Free Study Guide for Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: "Les Mis"|
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LES MISERABLES: FREE STUDY NOTES / PLOT SUMMARY
Jondrette returns without Cosette and is given a chair in the Jondrette apartment. Jondrette, ie Thenardier makes a show of trying to sell a piece of “art” which is actually just an old tavern sign. As Thenardier talks, 8 bandits enter the room one and two at a time. Suddenly Thenardier turns on Leblanc, ie Valjean, and announces his identity and accuses Leblanc of being the man who stayed at his inn 8 years previous and “stole” a child they had called “the lamb.” Valjean remains cool, never raising his voice or acknowledging his identity. Once when Thenardier turns his back, Valjean almost escapes out the window. He is then tied to the bed post.
Thenardier orders Valjean to write a letter which will be delivered to “the lark.” Thenardier wants 200,000 francs. The girl will be kidnaped, but released once Thenardier has the money. Valjean writes the letter as ordered but gives his name as Urbain Fabre, matching the letters on his handkerchief, and also provides a phony address.
The Thenardiess returns after going to the phony address and Valjean admits that he did it to buy time. Then, having cleverly freed himself of all of his bonds except the one holding his foot, he grabs a hot poker from the fire and burns his own arm as a demonstration that there is nothing they can do to him to get information that he doesn’t want to give. Thenardier pulls a knife with the intention of killing Valjean.
In the meantime, Marius has been paralyzed by the news that Jondrette is actually Thenardier. Even though he can see the man is the embodiment of evil, he still feels the debt of his father’s life. He never fires the intended gun, but at the last moment he sees the letter which had been left behind by the Jondrette girl. Marius wraps a bit of plaster in the paper and tosses it into the room through the hole.
Thenardier thinks the paper has come through the broken window and was tossed by Eponine who is on watch outside. The bandits are suddenly obsessed with trying to get out though the window when Inspector Javert enters. He rounds up the bandits, ducks a rock thrown by Thenardiess and handcuffs her. In the rush and confusion, Valjean escapes through the window.
At the end of the chapter Little Gavroche makes a brief appearance.
The reception he gets from his family is such that the child decides he
is better off on the street.
This chapter and similar chapters highlight the tragic plight of many of the Parisian children. In the poorest homes, the children in the house were little better off than those who took to the streets. Furthermore, the children are naive and innocent, blaming no one for their plight, perhaps because they have not had much exposure to good parents.
For Marius, there is a sudden awakening. He now knows the identity of the girl he is in love with as well as that of his neighbor. The escape of Valjean foreshadows a more disastrous clash in future chapters. Also, since Marius labors under a misguided sense of debt to Thenardier, we know that at some point he will do something to settle that debt.
Javert is further characterized as not only efficient, but also observant.
Although it is futile to pursue the “victim” of the robbery at this point,
he realizes that the man who was being robbed most likely would have been
a more interesting prize than the bandits themselves. Javert does not
know that “Leblanc” is actually Valjean. It is a curious point that Thenardier
does not inform Javert at least as a possible means to vindicate himself.
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Ruff, Dr. Karen S. C., D. A.. "TheBestNotes on Les Miserables".
. 09 May 2017