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
Saint-Denis and the Idyll of the Rue Plumet Book 3; Beauty and the Boob
What is this? A recap? I have not abandoned this brick, no. I took some time off to read many other things. So, since it’s been 84 years, let’s recap!
Valjean was hiding in a convent, eating cheese with Fauchelevent, getting buried alive, raising Cosette, and escaping would be murderer/extortionists as well as Javert.
Marius was disowned and had no friends but then fell in with a bunch of radicals via bald eagle. He lost his mind over Napoleon then lost his mind over a girl then foiled a dastardly murder plot and lost all hope and his home (again), so he moved in with Courfeyrac, because…
Courfeyrac was everywhere, Bossuet got kicked out of lawyer school and waxed poetic about butterflies. Jehan knew about love and flowers, Bahorel gave Jolllly good advice about trousers. Enjolras was busy planning revolution; blond hair flowing in the wind whilst Grantaire succeeded at witty banter and dressing the part but failed at inspiring the people and also at dominoes.
The Thenardiers were exposed and Patron Minette was arrested except for mysterious Claquesous and murdery Montparnasse, the evil anti-Enjolras. Javert terrified Paris to the point of thieves and murderers not bothering to resist arrest. He was generally annoyed at all the baddies that have escaped him and one Marius Pontmercy whose name he does not remember. Mabeuf is still trying to grow indigo plants in France, and Grandpa G. was being a dick to every single one of his living relatives.
And finally, Èponine clearly has the hots for Marius, who remains totally clueless about it despite her promises of future domestic bliss, sock mending , and declarations of his attractiveness as spoken from her lips directly into his own ears on more than one occasion. She is currently on her way to deliver our bambi to his one true lady love that he’s never uttered a word to.
But, before we get to this epic clash of true love… I assume it’s going to be epic since we’ve been waiting three or five or whatever years for Marius to finally speak to this girl. First we must discuss in great detail what Jean Valjean has been up to all these years. I swear, after my prolonged hiatus, if we go through this entire chapter without Marius and Cosette meeting, I’m going to be very disappointed. <strike> (I have a feeling I’m going to be very disappointed.)</strike> It has now become clear to me upon completion of this chapter that we are now going to engage in the story that we have already read, but from some different POVs. Maybe I didn’t need a recap after all? Oh, well–onward!
The first thing you might be asking yourself is why, oh why did Valjean leave the safe haven of the convent at Petit Picpus? It was the perfect hiding spot after all. You know, if you’re going to insist on parking it in the same city that Javert is patrolling anyway. I know, Paris is a large city, what are the chances? France is a pretty spacious country too, yet they still keep running into each other. The odds are not in your favor, Valjean.
As for his reasoning for leaving the convent, he is Cosette’s father for all intents and purposes and he didn’t want her to grow to resent him for basically roping her into nunhood before she got a chance to go out and experience the world for herself. This is something Valjean will come to regret. His opening to leave comes when old Fauchelevent passes away.
Let’s have a moment for good old Fauchelevent, shall we…
Valjean tells the nuns that he has come into some money and he shall be leaving them. I kind of feel bad for the nuns. Now they’re out two gardeners in one swoop. Anyway, he sets up three places around Paris a safe distance apart: Rue de l’Ouest, Rue de l’Homme-Armé, and the place at Rue Plumet.
A little history about this secluded piece of the city, because of course, we must have backstory on anything and everything, including Valjean’s house:
The place on Rue Plumet is the place that an old Judge used to keep his mistresses. Back in those days the bourgeois would hide their mistresses while the lords would parade them around. The judge had another little building out in the back of the garden where secret doctors or nurses could come and take care of the secret mistresses and secret babies without anybody knowing about it. There was a secret path hidden by secret gardens that led out the back and emerged a ¼ mile away on a different street. This is the way the Judge would come and go to the house.
The point: Shhh, it’s a secret, and that’s exactly the way Valjean likes it! His days of parading around town doing philanthropic works all willy-nilly as a mayor are over!
Though he would spend time here and there at the other places, Rue Plumet is is where Jean Valjean’s HQ was. He lived there with one old housekeeper named Toussaint, that he chose because she was an old country lady, and Cosette. Cosette lives in a fabulous decked out bedroom in the house and wants for nothing while Valjean makes his home in the secret shack out back. There is also a huge detailed passage at this point in this chapter about the secret garden, because, as we know by now, gardens are super important and very symbolic. (In short: The garden is a microcosm of the galaxy, Cosette is the naive and innocent heart, she has returned purity to this place after all that judge’s shenanigans. etc etc…) This very symbolic garden Valjean has let grow wild so that the neighbors in their fancy houses won’t suspect anything, and nary a soul would even know about the secret path was there. I should hope so. It would be a terrible secret path if everybody knew about it. Oh! But if the birdies could gossip!
As for Valjean himself, he is hiding in plain sight by being in the National Guard. He has no problems joining up and doing his duty as a taxpaying citizen, even despite his passing retirement age. He is sixty now. Officially. And he doesn’t even look a day over fifty. Apparently Valjean is aging backwards, because ten years ago when he picked up Cosette at the Sergeant of Waterloo, he was in his fifties and I thought he was already in his sixties.
He no longer talks of Fantine as Cosette grows older. He doesn’t know exactly why, but that perhaps she her modesty has been returned to her in death and he shouldn’t speak of her so as not to disturb her final peace. Meanwhile Cosette dreams of her as an angel.
Valjean also goes on walks with Cosette at the Luxembourg Gardens choosing the most secluded area to frequent, of course. Just to be on the safe side. He is proud of her and ultimately happy in his life at this point for having Cosette’s love. Unfortunately for him this area of the garden was not safe from wandering students.
As for Cosette, she grows up with the impression that she is just the plainest most homely creature that has ever existed, and maybe she was for a time. She is actually a very sweet child. Even though Valjean seems to be perfectly willing to give her whatever she wants and the front garden for her do as she pleases, she would just rather hang out with him in his out back shack instead of the big house and she insists on eating what he eats etc. But, as life goes on, people grow up, and one day Cosette wakes up, looks in the mirror, and realizes that she is beautiful and that the dudes whispering about pretty girls out on the street are actually really talking about her. She can hardly believe it at first, but it’s true. Thusly, Cosette becomes more interested in going out and being around the front garden where the gate is and the passersby roam rather than hanging with Dad all the time. She likes all the pretty frilly girly things in life now. She’s greatly interested in the fashions of the day and the boys of the day. It’s kind of like the exact opposite reaction that Marius had to people whispering in the street about his hottie status. Basically, Cosette is just a typical teenager doing her teenage thing. Valjean reacts in the dadly way by freaking out about it. He is wholly unprepared for his daughter’s entrance into young adulthood. He has no idea how to react. When Cosette first dons her fashionable ‘LaNoir’ gear and asks what Valjean thinks about it, he wonders why she doesn’t wear her old clothes.
“That getup!” she said. “Father, what would you have me do with it? Oh, I’ll never wear those awful things again. With that object on my head, I look like Madame Mad-Poodle.”
– I think Weird Al made an album about this hat–
Cosette in the meanwhile is greatly interested in that specific student that’s always loitering around that secluded area of the Luxembourg. So, Marius wasn’t totally imagining her interest in some sort of lovesick fever dream after all. Good to know! It’s a requited love story despite the fact that they never speak to each other. In fact, it was Cosette herself that suggested she and Valjean take a walk past Marius that fateful day when they made the eye contact that officially launched Marius into lovefoolish stalker territory. She was completely fed up with his inability to make a move. We heard all about this from Marius’s point of view already, but now we know that Cosette orchestrated it.
Meanwhile, Valjean is over here hating all of this. His daughter is the only love in his life and he’s just in fits thinking about her leaving him. He’s teetering back on the edge of angry convict Valjean again because of this. This of course, makes him really hate poor Marius, whom he constantly thinks of as an awkward boob this entire chapter. Clearly he is no good for Cosette, and Valjean is under the impression that she doesn’t particularly care about Marius one way or the other when he asks her about him.
This is not true. She is 100% into Marius and his passionate nostrils. She just a bit more subtle about it than Monsieur Pontmercy. As for Marius, boy does Valjean have him figured out right from the start. He knows Marius is pretend reading just to be near them and sprucing up his wardrobe to catch Cosette’s eye, and all of that we read from Marius’s point of view earlier.
Well, instead of bringing out intimidating former convict Valjean to just tell Marius to go back to wherever he came from and stop making eyes at Cosette, (I mean, I’m assuming strangers in a public garden in the 19th century were allowed to speak words to each other without kingly intervention. Right? Maybe not.) We heard all about how Valjean tricked Marius into following them around just to make sure that the kid was indeed being a creeper and Marius falls for it completely, even following them all the way to their damn house. Again, C’mon, Marius. Dude.
This is when Valjean moves and stops with the garden strolls. This not only upsets Marius, but also Cosette. It really does nothing to push her back into the old days of her childhood, hanging out in the outback shack with dad. In fact, the next time Valjean suggests a trip to garden, she is overjoyed. Her joy is quickly shadowed by the fact that Marius no longer loiters around there anymore. What would be the point? Cosette no longer gives a toss about garden strolls.
Later, Valjean has found alternate and isolated walking areas at the edge of the city in some nice fields. Cosette likes them so she can run around and play, making daisy chains and the like. Valjean likes them because they are out of the way. Just so happens one day as they are near the Barrière du Maine at dawn when a parade of convicts chained up in carts comes down the road. It is explained that this convoy is going down this particular road to avoid the King’s kingly carriage path. This path was earlier detailed in the chapter in which Valjean first arrived in Paris.
Anyhow, the point of this is not really the King’s comings and goings, it’s Valjean’s chagrin. This is not a thing he wants Cosette to be exposed to, and he for sure doesn’t want her to know about his past life of crime. Unfortunately she’s the one that points out these approaching wagons while Valjean is gazing around at the sky having some cosmic musings while Venus is on the rise. Meanwhile, she is naturally curious about this foul mouthed chain gang now before her with a gathering crowd and a pack of gamin. We learn about each cart having a distinct personality including the final one which is piled up with maybe actually dead people. The guards have no qualms about beating any of the men.
Cosette is the most curious of cats and asks what’s up. Who are they? Where are they going? Are they men? (are they Devo?) Valjean tells her that they are convicts, heading to jail, and sometimes they are men. Any further questions Cosette has throughout the night he doesn’t even answer, because he does not want to discuss this anymore. Later, near bedtime she’s still got them on her mind and is talking under her breath later like a valley girl: “O my God, I would just die from seeing [A convict] near me” Which has got to hurt Valjean right in the heart. Ouch!
Valjean manages to distract her with a conveniently timed festival over the coming week! It works for a short while, but sometime later while he is observing her posing questions of love by plucking the petals of a Daisy (Do I love thee: A little? A lot? Passionately? Not?) and wondering where the hell she learned this game, she asks one more time. What are convicts?
Will Valjean have an answer? A confession?
Will we rehash an entirely different part of the story we already read?
Will we return to Eponine leading Marius to his one true love?
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
Saint-Denis and the Idyll of the Rue Plumet Book 2; Larking About
Wow. You guys are never going to believe who’s homeless again. Just kidding. You’re totally going to guess, because it is Marius. As soon as the whole business with his neighbors getting arrested went down, Marius fled into the night, leaving his neighbors to speculate and assume that he was in on the whole thing.
And you’ll never–nevermind. I’ll stop trying to create any sort of suspense here. I mean, if Marius had ended up on Grandpa G.’s doorstep that might be a surprise, but no. He’s gone to trusty bff, Courfeyrac’s place. It’s a new place, because he’s moved in order to be closer to the action. The action being the forthcoming revolution that is sure to be happening. I would tell you all the names of the streets and everything, because I assure you that information is contained in the text, but I don’t think it would do much good. You know, unless you are extremely familiar with Paris or are planning your Les Misérables walking tour of France. (In which case I’d have to warn you that it’s a pretty long trek from Toulon to Montrieul Sur Mer to Paris.)
Anyway, Courfeyrac isn’t going to turn his friend out on the street and he happens to sleep on double mattresses, so there’s even an extra one for Marius. This is where he stays until… Nope. Until nothing. This is just where he stays: on the mattress on the floor at Courfeyrac’s place.
He’s also not going to work. If he was sad before, he’s even lower now. He doesn’t even have a name to pin his hopes on anymore, because he knows his love isn’t an Ursula after all. So, now he’s extra poor, moping around, and mooching Francs off Courfeyrac to give to Thénardier in prison. Yes, you read that correctly. Even after everything, he’s still trying to help this guy out.
Marius is now in debt for the first time ever and showing no signs of coming out of it. Courfeyrac has got to be the most patient bro ever. He’s not even mad as far as I can tell. He’s just curious about what these francs are for, and Thénardier is equally as curious about where they’re coming from.
Meanwhile, Marius tries to translate, but he can’t even concentrate on that and keeps procrastinating and going for walks instead. He’s become a master at it. That isn’t to say he’s wandering around in a fog; in fact, he’s quite aware of the goings on around him. Everything just sucks with the thought that he might never see Cosette again hovering over him wherever he goes. He eventually finds a solitary place with a view of Notre Dame that a passerby informs him is called the “Meadow of the Lark.” The guy attempts to give a little background info on this name, but Marius stopped listening at the word “Lark”.
He had learned from listening to the Thénardier’s that this was Cosette’s nickname, and that’s all he needs to hear to decide that this is where he is going to park himself until she comes to him. I’m sure that this foolproof plan is totally going to work, Marius.
Now let’s catch up with Javert. Javert is doing some spectacular law enforcement failing to go along with the criminal failing that happened a couple chapters ago. He did indeed suspect that the white haired man was Valjean, but he escaped again. On top of that Javert has completely forgotten Marius’s name and now cannot find him anywhere for questioning or to testify about the happenings that went down that fateful night. This is what pen and paper are for, Javert. Geez. I know these things existed in the 1830’s, even Jondrette owned them. You would think somebody at this big city police station would take down Pontmercy’s details when he went in to report a possible crime. It probably wouldn’t take much sleuthing to figure it out from there. Though, if Javert thinks Marius would have gone home (he does), that is wrong too. I’m sure Grandpa G. would deny the boy’s existence. Who knows what Auntie the Elder would have to say.
He’s not only miffed at missing Valjean and blanking on the kid’s name, but also for not getting Montparnasse. Like pokémon, he wanted to catch them all. It says here that Montparnasse would have rather been, “Némorin with the daughter than Schinderhannes with the father.” Shinderhannes was a famous German thief, and Némorin…well, Google translate and This Text lead me to believe that they’d be friends from childhood eventually turned lovers. So, if you hadn’t already surmised what could possibly be more interesting than a good murder party, there you go.
On top of that, mysterious man of mystery, Claquesous had escaped. There is definitely talk about how this could have happened because Claquesous’s so bad that he’s on the side of good and is actually deep, deep undercover, but Javert isn’t having any of it. He’s annoyed with the whole situation.
As for Patron-Minette, the rest of the captured gang have all been put into solitary save Brujon. They leave him out in the yard so that maybe he might turn informant or something. Instead he passes along notes to the outside. The police catch wind of this and arrest some bad guys around the places that the notes were sent and think that’s the end of it.
About a week later a guard sees Brujon writing a letter. I’m not even going to explain the “chestnut” system, which is apparently some way the guard’s operate to make sure they’re checking up on the prisoners every hour, by dropping chestnut into a box, because… I cannot even envision how this would work. Chestnuts are for roasting on an open fire, guys.
Anyway, the guards do not find the letter, but they send Brujon to the dungeon anyway. The letter is about a possible crime that may go down on Rue Plumet, and it finds its way from Brujon, to Babet, who sends it to a friend on the outside, Magnon. You remember Magnon, right? She’s the mother of Grandpa G’s illegitimate non-children and friend to Thénardiers apparently. We’ll hear more on her later, I’m reading. From there she sends this note along to Èponine who, along with Azelma, have been released from whatever juvenile facility they’ve been in.
Èponine goes to case the joint on Rue Plumet and returns a biscuit. Biscuits are prison code for canceling whatever plots are afoot. So much for that.
Moving swiftly along to Father Mabeuf. He’s in as much a sad state as Marius these days. Nobody comes to visit him anymore, since Marius no longer does anything but hang out at the meadow waiting for Cosette to materialize out of thin air. Mother Plutarch is ailing, and Gui de Books is dead. Turns out the bookseller does have a name after all! His name is Royol. Mabeuf is left with his books and his indigo plants and that’s it. He doesn’t laugh anymore, but he still has hope that one day his flowers will grow.
One night Mabeuf is out in his garden trying to water his indigo. He’s having a rough time getting the water out of his well when a girl appears and helps him out. She not only gets the water but waters all the plants as well! When she is finished, she asks him where she can find Marius.
He provides the information about the Meadow of the Lark; since he still passes by Marius, but they only just nod acknowledgement at each other anymore. Then the girl is gone, and Mabeuf might have thought he had imagined the entire thing if not for his freshly watered plants.
Later on, Èponine finds Marius exactly where Mabeuf said he would be. She tells him how she’s been looking all over for him, and talks at him about his moving and the probable reasons for doing so, and that he’s way too young and attractive to be a Baron. She comments on the disrepair of his clothes and how she’s going to fix them up for him.
Nothing seems to be getting through to him, I guess, since he’s pretty unresponsive. ‘Èponine doesn’t really want to tell him her news, but she really hates seeing him so despondent, so she dispenses with the small talk and tells him she has the address.
Marius asks what address as if he doesn’t know exactly what she’s talking about. I guess he doesn’t want to get his hopes up.
Èponine tells him, and once again it’s very clear that she’s not very happy about it. She’s going to show him how to get there anyway. Marius, as you can probably guess, is now completely overjoyed and excited. Èponine on the other hand is really sad that locating Cosette has cheered him up when she couldn’t even make a dent in his melancholy.
There is one last concern that Marius has. He grabs Èponine’s arm and makes her promise that she will never tell her father where Cosette is. She doesn’t at first, because she so happy that he actually knows her by name. She eventually promises, and that she won’t tell anybody else either.
Then they are off. Èponine is concerned that Marius is following too closely, because she doesn’t think a guy like him should be seen in the company of a girl like her. They start off again only to have her stop for Marius to catch up. She reminds him that he promised her something if she found Cosette.
Marius, still totally clueless, automatically attempts to hand her five francs. She just drops it on the ground. She doesn’t want his money. (Well, technically, it’s probably Courfeyrac’s money.)
That’s it! Maybe Cosette and Marius will actually speak to each other in the next chapter? Cross your fingers!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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?
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.
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:
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!
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.
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
Cosette: Book Eight: In which nuns violate public health and safety in the name of God, and Valjean is buried alive
Yes, these are things that are happening in this chapter. How did we arrive here, you may be asking, because I’m reading it and I’m wondering that too. Well, let us return to the night Valjean jumped into the garden. This is exactly where we left off on that wild tangent a couple sections ago, but it seems like it’s been a thousand years since Valjean scaled that wall.
He and Fauchelevent are hanging out eating cheese and wine and Valjean is watching Cosette sleep. He has come to the conclusion that he must stay in this convent. It is surely the most safest place to be, you know, besides a different city, or a different country, or any place other than the city in which Javert is currently employed. Be that as it may, Javert would never suspect him in this convent, since nobody gets in. That’s a pretty reasonable assumption, but there are a couple of problems with this amazing plan.
A. Are the nuns really going to let another dude onto the premises?
B. If they do, they can’t know that he’s already broken into their convent. I’m pretty sure that would quickly get him on their bad side and they’d never allow him back in.
Valjean enlists Fauchelevent to help him scheme a way to accomplish his continued safety at Petit Picpus.
Fauchelevent is rightfully dubious that he can do anything about it. He only has contact with Mother Innocent, and all the other nuns run away from his knee-bell. He suggests Valjean just climb over the wall the way he came in, but apparently that cannot be done in the opposite direction. No. Really? Surely, it would be easier for Fauchelevent to say…acquire a ladder than what’s about to go down? I guess that would too be simple and easy, and we can’t have that.
Well, it just so happens there was a dying nun on the premises and Fauchelevent hears his own personal bell tone that means he’s being summoned to a meeting with Mother Innocent. Once he’s there, she goes into some long speech about the final wishes of the dead, particularly some of the sainted brothers and sisters that have lived their lives in service to God. Surely they deserve to have their final wishes honoured? She goes on to cite a couple of examples as precedent.
Meanwhile, Fauchelevent is explaining that he’s old and decrepit and he could use a little help around the garden. He has just the guy! His “brother” and his “brother’s” daughter should come to live among them and help out.
It seems as if Mother Innocent is down with this on one condition. Can Fauchelevent procure a lever to lift the stone covering vault underneath the altar in the chapel? Fauchelevent can. He wonders why she would want to do that though.
She wonders if he did not hear the bells earlier that announced one of the nun’s deaths. He says he did not. He can’t hear much in his own little corner of the convent, besides, his bell is the only tone he pays attention to anyway.
Well, Mother Innocent explains, this particular nun’s final wish was to be laid to rest beneath the altar in the coffin that she has slept in during her life.
Wait. Is something lost in translation here again? Do nuns sleep in coffins for real? or was this woman secretly a vampire?
Fauchelevent is taken aback, because burying people under the floor is just not done. There are safety issues! What of the health inspectors? They would never let them just stick a body underneath the altar in the church where alive people congregate.
Mother Innocent is not going to let some silly government or the threat of disease get in the way of fulfilling this woman’s final wishes though. As far as she’s concerned, she’s got a higher authority that she must obey, so what does Fauchelevent think of those apples?
Fauchelevent isn’t going to argue about it any further. So, now to get down to the gritty details… It’s easy enough to conclude they are going to have bury a coffin at the cemetery, so nobody catches on; but how is Fauchelevent going to sneak the empty box out of the convent without the pallbearers knowing it’s empty?
Why is everybody leaving their scheming plans up to Fauchelevent here? He totally did not sign up for this when he fell under that cart.
Good thing Fauchelevents are smarter than they appear. You see, before he fell on hard times and had to turn to being a cart driver, he was a notary. He wasn’t always a simple laborer. He easily concludes that they can just fill the coffin up with dirt and be done with it.
Mother Innocent approves. With the plan in place, she dismisses him to go about his work.
Back in Fauchelevent’s shed of collusion, Valjean is still chillin’, watching Cosette and eating cheese. He asks how the meeting went. Everything is set with to bring in Fauchelevent’s “Brother”, now to get Valjean out.
It’s easy enough to sneak Cosette out, she’s tiny and easy to carry and hide. Valjean threatens her with Thénardiers again to make extra sure she doesn’t utter a peep, which is a tactic I don’t entirely like, but hey…it’s super effective.
And what of Valjean? Fachelevent can’t just throw a blanket over him and carry him out under his arm. I would hate to bear the wrath of these nuns should they find an unauthorized dude on the premises.
He’s just pondering this and how dirt in the coffin isn’t going to feel exactly like a human person … You know where this is heading now, right? You can practically see the lightbulbs appearing over their heads.
And this is why you should read the “brick”. For every endless chapter about nuns or Waterloo, there are treasure chests full of gleaming gems of amazingness like this. I wish the sheer length of this novel wasn’t such a deterrent, because it’s so worth the read. It’s just a thousand more pages to love. Seriously, Valjean just sneaked into a convent, so he could sneak out of a convent. IN A COFFIN. So, he can legitimately enter the convent and hide out there; an opportunity that presents itself just because he ran into a guy he used to know, and a nun happened to die that morning and wished to be buried on the premises rather than in an outside cemetery.
You also won’t know that Valjean is secretly hilarious. I don’t know that he means to be, but he is to my wry funny bone.
“You can come and nail me up in the coffin at two o’clock.”
Fauchelevent recoiled, and began to crack his finger joints.
“But it’s impossible!”
“Not at all. To take a hammer and drive some nails into a board?”
Valjean does not understand why this could be a problem
All plans are in place now. The only thing that Valjean is worried about in this surely foolproof caper is what’s going to happen when they get to the cemetery?
Fauchelevent has that covered though. He knows the ins and outs of the place and is a personal friend of the gravedigger, who is also a drunk and easily distracted in his drunkeness.
Fauchelevent plans to wait until the priest is done giving his blessings and then make sure the gravedigger is plastered then just send him home.
There is one important thing to note about the gravedigger’s duties. This cemetery has a gatekeeper and the only way the gravedigger can come and go after hours is with his card, which he drops into a box and is permitted entry or exit in some sort of 19th century key card system. If the gravedigger forgets his card than the gatekeeper can let him through by sight, but that’s a fifteen Franc fine. This is relevant information this time, I assure you.
So the day comes and everything is just going swimmingly. Cosette has been sneaked out and is hanging out with a flower shop lady for the time being. Poor little Cosette is worried about this of course. I don’t blame her for having abandonment issues at this point. She knows something is afoot though and instinctively keeps her mouth shut about it.
Meanwhile, let us return to: The Great Convent Escape!
Everything has gone perfectly so far on all of Fauchelevent’s flawless schemes. There’s a nun under the altar, Cosette is away, and Valjean is squeezed into a coffin, ready to go.
Nothing could go wrong, I tell you! NOTHING!
I know we’ve been hit with the foreshadowing stick before in this book, but this is a particularly gratuitous beatdown.
As soon as Fauchelevent meets up with the gravedigger everything starts falling quickly apart.
This gravedigger is not Fauchelevent’s drunken friend. This is some other guy who is all business and no drinking. What happened to the drunk? Well, he up and died. How dare he!
Fauchelevent is having a meltdown over here in the meanwhile, and is desperately trying to convince this gravedigger that he really needs to come out and have a drink. He even goes so far as to offer to pay himself, which is definitely above and beyond the call of duty.
New guy sort of relents, but only after his job has been done will he go grab a cup of wine. Fauchelevent tries to convince him that the taverns will close soon, but this guy is really determined to bury this ‘nun’.
Meanwhile, Valjean is chilling in the coffin, waiting for the priest to be done giving a blessing and for Fauchelevent to pry him out of this predicament. That’s when he hears the first shovel full of dirt rain down on him. This causes Valjean to basically have a panic attack, and he just passes the hell right out.
Back above ground Fauchelevent is beside himself. He doesn’t know what to do until he spots the gravedigger’s key card, and he gets an idea. He picks the gravedigger’s pocket and then asks him if he has his card.
The Gravedigger can’t find it, and it’s almost time for the graveyard to close. He must go home and find his missing card or have to pay fifteen francs. This dude is really very extremely opposed to having to pay a fine, so he rushes off home.
The gravedigger won’t be finding that card anytime soon, since Fauchelevent stole it and everything so there’s plenty of time to get Valjean.
Fauchelevent is totally my hero right now. He is not just some rando that fell under a cart once upon a time. Okay?
Soon enough, Valjean has been untombed and…well, he’s still passed the hell out, and Fauchelevent assumes he suffocated in there. He has another meltdown, but soon Valjean wakes up, the night air having revived him. Fauchelevent admonishes him for nearly scaring him to death.
All is right in the world again. They escape the cemetery using the stolen card and Fauchelevent stops by the gravedigger’s house (where he has turned everything over in the search for the missing card) to let him know the key is at the gatehouse. Fauchelevent “found” it on the “ground” and finished up the gravedigger’s job for him.
The poor gravedigger is relieved and forever grateful to Fauchelevent. As is everybody apparently.
The nuns are grateful that he’s helped them out with their scheme. They’re so pleased that they even give a report when the archbishop comes for a visit. Everybody is apparently A-Okay with storing bodies under the altar, government be damned!
And Valjean and Cosette come to live with him in the Convent free and clear. Valjean’s new alias is Ultimus Fauchelevent, which is Fauchelevent’s actual brother’s name, but who is dead now and can’t use it. It is also a totally bitchin’ name. ULTIMUS! The nuns just call him “Other Fauvent” though. He gets his own knee bell so they can avoid him forever.
As for Cosette, she goes to live in the school for girls where it is impressed upon her how incredibly homely she is. Which is mean, because she’s Fantine’s girl, there’s no way that’s actually true unless she inherited all of Tholomyès features or something. Which she hasn’t. It’s just something the nuns tell girls, so they don’t get ideas that they’re good looking enough to score a guy or worry about superficial things like appearances.
She gets an hour a day to spend with Valjean and that is the best hour of the day for both of them. Though, Cosette does wish she would have brought Catherine along had she known she was going to be stuck in a nunnery for the rest of her life.
This convent is Valjean’s new life. He dares not leave the convent for fear of being caught again, so that leads him to contemplation about his life in prison and this life here in which there are similarities. In fact, the nuns seem to live in even harsher conditions of their own volition than the convicts did.
And this is how Valjean now spends his days, putting his mad hedge pruning skillz to use and contemplating stuff, like how Godly institutions and/or love seem to enter his life every time he feels like he’s falling back into the abyss to remind him to stay on the straight and narrow. He prays every night outside while the nuns are praying inside.
And as for Javert, he’s spent a month keeping his eyes peeled. Only a month? I guess so, because that’s the last we hear about this particular pursuit, but we all know it’s not the last we’ll be hearing of Javert.
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.
Book Five: Return of the Wolf Puppy
Alright, people! Are you prepared for Hugo to drop some real realness in your eyes? Well, here it goes. He does that thing that I usually despise by interjecting author notes directly into the story. He wants to let us know that this Paris he’s about to describe is the Paris of the past. It has changed through the years and this is how Hugo remembers it. Have some of his thoughts about it:
While we come and go in our native land, we imagine that we are indifferent t these streets, that these windows, roofs and doors mean nothing to us, that these walls are strangers to us, that these trees are like any other trees, that these houses we never enter are of no use to us, that the pavement where we walk is no more than stone blocks. Later, when we are no longer there, we find that those streets are very dear to us, that we miss the roofs, windows and doors, that the walls are essential to us, that the trees are beloved, that every day we did enter those houses we never entered, and that we have left something of our affections, our life, and our heart on those paving stones. All those places that we no longer see, which perhaps we shall never see again, but whose image we have preserved, assume a painful charm, return to us with the sadness of a ghost, make the holy land visible to us, and are so to speak, the true shape of France; and we love them and call them up such as they are, such as they were, and hold onto them, unwilling to change a thing, for one clings to the form of the fatherland as to the face of the mother. (Now that we’re all thinking about where we grew up and how it’s all changed…)
Oh, by the way, in case you didn’t know…Hugo was in exile for fifteen years after speaking out against Napoleon III (This novel was published while he was away). So, there’s that. I think I don’t mind the interjections and digressions, because it may not be relevant, but it’s definitely interesting information that I don’t mind being in my brain.
Back to Jean Valjean, who is now traversing these streets of Paris, and I suppose that disclaimer up there is sort of relevant, because he lists off the many streets Valjean is traveling down, even down to a sign advertising a sale outside a shop as he passes by. He doesn’t really have any destination in particular. He’s letting God lead the way, and as for Cosette? She trusts Valjean, and goes with him without any fuss.
He comes to the realization that Javert is indeed on his tail. He thinks he shakes him several times, but Javert and his men are never too far behind. Valjean crosses a bridge and becomes trapped at Petit Picpus when he notices a sentry is posted at the outlet of the street. He knows he can’t go back the other way, because Javert is back there.
What’s a guy to do?
There is an old decrepit door there, but Valjean soon realizes that the thing isn’t actually a door. When is a door not a door? When it’s just hanging there on the wall for no apparent reason. He knows it’s a waste of time to break it down if there’s not going to be an opening behind it. He eventually formulates a plan to go over one of the walls.
It’s an easy job for himself. He used to scale walls like a spiderman back in prison, but he’s got Cosette now, and he can tell that the police are moving in on him. They are taking their good sweet time about it though, methodically checking out every crevasse as they inch slowly toward him.
He finds a rope attached to a street lamp that he can use to hoist her up after him and thus begins his ascent. Cosette’s getting a little bit worried at this point and wants to know who these people are that are after them. Valjean gets her to be quiet by telling her it’s the Thénardiess. This is an effective bogeyman, and we won’t be hearing a peep out of Cosette now. They make it over the wall and into what is apparently the creepiest garden to ever creep. It’s super gloomy and weird things are afoot there.
Valjean finds a shed to hide in and they remain silent as they listen to Javert and his buddies searching around out in the street. It feels like they’re sitting there for quite a while. Valjean peeps inside a nearby building and sees what looks like a dead body, but isn’t a dead body? Whatever the case, it’s really weird, and then there’s the singing, and the sound of a bell coming from what appears to be a guy tending garden. Is Valjean trippin’ ? Because this is just strange. Maybe there’s a reasonable explanation?
As he sits there, he reflects about Cosette and how she’s everything to him now. He’s going to live his life for the little girl and do everything for her, and it is at this point that he notices she has gone cold as she’d fallen asleep in the freezing night air. He has only one recourse and picks Cosette up, rushing to the guy with the bell. He has to warm her up fast and this is the only option, even if it means being caught.
The old man is extremely excited to see Valjean there. He’s surprised and delighted to find Monsieur Madeline has apparently fallen from the sky straight into his garden. Wait a minute…
Who is this old man who seems to know Valjean from another life? It’s Fauchelevent! You remember Fauchelevent, right? He’ll refresh everybody’s memory now, because Valjean doesn’t even remember him.
Fauchelevent was the guy that was trapped under a cart once upon a time and Valjean saved his life that day despite Javert and his suspicious eyes being all over him. What Valjean has stumbled into is the Convent at Petit-Picpus, the very same place he procured work for old Fauchelevent. The guy is only out in the cold night to put jackets on his melons so they don’t get frosty. The reason he has to wear a bell on his bum knee so the nuns stay away from him, and he has no idea about Valjean and his post mayoral trials and tribulations. As far as he knows, Valjean is still Madeline. He’s also a bit put out that Valjean had no idea who he was and calls him an ingrate, but is still willing to help him out in any way he can. To be fair though, Valjean’s got a hell of a lot on his mind right now.
And he’s totally going to take advantage of Fauchelevent’s cluelessness right now. He only has a couple things to ask for and that’s a warm place for Cosette and that he doesn’t utter a word about this to anybody. Fauchelevant is happy to provide and soon Cosette is sleeping warm and cozy in a bed by the fire and very much not dead.
That is how Valjean evaded the clutches of Inspector Javert and found a safe haven, but how about we take a look at it from a different angle? It’s time for Javert’s point of view now!
So, after he played a crucial role in bringing Valjean in after he escaped in Montreuil Sur Mer, he was given a position in Paris. Seems as if his zesty zeal in catching Valjean did not go unnoticed. This is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why Javert is in Paris, and, as it turns out, he has not been ceaselessly chasing after Valjean every waking second of the day and also in his dreams (okay, maybe in his dreams). These two have a history now.
In fact, Javert probably would have gone on about his business of terrifying the rest of the Paris citizenry, content with the knowledge that Valjean, the dangerous criminal, is back in Toulon serving his time where he belongs, had he not happened to open up the paper for the purposes of catching up on Monarchy news. It’s the only reason he was even looking at it; he usually doesn’t read the paper. This is where he saw Valjean’s death notice.
Again, Javert is was totally taking this at face value and was on the road to forgetting about Valjean, since he was dead and everything. The wolf has new things to sniff out, so there’s no reason for the old stuff to stick around, right? This is when he gets word through police networks of a girl kidnapped from Montfermeil. This piques his interest greatly, because that was the area in which Valjean was last captured, and Javert knew exactly why he was there. He still thinks it’s hilarious that Valjean had the audacity to ask him for three days grace to go fetch Fantine’s little girl right in the middle of being arrested. It just so happens this little girl is the same girl that had been reported missing.
I’m telling you, were Javert the star in his own crime procedural, we’d all be rooting for him and the exemplary sleuthing skillz he’s putting on display here. He would have his own show on USA and nobody would call him the villain. He would still be the annoyingly uptight, straight-laced, absolutely frustrating by the book 100% detective, and they would team him up with the loose cannon, rule breaking newbie with a heart of gold though.
In any case, Javert wants to be really sure that he’s right about this. He doesn’t want the press to have a field day should he wrongfully arrest an innocent man. So, he puts in the requisite work rather than going off half-cocked on some wild goose chase.
He goes to speak with Thénardier, who filed the report and regrets it now that he’s got a wolf on his doorstep. He attempts to recant and says that Cosette wasn’t stolen away. She merely went to go live with her grandfather. Lol. Those townspeople, you know how they talk? Javert doesn’t really believe this, but he does have doubt seeds growing. He really doesn’t want to get this wrong.
He hears about the beggar who gives alms, and this gets his gears working too. He goes undercover as one of his police informants. Who is his police informant? It’s the beggar that Valjean regularly funds, and this is the point at which Valjean first peeped spy!Javert, and Javert first laid eyes on Valjean again.
They are both still not sure though. Javert gets the aid of the landlady in his spying, so Valjean was correct in assuming they were in cahoots when he decided to make a run for it. He dropped some coins on the floor which gave him away though, and the Landlady ratted him out to Javert.
It really isn’t until they catch sight of each other at various points during the chase that they are really surely sure that what they are seeing is what they had believed to be true. I guess neither one of them had been able to wrap their mind around it until everything unfolded right in front of them. Javert had honestly had doubts up until this point, and he couldn’t in good conscience make that arrest. On top of that, he followed instead of arresting Valjean right away, because he was slightly worried that if this man were not Valjean, then he might be some sort of criminal underworld mastermind. In this case, Javert would want to follow him and see what he was up to. A premature arrest wouldn’t be wise if that were so.
He had asked for resources from the higher ups though, without telling them exactly what he’s been up to for a couple of reasons: He doesn’t want anybody to think he’s insane or be eviscerated in the press. Remember, he already got accused of the crazies when he thought Mayor Madeline was Jean Valjean while a different man was in custody, and wrongful arrests were starting to be a problem. Valjean’s not even supposed to be alive, remember? On top of that, Javert knows, being a relative newcomer to the Paris police, those higher ups are going to take credit for his great feats of detectiving.
No. He wants this great masterpiece of police work to be a surprise (He loves surprises!), only to be revealed when everything falls neatly into place and he can ride into work the next day on the stallion of triumph, having been the one dude smart enough and sly enough to capture a man everybody else thought was dead.
Javert? You are familiar with the saying about what pride precedes, right?
He keeps his eyes on Valjean the entire time he’s trying to escape down all those streets. Even while Valjean thought he was safe in the shadows, Javert’s suspicious eyes were there. He follows along with his goon squad at a safe distance, picking up backup and random patrolling soldiers along the way to aid him, until he finally traps Valjean in Petit Picpus.
Having caught Valjean, and thinking there’s no way the man is getting away now, he takes his good old time searching every single nook and cranny from both ends of the street in for the express purpose of messing with Valjean’s mind like a tiger playing with a mouse before eating it. As we know now, Valjean was totally sweating this. Unfortunately for Javert,Valjean isn’t a mouse. This dilly-dallying gave him enough time to formulate an escape plan that we have seen.
By the time Javert and his wolfpack meet in the middle, Valjean is gone.
You say you like surprises, Javert? Well… SURPRISE!!!
They can’t figure out where the hell Valjean went, though they assume somewhere over the wall because they spot the rope, but where it’s lying is a misdirect. They still can’t find him, searching gardens in the opposite direction from the one he’d actually gone in. There are a few paragraphs devoted to what an egregious fuckup this is for Javert. Apparently his failure to arrest Valjean straight away is right up there with the greatest tactical blunders of all time. Ouch!
He returns to work riding on the donkey of shame instead. This was not how he thought things were going to go.
What’s going to happen now? Is Javert going to try and get himself fired again? I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see until next time!
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.
BOOK 6: Wolf Puppy!
In which Javert even refers to himself in the third person in the book.
M. Madeline takes Fantine to the hospital after she passed out in the last chapter. The hospital is also his house, or his house contains hospital beds. Either way, Fantine is there. She’s not really recovering, but she hopes to see her daughter soon.
Madeline has written to the Thénardiers and attempts to settle Fantine’s debt to them. He sends for the child. The Thénardiers are no dummies, so they realize quickly that Cosette has just turned into some kind of major cash cow. They don’t send her. Instead they ask for more money. Madeline supplies it.
No Cosette. They want more money. So it goes for a while while Fantine is over here dying. Madeline’s about to travel down to Montfermiel himself to get Cosette when he is visited by a certain Javert.
We’ll switch gears for a moment and see what our dear inspector has been up to since last we saw him. Gossip around town is that he’s been corresponding with Paris and now he’s come to tell the Mayor that there has been a crime committed. A crime that has been perpetrated against the Mayor himself!
This all comes as news to Madeline. I mean if someone committed a crime against him, surely he would know about it. Right? He asks Javert what the fresh hell he’s talking about. Javert, as it turns out, is the perpetrator.
Madeline is still confused. Javert insists that he be fired. Quitting would be too honorable, and he feels he should be disgraced for his indiscretion. We’re all going to need a little clarification before anybody gets dismissed, and Javert is going to give us a tour through the mind acrobatics he’s gone through in order to arrive at the conclusion that he ought to be sent packing.
So, after the whole Fantine debacle, Javert was pretty enraged. He actually put pen to paper and wrote down his suspicions and sent them on their suspicious way to Paris. Their reply? Javert, you crazy! They already had the suspect, Jean Valjean, in custody.
It seems a guy who just happens to match Jean Valjeans description was caught stealing apples from somebody’s tree. (Bread is a gateway food!) This guy also just happens to have had the same job as a pruner that Valjean had. Though nobody from Valjean’s old life can be found to identify him, there are a couple of his old convict friends that say this apple-stealer is the guy. Even Javert recognizes him, and is already to set forth and identify the man himself.
And then there is the matter of his name. His name is Champmathieu. I will spare you the prodigious hoops it takes to derive that from Jean Valjean. All you need to know is that it is somehow a perfectly logical assumption based on Valjean’s mother’s maiden name and French dialects. Javert seems excited about it.
And this is why he must be dismissed, for slandering the mayor’s good name.
Of course, Madeline has absolutely zero intention of dismissing anybody. Javert insists, Madeline declines — a few times. Javert makes his case further.
He doesn’t think he should be dismissed for being suspicious. He would be a crap inspector if he wasn’t. He thinks he deserves the dishonor because he denounced Madeline as a convict in a fit of pique with no proof, and it just isn’t right to be vengeful like that. He doesn’t want any special consideration, because he would totally sack his subordinates if they ever did such a thing, and what kind of an example would that be if he didn’t abide by the same rules?
Javert spends a bit more time explaining why he must be fired immediately, and in the end Madeline shakes his hand and offers up a maybe. Javert is certainly vexed at this point. He considers himself no better than a spy right now, and the Mayor should not even deign to shake hands with him. What does a guy gotta do to get fired around here?
Javert finally leaves, informing Madeline that he will do his job until his replacement arrives, and that is that.