Reader Perplexedidés wondered why, in the BBC miniseries, someone as shallow and selfish as Tholomyès actually stayed with Fantine during her pregnancy, having inferred from the novel that it was implying that he’d left her pregnant on the day of the “merry prank.” My response:
It’s not clear what’s going on in Tholomyès’ head, but I checked several translations and they all describe Cosette as being two or three when she and Fantine meet the Thenardiers (and she turns 15 before she and Marius meet in the summer of 1831), so she has to have been born during the relationship and not after.
But you’re right, it is weird that he would have stuck around up to that point.
Maybe he pretended to care, like he did with Fantine herself? Maybe Fantine’s expectations for his involvement were really low? Maybe he figured well, mistresses sometimes have babies, but if I leave now, I’ll have to start all over with finding a new mistress, and it’ll remind my friends’ girls that they’re expendable, and I couldn’t do that to my friends, and it’ll all be over when I go home anyway, so what does it matter?
I’m just kind of throwing ideas at the wall here! :-)
There must be some unspoken assumptions that would have been clear to 1860s readers about how involved rich men were likely to be with their poor mistress’ families. Now I want to look up more background on the whole student/grisette thing.