Chapter 1 At the moment when the insurrection spreads out from the funeral hearse, a small child in rags is coming down the Rue Menilmotant with a bunch of flowers in his hands. He glimpses a pistol in the window of a merchant’s shop, and grabs it. Little Gavroche then races through the Rue Amelot on his way to the battle, singing a popular tune. Once he had paid his father the favor of helping him escape, he had returned to his elephant, shared breakfast with the two little boys, and had told them to return that evening. They never did, and ten weeks later Gavroche is still wondering where they are. He runs through the Rue Saint-Louis and the Rue du Parc-Royal, shaking his head at the comfortable-looking businessmen he passes on the street.
At first, we see Gavroche as just another small Parisian “gamin” or street urchin, with his typical mix of the rascally and the innocent. For the rest of the novel, however, Gavroche will come to be associated with popular tunes—which he sings constantly—suggesting both his own “popular,” lower-class background, and his general merriness even in the face of danger. Gavroche is, however, at least somewhat politically aware, able to grasp the inherent unfairness of large gaps of inequality between the rich and poor.
Chapter 2 Gavroche calls out, “Let’s fight!” At that moment, the horse of a National Guardsman falls, and Gavroche helps the man raise his horse again, before racing along his way through the Marais, which seems sleepy and calm. A rag-picker with her basket on her back is speaking with three female porters about the high cost of meat and then about the King of Rome and Louis XVIII. Gavroche stops and asks what they’re talking about, and the women shush him disapprovingly. They catch sight of his pistol and remark that the streets seem full of ruffians with guns. Gavroche tells them that the pistol is in their interests—it’s so they’ll have better things to eat.
Gavroche may have a happy-go-lucky viewpoint on the battles to come, rather than taking them as seriously as others, but he also is ready to assist others almost reflexively, even when the one in need happens to be a National Guardsman, or the “enemy.” Again, Gavroche may have a somewhat simplistic view of what the rebels are fighting for, but it’s also suggested that because of his experience with Paris’s underworld, he understands better than most.
Chapter 3 A hairdresser—the same one who had shooed away the two little boys whom Gavroche had taken in—is shaving an old soldier who had served under the Empire. They begin talking about Lamarque and then about Napoleonic battle stories. Suddenly, a resounding crash can be heard and the show-window is fractured. The hairdresser cries that it’s a cannon-ball, but the soldier picks up a pebble, and the hairdresser sees Gavroche running away down the street. He’s taken revenge for the two boys.
Gavroche pauses in the midst of his preparations for battle to take what he sees as a kind of justice for the two boys. He’d barely spent a day with them, but feels loyal enough to enact revenge for their sake. This loyalty that takes on a more poignant quality given that the reader knows that the two boys are actually Gavroche’s brothers.
Chapter 4 Gavroche meets up with Enjolras, Courfeyrac, and their friends, who march to the Quai Morland. They’re joined by students, artists, artisans, and others armed with clubs and bayonets, along with one old man: M. Mabeuf.
It’s unclear how Gavroche knows the members of the Friends of the ABC, except that they all (with Mabeuf) seem to occupy the same Parisian social and political stratum.
Chapter 5 Earlier, the group had met the old man walking in a zig-zag, as though drunk. Courfeyrac had recognized Mabeuf, who had often accompanied Marius to his door, and he had told him to go home, as there was fighting to be had. Mabeuf had said that that was all good, and followed them. Now Gavroche marches ahead, singing another of his popular tunes.
Again, figures like Mabeuf or Gavroche seem to have been swept up in the fighting for reasons more circumstantial than political, though their own individual stories reflect the need for the kind of change that the rioters are promoting.
Chapter 6 As they go along, the crowd grows. They pass Courfeyrac’s door, so he runs up to get his purse and hat. On the way down, the porter says someone wants to speak with him. A pale, thin, freckled man steps out and asks for Marius. Courfeyrac doesn’t know where he is; he says he’s off to the barricades. The pale young man offers to go along. Despite intending to reach Saint-Merry, the crowd deviates (as mobs tend to do) to the Rue Saint-Denis.
It’s a mystery both to Courfeyrac and to us as readers who the freckled young man might be. Again, this is a case in which figures are swept up into the battles and barricades merely because they happen to find themselves in the Parisian neighborhoods that are currently teeming with revolutionary sentiment.