Tag Archives: Marius

Marius Joins the Persecution

It’s so frustrating to watch Marius take part in the same condemnation that the people of Digne showed Jean Valjean when he arrived there two decades earlier. With all his ideals, you want him to know better, but he “had not yet made full progress” and still believes that shunning the ex-convict is the right thing to do. He makes Valjean unwelcome and does his best to distract Cosette and weaken her emotional ties to her father.

But Marius has also scrupulously tried to pay back Thénardier for saving his father’s life, despite knowing how vile he is. Unlike Javert, who struggles with the idea of owing Valjean his life, Marius wouldn’t hesitate to honor his debt of gratitude.

Valjean knows this. Maybe not the Thénardier connection, but he’s observed Marius’ character, and Marius has mentioned looking for the man who saved his life at the barricade. And he knows that Marius would insist that he stay…which is why he doesn’t tell him. Valjean tells Marius the bare minimum, leaving him to fill in the blanks as darkly as possible: he already believes Valjean murdered Javert, and as he investigates, he comes to believe that Valjean defrauded M. Madeleine.

Strangely enough, the one time Thénardier proves to be better at something than someone else is in investigating Jean Valjean. He turns up irrefutable evidence that Valjean is Madeleine, that he did not kill Javert, and that he rescued Marius. To be fair, that’s not what he was trying to prove…

But if Marius had asked questions, and Valjean had answered them, he would have reconciled the conflicting views right then and remained welcoming. Valjean might still have fallen into despair, might still have insisted on leaving (as he does in the musical), but Marius wouldn’t have been complicit.

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Hitting the Fan

There’s a gripping description of Paris under siege as Marius walks from the streets where shops are open, to where shops are closed, to where a nervous crowd mingles, to the army staging area, to the dark, silent, empty streets controlled by the insurgency. Then, steps away from the barricade, he stops, sits down, and spends several pages of internal monologue trying to decide whether he’s doing the right thing. It’s weird, but it doesn’t seem as long this time through.

Speaking of people sitting and not acting: Pere Mabeuf has basically gone catatonic, staring at the floor all evening until he hears Enjolras shout for help restoring the fallen flag. He mechanically walks out, grabs the flag, climbs up…and is promptly shot and killed. It’s one of many cases where Hugo stops showing us the inner workings of a character’s mind and only shows him from the outside. We can only guess: Is he thinking clearly, but in despair? Is his inner turmoil as complex as Marius’ a few pages earlier? Or is he simply acting on autopilot?

Once Mabeuf’s body is carried inside (after Enjolras uses him as an inspiration symbol), everything happens fast:

  • Multiple casualties among named characters
  • The barricade is almost taken
  • Marius arrives, guns blazing
  • Gavroche discovers (in the worst way possible) that Javert hadn’t loaded his gun
  • Marius saves both Gavroche’s and Courfeyrac’s lives (for a few hours, anyway)
  • Éponine throws herself in front of a bullet aimed at Marius
  • Marius drives off the attackers by threatening to blow up the barricade, with everyone on it, himself included.

All of this happens in a space of a couple of minutes.

And then the waiting sets in again.

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Two Old Men in Decline

Pere Mabeuf’s final days are a slow slide into deprivation and despair. He sells the printing plates, the furniture, and finally moves onto his prized books for food. In the end he sells the last of them for medicine for Mere Plutarque…who probably won’t outlast him very long. With nothing left, he walks outside… and keeps walking.

M. Gillenormand is physically as comfortable as one could expect to be at 91 in 1832, but the man who arranged things so that Marius’ father would die before meeting his son again, is now afraid he’ll die before Marius returns. I suppose I should be sympathetic, but he earned that.

And the reunion, when it happens, doesn’t go well. At all. It’s interesting to see most of it from Gillenormand’s perspective, and the mismatch between what he wants to say and what he actually says. But even if he’d managed to get off on the right foot, I suspect their different outlooks would have gotten in the way. (Marius wants permission to marry Cosette so they can stay together. Gillenormand thinks he’s too young to tie himself down and not solvent enough to support a family, so why not just keep her as his mistress? What? His pure Cosette? How dare he!)

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The Bubble Bursts

Marius is still crashing at Courfeyrac’s place, but Courfeyrac has noticed the change in him: “My dear fellow, you give me the impression right now of being on the moon, in the realm of dreams, in a state of delusion, whose capital is Soap-Bubble City. Now, be a good chap – what’s her name?:

In fact, Cosette and Marius are so wrapped up in their nightly secret meetings that they don’t notice a freaking cholera epidemic. Now that’s focused!

After six weeks of secret rendezvous, Marius’ possessiveness has gotten creepy. And he’s angry at Cosette when she tells him that they’re moving away. It’s hard to tell whether the “return to reality” is the narrator’s rebuke for him being possessive at all, or for it being too soon. Hugo was progressive for his time, but still sexist.

There is absurd comedy in the idea that he stands motionless with his face against a tree for two hours trying to process the fact that Cosette’s moving…but he doesn’t notice that she’s been sobbing. He still cares more for the ideal than the person.

And neither of them notices the drama going on outside the gate, where Éponine stands up to Patron-Minette all by herself. It’s inspiring. She switches tactics rapidly, trying first to distract them, then to convince them it’s not worth the effort, and finally threatening to expose them. They threaten her of course, but she gives this amazing speech about how she’s not scared of them, because she’s already lived through worse. And they walk away, grumbling.

But it’s also profoundly sad. It only works because she has nothing left to lose, and they can’t afford the risk that she might scream.

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Marius: Stalker

The flirting in the Luxembourg gardens is funny, even today. But Marius sneaking into Cosette’s garden to watch her from the shadows? That doesn’t hold up so well.

This is part of what makes it so hard to stop stalking: the behavior has been tolerated and treated as romantic in so many stories that tell men it’s okay, expected, even wanted — instead of telling them it’s creepy as hell.

The chapter from Cosette’s point of view actually does present it as scary. Valjean’s away and a stranger is prowling around her garden. When he gets back, he stands guard for a few nights until he identifies a chimney that matches the shadow she saw. But it doesn’t explain the footsteps she heard. Toussaint expounds about about how awful it would be to be murdered in that isolated house (especially since killers’ knives probably aren’t sharp enough to cut cleanly — which is darkly funny in its exaggeration, to the audience at least), but don’t worry, she locks the windows tight!

…But in the end, it’s all okay, because it’s Marius. 🙄

To Hugo’s credit, he doesn’t try to claim Cosette was wrong or silly to have been afraid:

  • She doesn’t know he’s a suitor, not an attacker, and even if she did know that…
  • She doesn’t know he’d go home if rejected instead of turning angry and possibly harming her.
  • She doesn’t know he’s the guy she’s had her eye on since last year.

And Marius isn’t trying to overcome Cosette’s resistance, but the circumstances that have kept them from actually meeting for the past year.

But there are ways to work up the nerve to say hello to your crush that don’t make her fear for her safety.

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