Les Miserables

Les Miserables

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Left by her mother at the Thenardier household, Cosette has a bitter, wretched childhood, one that is transformed when Jean Valjean takes her away. Cosette is portrayed as an innocent, deeply good person, whose main characteristics are her love for Valjean and then for Marius. As a character, she also symbolizes one major aspect of social evil: the abandonment and misery of children.

Cosette Quotes in Les Miserables

The Les Miserables quotes below are all either spoken by Cosette or refer to Cosette. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Canterbury Classics edition of Les Miserables published in 2015.
Volume 2, Book 4 Quotes

Only, as he was five and fifty, and Cosette eight years of age, all that might have been love in the whole course of his life flowed together into a sort of ineffable light. It was the second white apparition which he had encountered. The Bishop had caused the dawn of virtue to rise on his horizon; Cosette caused the dawn of love to rise.

Related Characters: Jean Valjean , Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel , Cosette
Related Symbols: Light and Darkness
Page Number: 379
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Jean Valjean's life is, as is often the case, portrayed as being divided into several stages, beginning with the darkness of his life in the galleys, before the “dawn” of his redemption through the Bishop. Now this dawn is further divided into two parts: that of virtue and that of love. Valjean, at 55 years old, has never had the chance to love someone as a wife, for instance, or as a child of his own. Cosette is almost too young to be his own daughter, and the wide age gap between them underlines how much Valjean has lived in the darkness without love or virtue in his life. However, his relationship to Cosette is meant to show that it is not, in fact, too late for him to gain some of what he has missed over the years. The “ineffable light” that characterizes his meeting with the child and will characterize his subsequent life with her suggests that there is, in fact, a possibility for Valjean’s past sins to be redeemed by taking care of someone who needs his help now.

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Volume 4, Book 3 Quotes

When Cosette went out with him, she leaned on his arm, proud and happy, in the plenitude of her heart. Jean Valjean felt his heart melt within him with delight, at all these sparks of a tenderness so exclusive, so wholly satisfied with himself alone. The poor man trembled, inundated with angelic joy; he declared to himself ecstatically that this would last all their lives; he told himself that he really had not suffered sufficiently to merit so radiant a bliss, and he thanked God, in the depths of his soul, for having permitted him to be loved thus, he, a wretch, by that innocent being.

Related Characters: Jean Valjean , Cosette
Page Number: 769
Explanation and Analysis:

Cosette and Jean Valjean have settled into yet another new life, this time on the Rue Plumet, and this time with Valjean going by the name of Ultime Fauchelevent. However, this time Valjean truly does allow himself to believe that he might be given the chance to love Cosette and to enjoy living with her, rather than having it all be snatched away from him as it nearly has so many times. 

Still, Valjean continues to feel a great unworthiness, a sense that he has not "suffered sufficiently" in order to be able to at last enjoy great happiness. The difference, here, is that he has chosen not to despair over the evil that has lurked inside him, but instead chooses to be grateful for the small loving family that he now has with Cosette. He may not believe that he has redeemed himself for past actions, but he simply enjoys what he has while it is present.

“Father, are they still men?”

Related Characters: Cosette (speaker), Jean Valjean
Page Number: 786
Explanation and Analysis:

Cosette and Jean Valjean are on one of their early-morning walks, when they come across a sorrowful procession of men tied to each other on their way to the galleys although when the light hits their faces they grow more jovial and begin to sing. Cosette doesn't understand what she is seeing, but she is frightened by the sight anyway. Valjean does explain to her who the men are and where they are going: it is at this point that she asks if they are "still men." Such a question is obviously excruciating for Valjean, who has lived through what the men they now watch are going through, although he can never tell anyone about this. Cosette's question reveals her own innocent but also immature mind, as well as the prejudices of society that have already influenced her, as she questions the very humanity of the prisoners. Still, Valjean ends up answering "sometimes" to her question, suggesting that one's humanity can be lost when condemned to the galleys. Cosette seems afraid rather than malicious or gleeful like other observers of the prisoners, but Valjean can now only wonder what she would think of him should she know his own past.

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Cosette Character Timeline in Les Miserables

The timeline below shows where the character Cosette appears in Les Miserables. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Volume 1, Book 4: To Confide is Sometimes to Deliver Into a Person’s Power
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...Paris had failed her, so she’s come to find work here. She sends her daughter, Cosette (a nickname from Euphrasie, her given name), to play with the other girls. Madame Thenardier... (full context)
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...promptly use all Fantine’s money to pay off their debts, and then begin to consider Cosette as a charity case. After a year, Thenardier writes to demand 12 francs a month,... (full context)
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At merely five years old, Cosette becomes the servant of the house and is made to clean the home and run... (full context)
Volume 1, Book 5: The Descent
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...The ability to earn her keep makes Fantine enormously happy, and she thinks only of Cosette and their future. She writes often, which leads the other women to gossip about her,... (full context)
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...has her hair cut off for 10 francs to buy a petticoat to send to Cosette. The Thenardiers, who wanted money, are furious and give it to Eponine, while Cosette continues... (full context)
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...hunted, and finally, when Thenardier asks for 100 francs at once or else he’ll throw Cosette out, she becomes a prostitute. (full context)
Volume 1, Book 6: Javert
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...need to come quickly. He sends another letter, signed by Fantine, and vows to get Cosette herself if he has to. (full context)
Volume 1, Book 7: The Champmathieu Affair
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...when he doesn’t arrive. She begins to sing lullabies that she used to sing to Cosette. At six, the porter tells Sister Simplice that Madeleine had left and would not be... (full context)
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...to the judge’s chamber—the entry to the courtroom. He looks around, thinking of Fantine and Cosette. He gazes at the door to the courtroom, terrified, and then suddenly wheels around and... (full context)
Volume 1, Book 8: A Counter-blow
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...Valjean returns to Fantine. Sister Simplice says that Fantine will be upset not to see Cosette. Sister Simplice says that they cannot tell a lie and pretend that Cosette is here—but... (full context)
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Chapter 2 Valjean is rendered speechless by Fantine’s certainty. She asks him again to bring Cosette into the room, but the doctor enters, and says that she must be cured first.... (full context)
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...be given three days to fetch the child of this woman. Fantine then realizes that Cosette is not there. Javert tells her that the mayor is in fact a common thief.... (full context)
Volume 2, Book 3: Accomplishment of the Promise Made to the Dead Woman
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...it, but he only works until early evening. When he’s not working, the Thenardiers send Cosette out, though it terrifies her to go to the spring at night. (full context)
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...of people are drinking in the tavern of the Thenardier inn. As they talk merrily, Cosette is seated near the chimney, dressed in rags. Eponine and Azelma laugh happily in the... (full context)
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...can get out of all the travellers that come to the inn, and to get Cosette to do as much work as possible. (full context)
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Chapter 3 That evening, Cosette is meditating sadly, worrying the water will run out and she will have to go... (full context)
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Chapter 4 Not a star can be seen in the sky. As Cosette passes the shop stalls, she gazes at a beautiful doll in one window, saying to... (full context)
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After Cosette makes it past the stalls, the light vanishes. But she pauses at the last house... (full context)
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...much. She looks up and sees a tall man who has seized the handle: somehow, Cosette is not afraid. (full context)
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...had been nailed, but then continued on. It is this man who has just met Cosette, whom he’d spied through the trees. (full context)
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Chapter 7 The man tells Cosette to let go of the bucket. He asks where her mother is, and she says... (full context)
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Chapter 8 Madame Thenardier opens the door and says Cosette has taken her time fetching the water, but as soon as Cosette introduces the man... (full context)
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...how to pray, since Thenardier says he doesn’t have time for church. Madame Thenardier asks Cosette where the bread is: she’s forgotten about it, but says the baker’s shop was closed.... (full context)
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...pretty and healthy-looking. They go off to play with their dolls in a corner, as Cosette watches them sadly. Madame Thenardier sees that she’s distracted, and threatens the whip again, before... (full context)
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...pretending it’s a baby, while the inn guests have begun to sing an obscene song. Cosette, meanwhile, plays with a little lead knife, pretending it’s a doll, as girls instinctively take... (full context)
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Madame Thenardier tells the stranger that Cosette is a little beggar whom they’ve taken in through charity. They haven’t been paid for... (full context)
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...as well. After saying goodnight, the man creeps out of his room and up to Cosette’s cupboard under the attic. He then looks into the other children’s room and sees their... (full context)
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...is good in town. Madame Thenardier remarks drearily that times are difficult, and the child Cosette is incredibly expensive. The traveler offers to take her away himself. He raises his eyebrows... (full context)
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...to a stranger. He must see the stranger’s passport and be able to go see Cosette once in a while. The stranger refuses, saying he must break the thread definitively. Thenardier... (full context)
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Cosette had awoken stunned by the presence of the gold piece, which she’s never seen before,... (full context)
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...rushes up to them and hands the traveler the bills, saying he will take back Cosette. He can only give her to her mother, or to the person who has a... (full context)
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...enough. Thenardier, shocked but still determined, says he must have 1,000 crowns. The man tells Cosette to follow him, and picks up his cudgel. Thenardier notes how large it is, and... (full context)
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...is relieved to find in a newspaper that he is believed to be dead. With Cosette, he returns to Paris and walks along the Boulevard de l’Hopital. Cosette is tired, and... (full context)
Volume 2, Book 4: The Gorbeau Hovel
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...key, and opens the door, climbing a staircase to a moderately sized attic. He lays Cosette on the bed and kisses her hand, as he’d kissed her mother’s hand nine months... (full context)
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...has not loved anything. Only at the age of 55 does love enter his life. Cosette changes as a result of his love. She does not remember her mother, and though... (full context)
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...Montfermeil, he had told her he was a gentleman ruined by Spanish bonds. Valjean teaches Cosette to read, sometimes recalling how he had taught himself to read in prison in order... (full context)
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...attempted to repress any new bitterness at being returned to prison, but if not for Cosette, he may have grown discouraged and fallen once more. (full context)
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...nights later, in the attic, Valjean hears the door downstairs open and shut. He sends Cosette to bed and remains silent. He sees a light through the keyhole, and realizes someone... (full context)
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...the house. That night, Valjean looks out onto the boulevard. Seeing no one, he tells Cosette to accompany him out. (full context)
Volume 2, Book 5: For a Black Hunt, a Mute Pack
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Valjean and Cosette move through the streets at night. Cosette asks no questions, having grown used to Valjean’s... (full context)
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Chapter 2 Valjean and Cosette slip away towards the Jardin des Plantes. Valjean begins to carry Cosette. He reaches the... (full context)
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...a number of pipes on the walls, but Valjean doesn’t see how he can hoist Cosette up in addition to himself. There are two locked doors abutting one of the walls,... (full context)
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...desperate. Suddenly he sees a rope attached to a gas-lantern, and rushes to fetch it. Cosette says she is afraid, but he tells her to be quiet: he says it’s Madame... (full context)
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...corner of the Rue Droit-Mur and Rue Petit-Picpus. It is wild and solitary. Valjean leads Cosette into the garden shed. Suddenly he hears women’s voices singing a hymn. Both of them... (full context)
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Chapter 7 In the middle of the night, Cosette awakens, shivering. Valjean wraps his coat around her and slips outside. He creeps along the... (full context)
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Chapter 8 As Valjean watches Cosette sleep, he feels calmer. But then he looks out and sees someone in the garden.... (full context)
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...asks him not to tell anyone about him, and asks him to lodge him and Cosette in his hut behind the convent. (full context)
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A few minutes later, Cosette is lying asleep in the gardener’s bed, and Fauchelevent remarks that it is bad that... (full context)
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...a police report about the abduction of a child in Montfermeil: a small child named Cosette, the daughter of a woman named Fantine, had been stolen away by a stranger. Javert... (full context)
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...interest, so he refused to speak anymore about the subject. Thenardier just told Javert that Cosette’s “grandfather,” Guillaume Lambert, had taken her away. Javert returned to Paris, convinced Valjean was really... (full context)
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...when he stooped to give him money. But Valjean was supposedly dead. After Valjean and Cosette had fled, Javert asked for backup, without explaining his suspicions. At the time, the police... (full context)
Volume 2, Book 8: Cemeteries Take That Which is Committed Them
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...the presence of a man. In order to return here safely, he says, Valjean and Cosette must first leave—the nuns will not accepting him “falling from the sky.” Fauchelevent can easily... (full context)
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Chapter 4 As Fauchelevent enters his room, Valjean is explaining to Cosette how to hide and be silent in the basket. Fauchelevent frets about how to get... (full context)
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The burial of Mother Crucifixion, Cosette’s exit, and Valjean’s introduction into the dead-room have all gone off with no problem. At... (full context)
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Chapter 8 Valjean and Cosette arrive at No. 62 Rue Petit-Picpus that night. Cosette, who had been hidden with Fauchelevent’s... (full context)
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Chapter 9 Cosette begins to settle in happily. The nuns don’t notice how only the elder Fauchelevent ever... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 3: The House in the Rue Plumet
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...in, and after some repairs moved in with a young girl and elderly maid: Valjean, Cosette, and a woman named Toussaint, whom Valjean had saved from poverty. At the convent, he... (full context)
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Chapter 2 At the Rue Plumet Valjean tells Toussaint that Cosette is the mistress of the house. Cosette manages their small budget, and each day they... (full context)
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Chapter 4 This garden has become the ideal place for love to show itself. Cosette had left the convent as an ungainly, homely 14-year-old, having been taught religion, history, and... (full context)
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Cosette adores Valjean. She enjoys asking him why he prefers to keep a cold, severe room... (full context)
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Chapter 5 One day Cosette looks at herself in the mirror and realizes with a shock that she’s somewhat pretty.... (full context)
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Soon Cosette, whom Valjean never refuses anything, develops a taste for fashion and style and becomes a... (full context)
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Chapter 6 Thus Cosette and Marius were drawn together by destiny. The narrator notes that the idea of love... (full context)
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...Only once does he mention him, saying that the young man has a pedantic air. Cosette only repeats, “That young man!” as if she’s looking at him for the first time.... (full context)
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After realizing that Marius has followed them home, Valjean stops the trips to the Luxembourg. Cosette doesn’t complain or ask questions, but grows sad, and Valjean, who has no experience of... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Cosette feels anguished at Marius’s disappearance, though she tries to put on a sweet face for... (full context)
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...8 Since youth has its own radiance even in suffering, Valjean is more unhappy than Cosette is, especially as he lacks a total proof that Cosette is in fact slipping away... (full context)
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Cosette exclaims that someone is coming towards them: it’s seven wagons, fixed to four horses each.... (full context)
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...be seeing a vision. He tries to escape but is unable to move his feet. Cosette is terrified, though she doesn’t understand what’s happening. Valjean says that these are convicts going... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 4: Succor From Below May Turn Out to Be Succor From On High
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Chapter 1 The main joy that now remains to Cosette and Valjean is to carry bread to the hungry and clothing to the cold. On... (full context)
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Cosette is content to see her father suffering less and convalescing. As spring comes, she feels... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 5: The End of Which Does Not Resemble the Beginning
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Chapter 1 Cosette’s grief has finally begun to ebb. One week, she notices a handsome young officer begin... (full context)
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...takes one of his habitual journeys of one or two days—going somewhere that not even Cosette knows, and usually when money is lacking. It’s 10 p.m., and Cosette thinks she hears... (full context)
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The next day Cosette tells Valjean, who’s just returned, what happened; though he reassures her he grows anxious himself.... (full context)
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Chapter 3 One evening later that month, Valjean has gone out, and Cosette is sitting on the garden bench thinking. She stands up and wanders around the garden,... (full context)
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The next day Cosette’s fears seem ridiculous, and she thinks she dreamed about the stone. But when she returns... (full context)
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Chapter 5 Cosette reads the letter, 15 pages long, and daydreams. At one point the handsome officer passes... (full context)
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Chapter 6 That evening Valjean goes out and Cosette makes herself up more prettily than usual, though she’s not expecting a guest. She goes... (full context)
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Cosette is about to faint, but Marius catches her, feeling love, not lust, for her. Marius... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 8: Enchantments and Desolations
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...had originally pointed the Rue Plumet home out to Marius, enabling him to finally enter Cosette’s garden. Now, he enters every evening that May of 1832. They only hold each other’s... (full context)
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Chapter 2 Marius had told Cosette that he was an orphan and lawyer, and that he was on bad terms with... (full context)
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Chapter 3 With Cosette happy again, Valjean suspects nothing and is content himself. The couple hides in the garden... (full context)
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Chapter 6 Meanwhile, Marius had found Cosette weeping in the garden. Her father has business that may require them to go to... (full context)
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Marius begins to tell Gillenormand about Cosette. Gillenormand responds that it’s right to be in love at his age: Marius must simply... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 9: Whither Are They Going?
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...on the garden wall the engraved “16 Rue de la Verrerie.” He didn’t speak to Cosette of this, not wanting to alarm her. Valjean sits on the bench outside and a... (full context)
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...he’s do with them. He wanders around all day, only able to think about seeing Cosette at nine. But when he rushes into the garden, she isn’t there. He calls up... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 13: Marius Enters the Shadow
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...though this time through civil war. He weeps bitterly, feeling that he cannot live without Cosette: he had promised he would die without her. He cannot abandon his friends or be... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 14: The Grandeurs of Despair
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...5 The group gathers around Marius, and Enjolras proclaims that he is now the leader. Cosette’s loss, the fighting at the barricade, Mabeuf’s martyrdom, and now Enjolras’s proclamation all seem like... (full context)
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...her on the ground and goes to the tavern, where he sees a letter from Cosette giving her address from that night (June 4th), and saying she’ll be in England in... (full context)
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Marius is for a moment overjoyed that Cosette still loves him, but then somber again when he realizes that nothing can be done... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 15: The Rue de l’Homme Armé
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...that moment, Jean Valjean is experiencing interior convulsions comparable with the external convulsions of Paris. Cosette had resisted leaving the Rue Plumet, and the two had gone to bed at their... (full context)
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...He now experiences the loss of another kind of beloved. He can’t imagine existing without Cosette. He begins to piece together certain circumstances and dates, and has no doubt that they... (full context)
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...him, Valjean asks if he’s bringing the letter he is expecting—a letter, rather, for Mademoiselle Cosette. Gavroche says he must know that the letter came from the barricades, and Valjean says... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 1: The War Between Four Walls
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Chapter 10 At that moment Cosette awakens, having dreamed of Marius, whom she is sure has received her letter and will... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 3: Mud But the Soul
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...turns his back to the grating and slides to the floor. He thinks only of Cosette. (full context)
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Chapter 11 Valjean wants to tell Cosette where Marius is and to warn her of what is to come. Suicide is impossible... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 5: Grandson and Grandfather
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...now he prays and cries “Long live the Republic!” Meanwhile, Marius continues to think about Cosette, the only fixed point in his life. His grandfather’s solicitude hasn’t entirely won him over—he... (full context)
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...and Marius addresses him as Father, shocking his grandfather. He asks if he might see Cosette that day, and Gillenormand agrees. (full context)
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Chapter 4 Cosette arrives at Marius’s room, delighted and afraid, followed by Jean Valjean. The porter cannot recognize... (full context)
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Gillenormand exclaims that Cosette is beautiful, but then he turns gloomy, and says that much of his wealth is... (full context)
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Chapter 6 Valjean and Gillenormand prepare the wedding. Valjean concocts a whole deceased family for Cosette, in which he is her uncle. She’s declared an orphan, with Valjean (as Fauchelevent) her... (full context)
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...and gaiety. Today people are too serious, he says, expounding upon the older days as Cosette and Marius stop listening and gaze only at each other. Aunt Gillenormand has lived these... (full context)
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Chapter 7 Cosette and Marius see each other every day, accompanied by Fauchelevent/Valjean. Marius doesn’t entirely understand the... (full context)
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...up. Marius wonders what has become of this agent. One day, speaking with Valjean and Cosette, he exclaims how sublime this man must have been, to have traveled more than a... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 6: The Sleepless Night
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Chapter 2 Cosette and Marius both look young and lustrous, though Marius’s scars are still visible. Gillenormand confides... (full context)
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...to a valise by his bed and opened it with a key. He drew out Cosette’s clothing from Montfermeil a decade earlier, laid it on the bed and called up memories:... (full context)
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...he is now passing through a final combat between good and evil. He had enabled Cosette’s and Marius’s happiness. But should he now keep Cosette as much as he can, living... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 7: The Last Draught from the Cup
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...Marius retreats in horror, and Valjean, speaking slowly, tells him to believe he is not Cosette’s father but a peasant of Faverolles, whose name is Jean Valjean. Marius looks at him... (full context)
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Valjean tells Marius that Cosette was an orphan, and she needed him. He fulfilled this duty while he could, but... (full context)
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...to be dead. The only pardon he needs is that of conscience. At that moment, Cosette enters, saying that they must be talking of politics. She prattles on happily, and Marius... (full context)
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When the door is shut, Marius shakes his head, saying “Poor Cosette, when she finds out…” Valjean trembles and says he hadn’t thought that he would tell... (full context)
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...imprudent. He admits to himself that he never even mentioned the Gorbeau hovel affair to Cosette, nor made any inquiries about the family: he’d only had time for love. He wonders... (full context)
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...asks himself how it was that crime and innocence, in the form of Valjean and Cosette, could have coexisted for so long—the monster shadowing the angel. Marius realizes how little man... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 8: Fading Away of the Twilight
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...Valjean arrives at Gillenormand’s and waits in the antechamber on the ground floor. Basque accompanies Cosette to meet him, and Cosette remarks at how odd it is that he wants to... (full context)
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Cosette exclaims that recently she can’t understand either Marius or Valjean. She asks if he’s angry... (full context)
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Chapter 2 The next day Valjean returns, and Cosette no longer questions these changes, though she seems slightly diminished. In the coming days, the... (full context)
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Chapter 3 After this last time, Cosette never again calls Valjean “father.” His only joy, however, continues to be in the hour... (full context)
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One day, Cosette tells Valjean that Marius had said something odd to her: whether she’d be brave enough... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 9: Supreme Shadow, Supreme Dawn
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...just. He decides not to spend any of the 600,000 francs before learning their origin. Cosette, meanwhile, remains at heart attached to Valjean. She sometimes exclaims at his long absence to... (full context)
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...evening, Valjean gains the strength to sit up in bed, fetch the valise, and spread Cosette’s small outfit out on the bed. He catches sight of himself in the mirror and... (full context)
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...in the sewers had been, finding out his name and that Madame Pontmercy was really Cosette. Marius says that he’ll reveal the other “secrets.” In 1822, a man named M. Madeleine... (full context)
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Marius rushes out to the garden and cries to Cosette that they must call a carriage. She thinks he’s gone mad, but follows him, joyful... (full context)
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Chapter 5 Valjean feebly calls out that the knocker may enter. Cosette and Marius rush into the room. Valjean is overwhelmed, stammering that he thought he’d never... (full context)
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...says, but that is nothing—God knows what is needed better than humans do. He blesses Cosette and Marius. At that moment, the doctor enters and feels Valjean’s pulse. He murmurs that... (full context)
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...feet, detaches a small crucifix from the wall, and lays it next to his bed. Cosette sobs, and cries that they have found him too soon only to lose him again.... (full context)
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Valjean’s breath grows intermittent, and he beckons to Cosette and to Marius, exclaiming how good it is to die like this, surrounding by love... (full context)