than anything, but Georges always replies with tender letters of his own.

Which Old G. does not read or open or give to Marius. He disposes of them.

As for Georges, if there is any doubt that his motivations for giving up his son were pure, let us dispel that now. Be it the right or wrong decision in the long run, Georges truly believed he was sacrificing his own happiness so that the boy would be well taken care of and have a better life than he could provide for him in his little garden down by the river with the French government peeping on his every move to the point of actively trying to dictate what he wears. He dared not violate the agreement set forth by Old G that he not see his son, lest the boy be disinherited.

Except for those times when he sneaked down to Paris on the days he knew Mlle. Gillenormand the Elder brought Marius to mass. That was where he watched Marius grow up and shed tears that he could never meet him as he hid behind a pillar so no Gillenormands would catch sight of him, and that was where he caught the eye of Abbé Mabeuf.

Mabeuf was there visiting his curé brother, when he noticed this big old soldier with a handsome sabre scar down his face over in the corner weeping like a little girl. Naturally, this juxtaposition piqued his interest, and he conspired with his brother to meet this guy. I’m not sure why meeting Georges required a plan. They meet later on down the road and Georges invites him over to his shack in Vernon, where he spills his guts out about the whole sordid affair. And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, because, like the PB&J of 19th century France, nothing goes together like an old soldier and an old priest.

As for Marius, he grows up hanging around in salons none the wiser. Madame de T’s is his home, which is pretty unfortunate, because hanging out with these old people who look upon young people as strange and foreign entities, and spend all their time being Ultra Royalists has made him a very serious and morose little child.

These guys are unapologetically aligned with the monarchy, as opposed to the new kind of Royalists who kind of feel bad about it. We get to learn all about all the oldies that spend their days at Madame de T’s and the kind of stories they tell, like the one an old priest tells about the time when he was a soldier down in Toulon and his job was to go up the scaffolding at the end of the day and gather up all the guillotined heads from the day’s executions.  I don’t even know what to say about that.

Right, so, a bunch of older people hanging around talking about politics and dismissing anybody who disagrees with them while making fun of them with clever slogans. Sounds like Thanksgiving dinner to me. Unfortunately Marius has no cousins to go hang out with in the basement, so he absorbs all this like a sponge as children are wont to do.

Meanwhile, M. Gillenormand has assured that the kid gets an education. We’ll just skip over his adolescence and go straight to young adulthood and him being in law school now. He has gone from a serious child to a serious young adult. His cool demeanor leads to a complete inability to make friends since this makes him a pretty unapproachable character.

Now, Marius wasn’t fond of his grandfather. This explains who adored who in the previous chapter. It wasn’t the kid who adored the grandpa. That is clear now. He feels even less charitable toward his father. There’s a void where the man should be, and Marius has spent eighteen years thinking that his dad abandoned him and never loved him. Nobody sees fit to correct this impression of course, so when he’s called in to Old G. one day and told he is to travel to Vernon to see his long lost father who is now dying, he isn’t exactly excited about the idea. What’s the opposite of excited? He is that.

He’s feeling so ambivalent about the whole thing that he doesn’t book immediate passage to Vernon. He could have taken the overnight coach, but he was in no hurry. This means that by the time Marius manages to make his way over to his dad’s place, Georges has already died. He died right before Marius got there. The Curé was too late, the Doctor was too late, and Marius was too late.

In fact, Georges was so distraught that his son had not come right away that he was roused from his deathbed in the middle of the night and collapsed there in the hallway where he perished. I don’t know, this seems to somewhat parallel Fantine’s death in a way…both of them on their deathbeds awaiting their dearly beloved children that would never come.

If you’re thinking Marius is going to be moved at all by finding his dead dad on the floor, you would be wrong. He feels nothing. This isn’t to say Marius doesn’t feel bad for not feeling anything. He totally does, but even though we know Georges isn’t a horrible child abandoning beast-monster, this man is a stranger to Marius and stands for everything that he hates. This is how Marius grew up, and this is what Grandpa G. has drilled into his brain.

He leaves with nothing more than a note his father left for him passing on his title of baron even though it is not officially recognized and instructions to find and be of service to the man who saved him: Thénardier, who owns an inn in Montfermeil. Marius doesn’t stay for the funeral. He leaves right away, gives away Georges’s possessions, and after he’s gone the town loots Georges’s precious garden of all the rare and beautiful flowers and the plot becomes wild and overgrown.

As for Marius, he wears the requisite mourning band on his hat and would probably not have given much more thought to Georges if he hadn’t gone to his old church one day and sat in a certain church warden’s seat. He was just kind of wandering around in a dreamy state as Marius does when he kneels down at this chair behind a pillar. There he is approached by Abbé Mabeuf who points out that it is his seat and yes, indeed, his name is on it. Literally.

Marius gives up his spot, and again, would have gone on about his merry way if Mabeuf hadn’t felt the need to explain himself. You see, this spot is sort of sacred to him, for that is where he spied Georges and got to know him. He explains the whole story about this man who was a colonel at Waterloo under Napoleon, who came every week to tearfully hide behind a pillar and watch his son that he was torn apart from due to familial disagreements. Mabeuf thinks this is a shame.

“Certainly I approve of political opinions, but there are people who do not know where to stop!”
Mabeuf drops a Manhattan Project size truth bomb that is still applicable over a hundred years later and will probably continue to be relevant for hundreds of years to come, because the human race never ever learns.

 

This whole time Marius is listening to this story and you can sort of tell that alarm bells are going off all over his brain. When Mabeuf tries to remember the old soldier’s last name and fumbles it, Marius supplies it for him:

Pontmercy.

Marius is the little boy, now adult, and he has just learned that everything he thought he knew about his dad is wrong.

As a result of learning that his father was not in fact a child abandoning beast-monster, Marius throws himself into learning everything he can about him. He goes to the library and reads up on the Revolution and the Republic and the Empire and Napoleon. This doesn’t feel like a gradual thing at all. It’s like he’s completely flipped around in a matter of days. He has totally ripped his Long Live the King sticker from his trapper keeper and replaced it with Bonaparte 5-Ever! He wholeheartedly embraces everything his dad believed in instead. He’s just really kind of obsessive about it to the point of totally ignoring all the bad parts. Georges he worships, and Napoleon is now his idol, and as for Grandpa, well, they never got along to begin with and Marius just drifts further and further away until he gets stranded on the island of hatred. This was the man that kept him separated from the father he now adores for his entire life after all.

Having shed the Royalist skin his grandpa had thrust upon him from birth almost to the point of being one of those Republican’s that Old G. so despises — Marius, in what is apparently the next logical step in his Pontmercy brain, rushes out to the printer to get calling cards printed up with his new title of Baron on them. He’s so damn excited about it. However, Marius having grown up in a salon hanging out with old Ultras and having no social skills to speak of, has nobody to call on. The kid has no friends, so he just stuffs his fancy cards in his pocket and goes on about his day.

This is simultaneously really sad, and unintentionally hilarious. What are we going to do with you, Pontmercy?

As time goes by, Marius spends less and less time at home, between reading up on his new found interests and trying to find the Thénardiers. They are not longer in Montfermeil, since the inn has failed. Marius tells everybody that he’s just really busy studying the law at lawyer school, but nobody believes any of his excuses. That leads me to believe that Marius has never “studied” this hard in his life, and he’s a terrible liar. Old G and Auntie G are convinced that he has a lady friend that he’s spending all his time with. They have no way to tell until a certain cousin we have heard of before comes for a visit on his way through town.

Now, I call Théodule a cousin because we learn here that, even though Hugo says so, there is no actual way he is Mlle. Gillenormand the Elder’s Great Nephew. It is literally impossible for him to be that relation, unless he is Marius’s own son traveling through time from the future (SOMEONE WRITE THE FANFIC!). See, in order to be a great nephew, he would have to be the grandson of Mlle. Gillenormand’s sibling, of which we know there to be only her half-sister: Marius’s Mom. Since Théodule is related on M. Gillenormand’s side and carries the Gillenormand name, that makes him some sort of cousin.

Unless I missed a brother, or he’s one of Magnon’s boys’ kids, but I doubt Old G. would let his illegitimate non-children run around with the family name attached to them. That age gap would probably make Théodule impossible anyway, since he’s clearly older than Marius. I am not sure why I am so concerned about Théodule’s lineage, but I am.

Back to the story at hand! Théodule has come to visit his “Auntie”, and she is delighted to see him. He is her favourite after all, precisely because he doesn’t come around all that often. He can remain idealized in her mind since she doesn’t get to ever know all his bad habits or disagreeable opinions should he have them. Sorry about your luck, Marius. The dude that isn’t even her actual nephew is still her favorite nephew over you.

She wants him to stay for a while, but he’s only passing through Paris on his way to Vernon on his way to somewhere else as per his orders. This gives Mlle. Gillenormand an idea! Marius is also on his way out, and he doesn’t really know Théodule and his perfectly curled mustache well enough to recognize him. This is the ideal opportunity to spy on the kid and see who his secret girlfriend is!

Oh, dear.

Théodule agrees to this. It’s just a bit of fun after all even though I think all of these elderly relatives are way too invested in what is going on in Marius’s pants. In any case, Théodule catches the coach with Marius, who is riding on the outside while he rides on the inside, so there’s even less of a chance of being caught at spying.

Théodule is not that great of a spy though since he falls asleep and almost loses Marius, but he wakes up just in time to see him get off the coach. He follows and watches as the kid buys the biggest bouquet from a flower girl, all the while, the wheels of his mind are spinning about this girl Marius is going to see.

Marius heads to the church.

Intrigue! What kind of illicit love affair is this that they are meeting at the church?

Marius goes behind the church.

And this is where all the fun speculation about Marius’s non-existent love life ends, because Marius is visiting his father’s grave. The pretty flowers are for his dad.

Théodule is totally nonplussed by this, and he feels the prickings of his conscience. This now seems like something way too personal for him to be intruding on, and being a military man himself, he has respect for the colonel. To his credit, Théodule does not report this back to the Gillenormands. It may have been because he didn’t know what to say, but still. I’m glad he didn’t tattle. Not that it does anything to stop the oncoming Hurricane Gillenormand.

Now, one early morning while Marius is passing through the house after one of his trips, he decides what he really needs is a swim. So he abandons his jacket and the black ribbon necklace thing he wears underneath his jacket and out of sight on his bed and leaves it there.

Old G. wakes up early that morning, because healthy old people are always up at the crack of dawn. Initially, he just wants to go say hi and welcome home to his grandson and maybe ask a few questions about his mystery lady. Marius has already departed for the baths though, and all Gillenormand finds are the things he left behind out in the open. In the perfect place for snooping. Old G finds the ribbon and attached to it is a small box; a sort of locket type thing. He’s getting excited now, because what could be in it? A love note?

He opens the case. Inside he finds the bit of paper that Georges bequeathed his title to Marius on. Oh, my. That leads to a search of the jacket pockets, which reveal the packet of calling cards emblazoned with: Baron Marius Pontmercy.

Old G. throws Marius’s things on the ground and has Nicolette take them away. When the grandson returns Grandpa is there waiting for him. I’d like to imagine he’s sitting on a big ornate chair lurking in the dark, possibly stroking a white cat and muttering to himself about Georges and Napoleon as he waits. But that’s just my imagination.

He confronts Marius with the cards as soon as he gets back demanding an explanation for what the meaning of this is!

Marius announces that this is who he is. His father’s son. And so, the storm has begun.

Old G. is righteously indignant about this declaration and yells that he is Marius’s is father.

Marius is having none of this and calls the old man out by telling him exactly who his father is; a heroic man that served the Republic and France whose only fault was loving a son and a country that didn’t love him back.

The mention of the Republic in such a way causes Gillenormand to just fly off the handle into crazy old man town. He pretty much screams down an entire page that Georges Pontmercy doesn’t exist, he doesn’t know this man, he is nothing to him, he doesn’t want to know him or hear about him. It’s like if he shouts loudly enough it will wipe Georges’s memory right off the face of the planet and Marius will go back to being an obedient little mini-Gillenormand and forget all about it.

Marius has other ideas. Namely to be torn for a moment between the man he grew up with and the father he never met, then to shout “Down with the Bourbons!” in his grandfather’s face when he can’t figure out what to do.

As you can probably guess, this tactic goes over like a lead balloon, and Marius is summarily ejected from the house. Old G. gives instructions to send him 60 Pistoles every six months and never speak of the child again.

Gillenormand takes out his residual anger on his daughter for the next few months, and Marius leaves in indignation further stoked by the fact that Nicolette had lost his father’s note. He assumes M. Gillenormand (For no longer shall this man be known to him as grandfather) has thrown the paper in the fire.

Now, you might remember from earlier that Marius is friendless and has nobody to call on, so he hops a cabriolet to the Latin Quarter with absolutely no plans or any place to stay. And that is where we leave him: homeless and abandoned with nowhere to turn.