Fahnestock and McAfee Translation
**Again, just a reminder that I am reading the Fahnestock and McAfee translation. So all quotes and page numbers are from this particular translation.**
Hugo backtracks and shows us why Valjean and Cosette were going to leave. He had noticed Thénardier prowling his neighborhood. So he had decided to leave France and go to England. This is when he told Cosette he needed to take a trip. He then happen to notice an address freshly carved into the stone wall of the garden. This was unsettling for him. As he was pondering the scenario, he noticed someone behind him. As he was about to turn around, a piece of paper floated down to him. The paper said “MOVE OUT.” He decides to not waist any more time in leaving.
In the meantime, Marius is devastated at his visit with his grandfather. He roams the streets. For some reason, he decided to grab the pistols that Javert had entrusted to him awhile back. Then he continued to roam the streets and waited until the time that night that he would get to see Cosette. While he was in the midst of his desolate state, he heard odd sounds around him. He woke up out of his reverie and wondered if it was fighting. But then he headed to the garden of Rue Plumet. Cosette wasn’t there. Next thing he knows, he hears a voice calling his name. The person told him his friends were waiting for him at a barricade.
The scene switches to M. Mabeauf who is in despair. He has continued to sink further and further into poverty. He did not accept the purse Gavroche had secretly tossed into his garden. Instead, he turned it in. One by one, he ended up selling all his books to have money for their needs. Then Mother Plutarch got sick. He had only one book left; a book that was a prize possession of his. He sold it. The next day he also noticed loud noises in Paris. The gardener told him it was a riot. M. Mabeauf got his hat, went to put a book under his arm but realized there were no more books left, then left.
We can see how little by little, Hugo is beginning to bring awareness to the characters of this story of the insurrection that’s beginning.
We now find a discussion of the difference between an uprising and an insurrection. It is explained how this relates to the events beginning to take place: what is happening in Paris in June 1832 is an insurrection. Then we are told that what is about to be related is part of this time; little scenarios that have been lost to history. Then it says:
“From the nature of the book we are writing, we only show one side and one episode, and that certainly the least known, of the days of the 5th and 6th of June, 1832; but we shall do it in such a way that the reader may glimpse, under the gloomy veil we are about to lift, the real countenance of that fearful public tragedy.”
And the pages turn to the insurrection. The start of the insurrection was the death of General Lamarque. During the funeral procession for Lamarque, the riots break out. Hugo does a marvelous job of painting the tension in the crowd as the funeral procession proceeds.
“On the cross alleys of the boulevards, in the branches of the trees, on the balconies, at the windows, on the roofs, were swarms of heads, men, women, children; their eyes were full of anxiety. An armed multitude was passing by, a terrified multitude was looking on.” (p. 1051)
“The dragoons were advancing at a walk, in silence, their pistols in their holsters, their sabers in their sheaths, their muskets at rest, with an air of gloomy expectation.” (p. 1053)
And in a short amount of time, barricades go up and Paris becomes the center of the insurrection. The military forces hesitate to act. Suspense looms over the city as people wait.
“…the great city felt something that was, perhaps, stronger than herself. She was afraid…Progressively, night fell, Paris seemed more and more ominously lit by the stupendous flame of the uprising.” (p. 1060, 1062)
Gavroche has decided to go to war with the masses. He steals a pistol which turns out doesn’t have a hammer and marches onward singing. He hasn’t seen the two children he helped the night before since breakfast that morning. He tears down posters, insults a bourgeois, helped a National Guard man and his horse get on their feet, responds to three old ladies, and smashes a barber’s window (the barber was the one who turned out the two children Gavroche ended up helping). He decides to join up with Enjolras group.
Enjolras and his group, as well as others, are rallying. They are getting ready for the face-off in this insurrection. As Enjolras and the others are making their way to the barricade, they see an old man seemingly wandering aimlessly. Courfeyrac recognizes it to be M. Mabeauf. M. Mabeauf ends up joining them. They headed toward Saint-Merry. The band of people continually grew. They ended up going past Saint-Merry and ended up in Rue Saint-Denis.
A barricade had been erected at the Rue de la Chanvrerie and this book starts out telling us about this place along with the bistro called Corinth. This bistro Corinth was a meeting place for Courfeyrac and his friends. One morning, Laigle and Joly went to have breakfast at Corinth. Grantaire joins them and gets drunk. He goes on and on about God and man and then has a coughing fit. A street orphan brings a message that says “A.B.C.” which is the rallying message for them. But they decide they’d rather stay and drink than engage in the cause. Later, they hear commotion outside and Enjolras is looking for a place to build a barricade. Others are with him, including Courfeyac and Gavroche. Bossuet (who is also part of the drinking group there) calls out to them and suggests where they are is a good enough place. Courfeyrac agrees and the band of men rush into Rue de la Chanvrerie.
Two barricades were being built in this area. People manned the barricade area. Gavroche flitted about back and forth getting things done. He stirred up the team; he couldn’t be stopped. “Perpetual motion was in his little arms, and perpetual clamor in his little lungs.” (p. 1096)
The main barricade of Rue de la Chanvrerie was about six or seven feet high. It was tall enough to disappear behind it but still be able to look over it. Once both barricades were finished and the flags put in place, Courfeyrac distributed ammunition. Then it was time to wait.
There is a strange man who had a seeming familiarity. Gavroche tells them the man is a spy. We find out the man is Javert. They tie Javert to a post in the middle of the lower room. “Backed up against the post, and tied with ropes so he could make no movement, Javert held up his head with the intrepid serenity of the man who has never lied.” (p. 1107) Enjolras tells Javert that ten minutes before the barricade is taken, Javert will be shot. Gavroche claims Javert’s gun for himself.
Another situation takes place when a man name Le Cabuc wants to enter a tall building. The people inside have locked the doors and won’t open them. The doorkeeper pops his head out the window, Le Cabuc tells him to open the door, and the doorkeeper says he can’t. Le Cabuc shoots him dead. Enjolras does not tolerate this because he said that assassination is a greater crime. He says, “I therefore judged and condemned that man to death. As for myself, compelled to do what I have done, but abhorring it, I have judged myself also, and you shall soon see to what I have sentenced myself.” (p. 1111)
With Cosette gone, Marius wants to die. Armed with the pistols Javert had given him, he makes his way to Rue de la Chanvrerie. When he reaches there, before entering, he begins analyzing all the conflicting emotions that he’s feeling. As he looks around to what’s going on, he continues to think about the situation.
“Even while thinking, overwhelmed but resolute, hesitating, however, and indeed shuddering in view of what he was about to do, his gaze wandered around the interior of the barricade.” (p. 1123)
The wait ends. Gavroche hurtles over the barricade and announces that they are there. Footsteps are heard. After a few moments, an explosion burst over the barricade and their flag fell. M. Mabeauf climbs to the top of the barricade to put the flag back up. Everyone is surprised and has a deep sense of respect and reverence for this elderly man who voluntarily climbs to his death. As Mabeauf puts the flag back up, he is shot and killed. Enjolras says:
“‘Citizens! This is the example the old give the young. We hesitated, he came! We fell back, he advanced! This is what those who tremble with old age teach those who tremble with fear! This patriarch is noble in the sight of the country. He has had a long life and a magnificent death! Now let us protect his corpse, let everyone defend this old man dead as he would defend his father living, and let his presence among us make the barricade impregnable!’” (p. 1130)
Enjolras pulls back M. Mabeauf’s coat showing the gunshot wounds and proclaims to the people: “‘There is our flag now.’” (p. 1130) They take M. Mabeauf’s body to the lower room. Before they knew it, the municipal guards were overrunning the barricade. Something had to be done. Marius entered the area just in time to save Gavroche and Courfeyrac from being killed. As he was turning around, a gun was aimed at him and a shot rang out but was intercepted by someone. They saved Marius. Gun fire continued and there was smoke everywhere. When the smoke cleared, someone yelled out for the guards and their group to surrender or they would blow up the barricade. It was Marius. He was ready to give up his life to get the barricade clear and help the cause. Fortunately, the assailants fled and the barricade was cleared.
Everyone flocked around Marius. His mind was spinning. In fact, he was struggling in his mind so much that he didn’t even notice Javert tied to the post. The group set about doing things that were necessary. Medical students helped the wounded. They had a roll call. When they took roll call, someone was missing. It was Jean Prouvaire. It became clear to them that he had probably been taken as prisoner. Next thing they know, they hear Prouvaire’s voice then a flash and then an explosion. Then there was silence. They concluded that Prouvaire was now dead.
After a bit, Marius heard someone calling his name. He found the man with the trousers that saved his life over in a corner. The person, in fact, was not a man at all, but was Eponine. Eponine and Marius talk. Marius wants to get Eponine to help but she knows she’s dying. She sees Gavroche across the way and says it is her brother; Marius did not know this. She reveals that she has a letter for Marius. Eponine asks Marius to promise to kiss her on the forehead when she dies. He promises. She reveals that she believes she was in love with him. Then she dies.
Marius reads the letter and it’s from Cosette. She tells Marius what was happening and gives an address. We discover that it was Eponine who told Valjean to MOVE OUT. It was Eponine, dressed in men’s clothes, that Cosette gave the letter to and asked for it to be delivered to a specific address. It was Eponine who sent the appeal to Marius supposedly from his friends which led him to the barricade. She was jealous and didn’t want anyone else to have him.
The letter encouraged Marius and he immediately wrote a letter to be sent to the address Cosette had given explaining about his grandfather’s refusal for the blessing to marry, how he had gone to the garden and she wasn’t there, and eluded that by the time she received the letter he would be dead. He asks Gavroche to deliver the letter for him. Gavroche agrees but decides to do so immediately so he can get back in time before the barricade is attacked again.
We are now takien back to when Jean Valjean decides to leave the Rue Plumet with Cosette. Toussaint also goes with them. Cosette objected and didn’t want to go but it was to no avail.
“They both arrived in the Rue de l’Homme-Armé without opening their mouths or saying a word, absorbed in their personal preoccupations; Jean Valjean so anxious that he did not notice Cosette’s sadness, Cosette so sad that she did not notice Jean Valjean’s anxiety.” (p. 1146)
After arriving there, Jean Valjean’s mind was almost immediately put at ease. His anxiety decreased. Valjean decided that they would, at some point, leave the country and go to England. While he was thinking about these things and pacing back and forth, he noticed a message in the mirror. It was the message Cosette had written to Marius telling him where they would be. It was on the ink blotter and was being reflected in the mirror. (At this point, Marius had not yet received the letter from Eponine at the barricades.)
Valjean is stunned. I think he doesn’t know what to make of it at first. He realizes that this Marius is the same boy that walked in the Luxembourg. Earlier, Toussaint had told Valjean there was fighting in the city. He now asks Toussaint where she said the fighting was and she tells him it’s over by Saint-Merry. He then heads to the street.
He hears footsteps on the street of someone approaching. It is Gavroche. Gavroche breaks the street lamp. Valjean offers him money and finally he takes it as long as he can still break street lamps. Then Gavroche asks if Valjean knows the street and if he could show him No. 7. He asks Gavroche why and Gavroche explains he has a letter to deliver to a woman. Valjean pretends that he is the one who is to actually deliver the letter to the woman. Gavroche gives him the letter and when Valjean asks where a reply is to be sent, he tells him it is from the barricade at the Rue de la Chanvrerie. Then Gavroche left.
It’s at this point, that selfishness really takes hold of Valjean. He goes back in the house and looks at the letter. He sees the words “I will die…When you read this, my soul will be near you.” (p. 1157) This caused turmoil within Valjean and then he found himself with joy that in his mind, this whole thing with Cosette and Marius was over. He thought that if Marius wasn’t dead yet, he soon would be and it would all be over. He was so wrapped up in the fear that Cosette would leave him and he would lose her love, that selfishness had begun to take over. But the feeling of joy he sensed within himself that the love affair between Cosette and Marius was probably over didn’t last.
“When all this was said within him, he became gloomy.” (p. 1158)
Valjean got dressed in his National Guard uniform, armed himself, and headed towards Les Halles.
We are then told about an adventure Gavroche has with a cart and a sergeant in uniform. Gavroche rammed the cart into the sergeant and the sergeant’s gun went off as he fell back.
“At the sergeant’s cry, the men of the post had rushed out pell-mell; the musket shot produced a general barrage at random, after which they reloaded and began again. This musketry at blindman’s buff lasted a full quarter of an hour and killed several panes of glass.” (p. 1162)
Meanwhile, Gavroche managed to escape. He darted through the streets, singing as he went. We are told that this adventure of Gavroche’s went down in the history:
“Gavroche’s adventure, preserved among the traditions of the quarter of the Temple, is one of the most terrible recollections of the old bourgeois of the Marais, and is entitled in their memory: ‘Nocturnal Attack on the Post of the Imprimerie Royale.’” (p. 1164)
My Additional Thoughts
In this section, we see Hugo drawing various characters towards the barricades and how they become involved in various ways in the insurrection. We knew that Enjolras and his group were involved. But then we see M. Mabeauf, Marius, Eponine, Javert, and Gavroche all, one by one, descend upon the insurrection scene at the barricades. And we also see Valjean heading to the streets which leads us to think he is heading towards the barricades as well.
I continue to be impressed with Hugo’s storytelling and writing style; especially in this section where he takes these various characters and brings them all to the center of the action at the barricades. It reminds me a bit of Charles Dickens’ writing. One of the things that I feel Dickens did well in the handful of novels I’ve read by him, is how he would introduce various different characters and storylines and little by little through the course of the novel, he would intersect those various storylines and connect them and the different characters. Hugo has done this very same thing in a very effective way but without all the wordiness that Dickens tends to have in most of the novels I’ve read by him. 🙂 Hugo continues to impress me with his writing in this novel.