Free Study Guide for Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: "Les Mis"|
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LES MISERABLES: PLOT ANALYSIS / LITERARY ELEMENTS
Thenardier has arrived at the home of Gillenormand and has directed a servant to carry a letter to Marius. The letter claims a secret that will be of use to Marius. He signs his name “Thenard” which Marius immediately suspects. Thenardier is disguised, but soon gives himself away. He tries to tell Marius that Valjean is a convict and assassin, but Marius already knows these things and scoffs. However, Marius thinks Valjean robbed Monsieur Madeleine and assassinated Javert. He becomes interested when Thenardier produces documents proving that Valjean was himself Madeleine and that Javert was not assassinated but committed suicide.
The murder that Thenardier has come to reveal is the one he thinks he saw in the sewer. He produces the scrap of cloth he had torn from the coat of the presumed “dead man.” Marius immediately recognizes the scrap and produces the coat itself. He also realizes that Valjean was the one who saved his life and is deserving of gratitude and even veneration. As Thenardier had saved Marius’ father from death at Waterloo, Marius pays him off, giving him enough money to go to America.
Marius and Cosette go immediately to Valjean’s apartment although Cosette
does not exactly understand what has happened. Valjean admits them and
the three experience a reunion mixed with joy and sorrow. Valjean revels
in seeing them again and in knowing that they have “forgiven” him, but
also insists that he is dying. Marius realizes that there was never anything
to forgive, but that, on the contrary, he owes everything to Valjean.
They want to take him home with them, but it is too late. Valjean dies,
content that at least he did not have to die without seeing Cosette again.
They bury him, at his request, in a grassy plot at the edge of the woods,
leaving an unmarked stone over his grove.
The narrator claims that it would be unjust to blame Marius for his behavior toward Valjean. He did what he felt was necessary and just in placing himself between Cosette and Valjean. Cosette herself still loved Valjean dearly, but she loved her husband more. Nevertheless, she sent Nicolette to inquire after him several times and was always told that he was “away.” To some extent, the narrator finds the separation “natural.” The affection of the young is “chilled by life, that of the old by the grave,” he says. Thus Cosette gradually grew apart from Valjean in the same way that the branches of a tree gradually grow further and further away from the main stem.
Valjean actually starves himself to death. He drinks a little water from time
to time, but refuses food and confines himself first to his room and then
to his bed. Again, the Christ image emerges for Valjean dies of a broken
heart. The arrival of Cosette and Marius relieves him of his agony, but
it is too late for him to recover his lost strength. But in the fulfillment
of his last wish-that Cosette and Marius would forgive him for his past-he
is finally able to forgive himself.
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Ruff, Dr. Karen S. C., D. A.. "TheBestNotes on Les Miserables".
. 09 May 2017