Re-Reading Les Misérables

Thoughts and commentary on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece.

Marius: Stalker

The flirting in the Luxembourg gardens is funny, even today. But Marius sneaking into Cosette’s garden to watch her from the shadows? That doesn’t hold up so well.

This is part of what makes it so hard to stop stalking: the behavior has been tolerated and treated as romantic in so many stories that tell men it’s okay, expected, even wanted – instead of telling them it’s creepy as hell.

The chapter from Cosette’s point of view actually does present it as scary. Valjean’s away and a stranger is prowling around her garden. When he gets back, he stands guard for a few nights until he identifies a chimney that matches the shadow she saw. But it doesn’t explain the footsteps she heard. Toussaint expounds about about how awful it would be to be murdered in that isolated house (especially since killers’ knives probably aren’t sharp enough to cut cleanly – which is darkly funny in its exaggeration, to the audience at least), but don’t worry, she locks the windows tight!

…But in the end, it’s all okay, because it’s Marius. 🙄

To Hugo’s credit, he doesn’t try to claim Cosette was wrong or silly to have been afraid:

  • She doesn’t know he’s a suitor, not an attacker, and even if she did know that…
  • She doesn’t know he’d go home if rejected instead of turning angry and possibly harming her.
  • She doesn’t know he’s the guy she’s had her eye on since last year.

And Marius isn’t trying to overcome Cosette’s resistance, but the circumstances that have kept them from actually meeting for the past year.

But there are ways to work up the nerve to say hello to your crush that don’t make her fear for her safety.