Re-Reading Les Misérables

Thoughts and commentary on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece.

Two Old Men in Decline

Pere Mabeuf’s final days are a slow slide into deprivation and despair. He sells the printing plates, the furniture, and finally moves onto his prized books for food. In the end he sells the last of them for medicine for Mere Plutarque…who probably won’t outlast him very long. With nothing left, he walks outside… and keeps walking.

M. Gillenormand is physically as comfortable as one could expect to be at 91 in 1832, but the man who arranged things so that Marius’ father would die before meeting his son again, is now afraid he’ll die before Marius returns. I suppose I should be sympathetic, but he earned that.

And the reunion, when it happens, doesn’t go well. At all. It’s interesting to see most of it from Gillenormand’s perspective, and the mismatch between what he wants to say and what he actually says. But even if he’d managed to get off on the right foot, I suspect their different outlooks would have gotten in the way. (Marius wants permission to marry Cosette so they can stay together. Gillenormand thinks he’s too young to tie himself down and not solvent enough to support a family, so why not just keep her as his mistress? What? His pure Cosette? How dare he!)