Chapter 1 That same day, Valjean sits alone in the Champ-de-Mars, thinking about how often he’s seen Thenardier prowling the neighborhood recently. This, combined with recent political troubles in Paris, has made him decide to go to England. That morning, he had seen 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 piece of paper falls onto his knees, as if someone had dropped it from over his head. It says “MOVE AWAY FROM YOUR HOUSE.” Valjean catches sight of a small figure slipping away.
This combination of events recalls other moments when Valjean slowly became suspicious, but realized something was wrong almost too late—at the Thenardier hovel, or when Javert had nearly discovered him in the streets. Here, though, in an example of dramatic irony, the reader is aware that at least one of Valjean’s worries—the engraved address—has to do with something else entirely.
Chapter 2 Marius begins to wander the street, suffering. At two in the morning he returns to his room, where Courfeyrac and his friends are waiting to go out to “General Lamarque’s funeral.” Marius barely pays attention to them, but pockets the pistols given to him by Javert, with no thought of what 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 to her window, but no one is in the house. He sits on the steps in despair. Suddenly Eponine’s voice calls out, saying that his friends are waiting for him at the barricade of the Rue de la Chanvrerie.
June 1832 marked the death of General Lamarque, a prominent critic of Louis-Philippe’s social and human-rights policies who had become an enormously popular political figure for this reason. Though Marius has been invested in politics and history before, he now pays little attention to this background (as he pays little attention to Eponine), instead singlemindedly fixated on how to ensure that he and Cosette won’t be separated.
Chapter 3 M. Mabeuf has continued his downward spiral, despite Valjean’s purse fallen from the sky, which he deposited at the police office. He has had to sell all his life’s work, he dines on bread and potatoes, and he’s sold all his furniture, though he keeps his most precious rare books. Still, he remains serene. One day, Mother Plutarque says she has no money to buy anything. Mabeuf opens his bookshelf, gazes at the items like a father at his children, seizes one, and returns with 30 sous. He has to do this several times, growing more somber on each occasion.
Mabeuf is one of the more endearing characters out of the vast collection portrayed in Les Misérables. The narrator sympathetically describes the eccentricities of this Parisian specimen who is reluctant to sell his precious rare books even to eat. The fact that he’s required to do so thus takes on tragic proportions, as Hugo explores another set of victims of misery: the old and infirm.
Mabeuf’s destitution becomes known by the president of the Horticultural Society Mabeuf belongs to, and the president speaks to the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce. The minister invites Mabeuf to dine with him, but at his home Mabeuf’s rags astonish the ushers, and no one speaks to him. The minister’s wife finally asks who that old gentleman is. Mabeuf returns home on foot in a rainstorm. His only enjoyment is to read his Greek Diogenes Laertius (a biographer of philosophers). Finally he sells this last book to pay for Mother Plutarque’s doctor’s bill.
Once again, the narrator contrasts his own compassionate portrayal of a destitute figure with the thoughtlessness and lack of compassion shown by most of society. The narrator shows how people who are well-off may be well-intentioned, but this thoughtlessness can be just as pernicious as active malice. The opposite of this attitude would be Mabeuf’s earnest concern in selling his beloved book for Mother Plutarque.
The following day Mabeuf sits in his garden with a drooping head. That afternoon he hears shots and clamors, and the gardener says it’s the riots—people are fighting. With a distracted air, Mabeuf goes off in the direction of the noise.
Mabeuf has been forced to deprive himself of everything he loves. This, the narrator suggests, is how one may be swept up into history and revolution.