Les Miserables

Les Miserables

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Les Miserables Volume 3, Book 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Chapter 1 At this time, Marius has become a handsome man with thick black hair, a calm, sincere air, and reserved but polished manners. When he had been in his deepest misery, he had believed young girls would turn and look at him to make fun of him, when in fact they admired him. The only women he doesn’t flee from is the old bearded woman who sweeps his room, and a young girl whom he often sees with an older man during his walks in the Luxembourg. The man seems sad, serious, and about 60, while the girl is a thin, homely, and awkward child of about 13. The girl is often chattering happily, while the old man looks at her fondly. Marius enjoys watching this couple, calling the daughter Mademoiselle Lanoire (“the girl in black”) and the father Monsieur Leblanc (“the man in white”).
As Marius had found a way to survive without the wealth of his grandfather, and even without sacrificing any of his principles, his growing emotional depth and maturity become (as is so often the case in Hugo) reflected by a greater physical beauty as well. We’re once again introduced to Valjean as if he was a stranger. Through this mechanism the narrator allows Valjean to more fully take on a variety of personae, and it emphasizes just how successful (even if not entirely so) he is at beginning anew and concealing much of his past.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Chapter 2 For around six months Marius doesn’t find the time to go to the Luxembourg, and when he finally returns to the area it’s a calm summer morning and he’s in a wonderful mood. He again catches sight of the same man, though now he seems to be with a different girl: she’s tall and beautiful, with thick brown hair and white cheeks. As Marius approaches them, he realizes that the little girl has become this beautiful young woman. She is now dressed elegantly but simply. As he passes by, she raises her eyes and looks at him indifferently, while Marius, after the initial shock, begins to think of something else.
Just as Marius underwent a transformation from sullen, cold political reactionary to handsome, thriving political radical, so too is the “young girl,” whom we know to be Cosette, transformed within the boundaries of a single season. Still, this is not yet a case of love at first sight—Marius registers the girl’s beauty as if noting an objective fact, and then moves on to other thoughts, suggesting that he’s not yet ready for love.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Chapter 3 One day, as Marius is walking near the bench where the father and daughter habitually sit, the girl raises her eyes to him, and their glances meet. Suddenly, everything has changed: it is the first glance of an innocent girl that, even as she is unaware, prefigures a future maturity. That evening, Marius thinks for the first time that he’s been stupid to go for his usual walks in his everyday, threadbare clothes.
Significantly, it is a meeting of the eyes—as cliché would have it, windows into the soul—that unlocks Marius’s heretofore indifferent heart and begins to provoke in him a greater interest and care not only for his own appearance, but for this mysterious young woman’s character.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Chapter 4 The next day, Marius sets off in his good clothes to the Luxembourg. On the way he encounters Courfeyrac, but pretends not to see him—Courfeyrac tells his friends that Marius looks quite silly. Marius turns slowly towards his usual alley and sees the couple, a kind of whistling in his ears. Before he reaches the bench, he retreats, then approaches from the opposite side. As he reaches the bench, his heart beats wildly. He imagines she’s watching him, and stumbles. That evening, he forgets to eat dinner, and only goes to bed after he carefully cleans his coat.
Marius’s behavior is almost a caricature of the young man in love for the first time, a position Courfeyrac takes advantage of in shaking his head at Marius. Still, this is one of the first times that we see Marius’s interest directed towards a living, breathing human being, not just towards his deeply held ideals or to the memory of his late father. The narrator suggests that Marius might appear ridiculous, but this is a healthy shift for him.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
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Chapter 5 For the next fortnight, Marius goes to the Luxembourg every day in his new coat, always glancing at the girl from his bench down the lane.
While Marius has been transformed, the girl herself is entirely unaware.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Chapter 6 One day at the Luxembourg, Marius sits with an open book on his lap and gives a start, seeing that the couple is approaching him. As the girl passes, she glances at him sweetly. Marius feels dazzled and overwhelmed. He jumps up after they pass and paces the park, before racing off to meet Courfeyrac and go to the theater. All that night and the next morning Courfeyrac notices how feverish Marius seems. He’s fallen in love as a result of the girl’s glance.
Again it is the gaze or glance of the young woman that really provokes Marius’s enchantment. This suggests that it’s not only Cosette’s beauty, but also the possibility of true communication and understanding that he intuits, even if only foggily, as the source of his falling in love with her.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Chapter 7 Marius’s isolation and independence, as well as his religious devotion to his father, have not prepared him for this passion. He continues to go to the park, and the old man, “M. Leblanc,” starts to notice: he moves places, or sometimes comes without the girl and sees that Marius doesn’t stay. Marius doesn’t notice that he’s made a mistake in this.
Again the narrator stresses how Marius’s one form of devotion has not counted as a living experience of love, meaning that he’s not prepared either to be in love himself, or to take a step towards the object of his affections without alienating her father.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
One day Marius finds on the pair’s bench a simple handkerchief marked with the letters U.F., and he kisses and caresses it, believing her name must be “Ursule.” He doesn’t know it belongs to the old man.
The narrator takes advantage of Marius’s besotted state to gently poke fun at him and his reverential attitude to any possible possession of the girl.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Chapter 8 One day a gust of wind sweeps into the alley and the girl lifts her dress, exposing her leg. Marius is furious and jealous: he wants to preserve the girl’s total purity. He gazes at her severely and she looks back surprised: it’s their “first quarrel.” He finally forgives her; his passion only increases.
The relationship between Marius and the girl does seem to be developing, though with the unique kinds of communication and misunderstandings only possible in an unspoken set-up.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Chapter 9 No longer satisfied just to know (he thinks) the girl’s name, Marius follows them home one day to the Rue de l’Ouest, a modest house, and asks the porter which floor the gentleman lives on. The porter says the man is a gentleman of property who does much charity though he’s not himself rich.
Though Marius is unaware of “Leblanc’s” true identity, we readers are familiar with Valjean’s generosity and its juxtaposition with his modest demeanor—and how word of this spreads in whatever environment he finds himself.
Themes
Mercy vs. Judgment Theme Icon
For the next few days, father and daughter don’t come to the Luxembourg, so at night Marius hides and watches the third-floor window of their home. On the third night, the shades are drawn and the floor is dark. The porter says the man has moved away, and he doesn’t know where.
Marius has had only a tenuous connection to the father and daughter, and doesn’t know their names or address. If they cease going to the Luxembourg, it appears that their path is wiped clean.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Mystery and Knowledge in Paris Theme Icon