Re-Reading Les Misérables

Thoughts and commentary on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece.

Let’s meet Marius! Haha just kidding, here’s a street urchin first

A funny thing about Les Misérables: the first three parts are named after major characters, but they take forever to show up.

Part 1: Fantine takes 100 pages to get to her. Part 2: Cosette starts with 45 pages on Waterloo. Part 3: Marius picks up with Gavroche, then Marius’ grandfather.

It’s weird to see “gamin” rather than “urchin,” but it does convey a different sense – more childlike innocence.

Either way, we’re still talking about homeless kids.

Still on Paris urchin culture: “Attending executions counts as a duty.” I’m reminded of the opening lines of Pillars of the Earth: “The small boys came early to the hanging.” Different century, same macabre fascination.

Hugo really pours on his Paris-is-the-best-of-everything attitude in this chapter. Paris gamins are the only ones who aren’t doomed, Paris is the world in microcosm, “Paris is the greatest achievement of the human race.”