Les Miserables 83: The Atom Fraternizes With The Hurricane

lesmiserablesIn this section we see young Gavroche off to war.  We first see him snatching a horse pistol out of a secondhand shop, then taking off down the street singing.

Who wrote this refrain that gave him the beat for his marching, and all the other songs he liked to sing from time to time?  We do not know.  Who knows?  They were his own, perhaps.  Actually, Gavroche kept up with all the current popular tunes, and mixed in his own warbling with them.  A sprite and a devil, he made a medley of the voices of nature and the voices of Paris.  He combined the repertory of the birds with the repertory of the workshops.

When last we saw Gavroche he had just finished helping his father Thenardier escape from prison.  He had let two young street urchins who, unbeknownst to him, were his younger brothers, spend the night with him in his elephant.  He returned to let them out, then asked them to return that evening if they had not found their home.  They did not return.  Twelve weeks went by and still they did not return.

As Gavroche continues down the street, we see him poking fun at a rich bourgeois and then a quartet of old ladies.  We then see him hurling a stone at the window of a barbershop–the same barber who had thrown him out on the evening he was with his younger brothers.

Gavroche then falls in with Enjolras and friends, who are on their way to the barricade.  Gavroche notices an old man with the group, who turns out to be M. Mabeuf.  When last we saw Mabeuf, he was wandering off in a daze after realizing that he had no money left and no more books to sell.  As he was wandering he met up with Enjolras and friends.  Courfeyrac recognized him because of Marius’s frequent visits to his home, and tried to persuade him to go home.  But when Mabeuf learned where they were going, he became all the more determined to join them.  His aimless wandering transformed into a firm, resolute march as he tried to keep up with them.

“What a desperate old man!” murmured the students.  The rumor ran through the assemblage that he was–a former Conventionist–an old regicide.

Note the tragic irony here:  Mabeuf, the most apolitical person in all of France, who had repeatedly expressed his revulsion for politics after seeing how it tore Marius’s family apart and robbed him of his father, was now indistinguishable from an old Conventionist taking to the streets to have his revenge against the Restoration monarchy.

Note also how the labels applied to Mabeuf here–former Conventionist, old regicide–harken back to another former Conventionist and old regicide whom we met near the beginning of the story.  This was the former Conventionist G—, whom the bishop Monseigneur Bienvenu met on his deathbed.  This man was a pariah who lived alone on the outskirts of his town.  He was greatly feared by his community, and the people whispered many terrible things about him.  The sight of Mabeuf on the march evoked similar fears and whisperings.  This linkage between Mabeuf and the former Conventionist G— only reinforces the tragic irony here.

More recruits joined the cortege.  Among them was a tall man with graying hair whom nobody knew.  Since Hugo feels compelled to single him out for specific mention at this point, we can be sure that he will have some significance later on.  Since the group just happened to be passing by Courfeyrac’s apartment he dropped off and went in to retrieve some forgotten items and met a young man waiting in the apartment.

At the same time a sort of young workingman, thin, pale, small, freckled, dressed in a torn workshirt, and patched corduroy pants, and who looked more like a girl in boy’s clothes than a man, came out of the lodge and said to Courfeyrac in a voice which, to be sure, was not the least like a woman’s voice, “Monsieur Marius, if you please?”

This matches descriptions of Eponine that we have seen earlier in the story.  Eponine was waiting for Marius, intending to bring him to the barricade.  Rather than continue to wait for Marius, she fell in with Courfeyrac and the group.

2 thoughts on “Les Miserables 83: The Atom Fraternizes With The Hurricane

  1. Hmm… nicely done. Have you heard the Punchy Land spoof on this? It’s funny & entertaining with great sound effects and music. It’s the Punchy Land’s Les Miserables: The Mizly Man. Just BEWARE these are catchy in a strange sort of way….enjoy!

  2. Hey! I just wanted to let you know I’ve really enjoyed your insights on every chapter of Les Mis! I found your site around the start of Volume IV and it’s added depth to my experience of the book. I especially liked your 79th entry where you noted that Hugo contrasts his typical animalistic depiction of Thenardier with a ghostly depiction of Eponine. Without your commentary, I would have just glazed over the paragraph of forest imagery. I’m just sad now that I appear to be ahead of you… Looking forward to your next update and insights!

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