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.
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!