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Free Study Guide for Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: "Les Mis"

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LES MISERABLES: FREE BOOK REVIEW NOTES

SAINT DENIS


Book Tenth: June 5th, 1832

Summary

The first two sections of this chapter discuss some ancient history of revolts and insurrections. Insurrection is a more honorable term as it suggests an uprising for a legitimate cause. In June of 1832, a person named Lamarque-who was much loved by the people-dies, providing the impetus for another revolt. During the funeral procession an incident takes place which results in three musket shots. No one is quite sure what causes the shootings, but rumors circulate and the insurrection is begun with stirrings, assembly of leaderless crowds in the streets, and random acts of violence against police, upon houses and street lamps.

Barricades spring up in a matter of hours throughout Paris as small groups of students, merchants and working people arm themselves for the revolt. Paris has endured numerous insurrections throughout her history, but this one of 1832 seems different; the very city seems afraid.

Notes

Part of the discontent in Paris is related to an outbreak of cholera, which is also what killed Lamarque. The militia fears the mourning on the part of the people will lead to violence and they take precautions that are interpreted as provocative. Hugo discusses the social factors that made the insurrection inevitable. He identifies two problems, the first that of producing wealth, the second that of distributing it. Revolution results when either problem is neglected. Furthermore, all of Europe had reached a boiling point as different countries drove out their rulers and the common people worked without gain. At any rate, since 1830 discontent had been gradually building. People met in backrooms and wine shops to discuss the government and to read and write subversive pamphlets. People cried out against each other and rumors circulated of jobs that were neglected while the employees made cartridges. The uprising is not thus the result of merely the ABC group staging a daring student revolt, but a combination of discontent throughout Paris. It was doomed to fail, however, because the people did not really have the numbers or the will to back the insurgents once the fighting started.


Book Eleventh: The Atom Fraternizes with the Hurricane


Summary

Several more factions of Paris head for the barricades. Little Gavroche, who has found himself a hammerless pistol, the student companions of Marius, M. Mabeuf and an unnamed youth in pantaloons congregate along the streets.

Notes

The youth in pantaloons is Eponine.


Book Twelfth: History of Corinth from Its Foundation

Summary

We receive a description of the wine shop, which will become part of the barricade for the uprising. Grantaire, Bossuet and Joly spend most of the day drinking wine and eating oysters. A child messenger from little Gavroche shows up at one point to deliver word from Enjolras. The message is simple “A-B-C,” which signifies Lamarque’s funeral to Bossuet. A few hours later, the principle figures in the uprising pass and at a shout from Bossuet, Enjolras agrees to set up his barricade at the wine shop.

The shopkeeper, Mother Hucheloup is worried and frightened. Courfeyrac consoles her with reminders of the injustices she has endured at the hands of the government. Toward evening, about 50 laborers join the group, bringing additional weapons and some food and drink. They build a roaring fire in the fire place and begin melting all the pewter dishes and wine vessels to make bullets.

The barricade is built of paving stones torn up from the streets, timbers ripped from nearby houses, a couple of overturned carriages, a glass door, some wine casks, and all topped with a red flag fastened to a pole. While waiting for the military response to their revolt, several former students seek each other out and pass the time by singing love songs.

In the meantime, Gavroche has become suspicious of an unnamed stranger who had asked earlier in the day if he could “join” the procession. Enjolras accepted him with a shrug and a comment that “the streets are free to all.” Gavroche, however, believes he is a spy. Several students line up to overtake the man as Enjolras questions his identity-soon to discover that the man is Javert, Inspector of police. They disarm him and tie him to a post. Then Enjolras sends Gavroche into the street to find out if the government has begun to move.

In the tense moments of waiting, another, more tragic event, takes place that reveals the presence of a different kind of spy. A man who calls himself Le Cabuc suggests using a nearby house where they can fire from the windows and prevent anyone from entering the street. The house is dark and closed up, but the insistent banging brings the face of a citizen at an upstairs window. When the citizen says he will not open the house, Cabuc fires and kills him. Enjolras descends on Cabuc in a fury and summarily executes him. Later they find a police card on him. Several individuals believe that Cabuc is actually Claquesous, the gangster who had once helped to terrorize Paris.

Notes

The true nobility of Enjolras is seen at the end of this section. He justifies his action in condemning and executing Cabuc as necessary because “the insurrection must have its discipline.” He has no intention of allowing his people to randomly shoot innocent civilians or to make a mockery of the intent of the revolt. Enjolras expounds eloquently on his own philosophy, which is that the law of progress will demand the disappearance of monsters and the growth of Fraternity. He makes an apocalyptic prediction that echoes some of the ideas of William Blake. “Satan,” he says, “will be no more, so Michael [the archangel] shall be radiant, the human race shall love. It will come...that day when all shall be concord, harmony, light, joy, and life. It will come, and it is that it may come that we are going to die.” This was the hope of the Revolution of the 1790's. That golden day did not arrive then, nor will it be brought about by the actions of these radical but sincere young men.


Book Thirteenth: Marius Enters the Shadow

Summary

Having found Cosette’s home abandoned, Marius leaves the little garden. He has told Cosette that he will die without her, and he is determined to find a way to do just that. He wanders through the streets of Paris getting through the throngs of murmuring people, avoiding the militia, gradually making his way to the barricade of the Rue de la Chanvrerie where the rest of his friends have gathered. There he stops, remembering his father and wavering momentarily, knowing that his father would have been on a different side. Nevertheless, he is able to rationalize that the insurrection is for the common people, for the life blood of France and soon joins the group inside the barricade.

Notes

Eponine again plays an influential part in Marius’ actions. When searching for sign of Cosette he hears a voice saying “your friends are waiting for you in the barricade of the Rue de la Chanvrerie.” He thinks he recognizes the voice of Eponine, but when he searches in the trees for the source, he sees only a young man who is running off. It is, of course, Eponine, and she carries a letter from Cosette, which she will give him at the moment of her own death. Her actions will bring Marius to the point of death but will also bring him and Valjean together and will ultimately bring about his reconciliation with his grandfather.


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