Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Les Miserables Volume 4, Book 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Chapter 1 Cosette’s grief has finally begun to ebb. One week, she notices a handsome young officer begin to pass her gate each day. The lieutenant, whose name is Theodule Gillenormand, dismisses his friends when they say that a girl is making eyes at him from the garden. Meanwhile, Marius still despairs about Cosette. He’s the sort of person who never emerges from sorrow, unlike Cosette.
Paris, as we’ve seen at the end of the last Book, is a web of coincidental connections, and here Marius’s unknown cousin comes to distract Cosette from the person who’s really in love with her. Again Cosette is described as innocent but somewhat flighty, the casualty of a lack of education.
Themes
Mystery and Knowledge in Paris Theme Icon
Chapter 2 In April, Valjean 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 footsteps in the garden. She looks out the window, but the street is deserted. The next day towards nightfall, she’s walking through the garden when the moon rises and illuminates another shadow, a man with a round hat, nearby. She is terrified, but stands up resolutely and turns around. There’s no one there.
For Cosette, Valjean’s trips are just another one of his peculiarities, which she’s accustomed to enough not to question. But without the illuminating presence of Valjean, Cosette finds the shadows and secrets of Paris terrifying rather than inviting, and the city takes on an ominous presence without her adopted father.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Mystery and Knowledge in Paris Theme Icon
The next day Cosette tells Valjean, who’s just returned, what happened; though he reassures her he grows anxious himself. Valjean passes the next two nights in the garden. On the third night, Valjean calls down to her: a shadow in the garden made by a sheet iron chimney-pipe does look quite like the shadow of a man with a hat. Cosette doesn’t ask herself why this shadow should have retreated in alarm when she looked back at it, and she thinks no more about it.
Valjean may have different reasons for growing alarmed than Cosette does, but such hints no longer make him paranoid enough to want to move apartments, as he’s done before. The narrator suggests, however, that there’s more to the story than either Valjean or Cosette may know.
Themes
Mystery and Knowledge in Paris Theme Icon
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, but upon her return, she sees a large stone, which had not been by the bench a moment before. She rushes indoors, asking Toussaint if she’s very careful to close the shutters with bars at night. Toussaint says she is, adding how awful it would be for someone to sneak into the bedrooms at night and try to cut their throats. Cosette tells her to be quiet.
Once again, without the calming presence of Valjean, the house on the Rue Plumet, not to mention Paris itself, become a dark, ominous place of secrets and possible dangers for Cosette. This transformation is quite different from how the city “changed” when Cosette became suddenly eager to go outside in her new outfits, wanting to take advantage of her new beauty.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Mystery and Knowledge in Paris Theme Icon
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The next day Cosette’s fears seem ridiculous, and she thinks she dreamed about the stone. But when she returns to the garden, it’s still there. Pale, she lifts it up, and finds an unsealed envelope filled with writing.
Hugo is well acquainted with the style of melodrama, and here uses it to his advantage in evoking an atmosphere of dread.
Themes
Mystery and Knowledge in Paris Theme Icon
Chapter 4 The narrator calls love the reduction of the universe to a single being, and the expansion of a single being to God, who lives in all. It was excruciating for Marius not to know the address of his very soul, which the narrator links to the infinite and to spiritual goodness. It is grand to be loved, and grander to love, making one’s soul heroic and lofty.
Although Hugo has explored various perspectives on love and its implications for human behavior, here he is firmly on the side of love, stressing its connection to the divine and thus confirming that it can only be good and redeeming.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Chapter 5 Cosette reads the letter, 15 pages long, and daydreams. At one point the handsome officer passes by, but now she finds him hideous. The manuscript seems to reveal to her all of life: love, sorrow, destiny. It’s an anonymous love letter, but Cosette knows it could have only been written by one person. All day she feels bewildered, thinking that heavenly chance has brought the young man back to her.
This sudden reveal also uses 19th-century conventions of melodrama in its transformation for Cosette from fear to wonder. She has not, perhaps, been as faithful to Marius as the latter was to her, but the text still underlines her loyalty to Marius by suggesting that she knows he must have written it.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
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 out to sit on the bench, and suddenly sees Marius. He is thinner and paler, with shadowy eyes but a face illuminated by the sunset. Cosette backs away, but he asks for her to forgive him: he had to come. He says that he followed her to her previous home nearly a year ago. Now, often he stands beneath the house and can hear her singing through the shutters. He adores her, he says.
Cosette may not admit to herself that she’s expecting someone, but the narrator suggests that she shares a kind of mystical connection to Marius, such that they can almost sense each other’s presence. Light here allows Cosette to recognize and study Marius’s face, and also underlines the moral upstandingness of their meeting.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
Cosette is about to faint, but Marius catches her, feeling love, not lust, for her. Marius asks if she loves him, and she says he knows she does. They kiss, and then look at each other. Slowly, they begin to tell each other everything about their pasts, their childhoods and illusions. At the end, they ask each other’s names.
The narrator has poked fun at Marius’s long-suffering obsession with Cosette even when he didn’t know her name, but here the point is that names are mere social appendages, irrelevant to true love.
Themes
Love and Redemption Theme Icon