Hitting the Fan
There’s a gripping description of Paris under siege as Marius walks from the streets where shops are open, to where shops are closed, to where a nervous crowd mingles, to the army staging area, to the dark, silent, empty streets controlled by the insurgency. Then, steps away from the barricade, he stops, sits down, and spends several pages of internal monologue trying to decide whether he’s doing the right thing. It’s weird, but it doesn’t seem as long this time through.
Speaking of people sitting and not acting: Pere Mabeuf has basically gone catatonic, staring at the floor all evening until he hears Enjolras shout for help restoring the fallen flag. He mechanically walks out, grabs the flag, climbs up…and is promptly shot and killed. It’s one of many cases where Hugo stops showing us the inner workings of a character’s mind and only shows him from the outside. We can only guess: Is he thinking clearly, but in despair? Is his inner turmoil as complex as Marius’ a few pages earlier? Or is he simply acting on autopilot?
Once Mabeuf’s body is carried inside (after Enjolras uses him as an inspiration symbol), everything happens fast:
- Multiple casualties among named characters
- The barricade is almost taken
- Marius arrives, guns blazing
- Gavroche discovers (in the worst way possible) that Javert hadn’t loaded his gun
- Marius saves both Gavroche’s and Courfeyrac’s lives (for a few hours, anyway)
- Éponine throws herself in front of a bullet aimed at Marius
- Marius drives off the attackers by threatening to blow up the barricade, with everyone on it, himself included.
All of this happens in a space of a couple of minutes.
And then the waiting sets in again.