The Bubble Bursts
Marius is still crashing at Courfeyrac’s place, but Courfeyrac has noticed the change in him:
My dear fellow, you give me the impression right now of being on the moon, in the realm of dreams, in a state of delusion, whose capital is Soap-Bubble City. Now, be a good chap – what’s her name?
In fact, Cosette and Marius are so wrapped up in their nightly secret meetings that they don’t notice a freaking cholera epidemic. Now that’s focused!
After six weeks of secret rendezvous, Marius’ possessiveness has gotten creepy. And he’s angry at Cosette when she tells him that they’re moving away. It’s hard to tell whether the “return to reality” is the narrator’s rebuke for him being possessive at all, or for it being too soon. Hugo was progressive for his time, but still sexist.
There is absurd comedy in the idea that he stands motionless with his face against a tree for two hours trying to process the fact that Cosette’s moving…but he doesn’t notice that she’s been sobbing. He still cares more for the ideal than the person.
And neither of them notices the drama going on outside the gate, where Éponine stands up to Patron-Minette all by herself. It’s inspiring. She switches tactics rapidly, trying first to distract them, then to convince them it’s not worth the effort, and finally threatening to expose them. They threaten her of course, but she gives this amazing speech about how she’s not scared of them, because she’s already lived through worse. And they walk away, grumbling.
But it’s also profoundly sad. It only works because she has nothing left to lose, and they can’t afford the risk that she might scream.