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Les Misérables
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Side-Reads > 04/28 Les Miserables, Part IV, Books VIII-XI

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message 1: by Zulfiya (last edited Apr 30, 2014 03:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) I sincerely apologize for the day, but the life has been really hectic recently.

So where is everybody? I have listened to ahead in my desire to redress my mistake with the belated posting, but I will try not to spoil.

1. The two sweet doves are not given a chance to be happy. Is it a literary trick or were there too many problem arounds them to allow them to live happily ever after?

2. Have you changed your opinion about Marius's grandfather, M. Gillenormand? Why does he act so illogically?

3. The role of Jean-Valjean has been diminished in recent chapters, but he is still a decision maker in the novel. Do you think his influence is still strong as a character in the novel?

4. Why is Jean Valjean so jealous? Are his feelings truly and only paternal?

5. I have to confess - I really like Gavroche. I know that occasionally he is reckless and mischievous, but his heart is in the right place and he hardly even feels down.
When is comes to Gavroche, can we analyse and interpret him in the frame 'Nature vs. Nurture'? Linda, I know that you are a scientist. I am particularly curious about your opinion in your field of expertise is related to behavioral psychology and/or genetical biology.

6. And revolution, revolution, revolution ... It might be the place where all the driving forces will meet together again - the Thenariders, Jean Valjean, Javert, Gavroche, Marius, Cosette ... Unfortunately, revolutions, even with the noblest motives, are bloody and dramatic. Do you feel that the tragedy is brewing or is it only me?


Everyman | 885 comments Well, I'll clearly never catch up, since I'm at least a month behind, and have too many other books going on here to bring LesMis up to date, not to mention wanting to keep current with Don Quixote. So I'm going cheat a bit (or more than a bit) and quickly skim the intervening sections (since I've read it before, maybe that's not a total cheat, but it's still embarrassing to have to admit) and risk re-entering the discussion this week or next. If, that is, people who have actually read all the intervening hundreds of pages I'll be skipping briefly over will forgive me and not shun me for blasphemy.


message 3: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1313 comments Everyman wrote: "Well, I'll clearly never catch up, since I'm at least a month behind, and have too many other books going on here to bring LesMis up to date, not to mention wanting to keep current with Don Quixote..."

I would love to hear your thoughts on the last few sections. It's not like your skimming a book you have not read before.


message 4: by Linda (last edited Apr 30, 2014 09:21PM) (new) - added it

Linda | 1313 comments No worries, Zulfiya. I hope you and your family are OK, I don't know how close you are to the recent tornados.

I have just starting reading the section after this one, so not too far ahead yet.

I still have hope that Marius and Cosette will end up together, but there are some wrenches thrown in their way for sure. I did feel a bit more for Marius' grandfather. I wished he could have just spoken up and told Marius that he missed him already!! I wondered if he meant to act tough of purpose, or if it was just part of his nature and did not realize how he was perceived at the time?

Yes, Jean Valjean is still a major influence. I'm surprised I did not think of Marius proposing marriage until he brought it up with his grandfather. I assumed he would ask for money for travel or help obtaining a passport. But in retrospect that would be out of character for him, so marriage seems to be the most logical step in being able to stay with Cosette.

I believe Jean Valjean's feelings for Cosette are purely paternal. It has never crossed my mind that they were anything but that. I think he is completely afraid of losing a source of such happiness in his life. If/when Cosette leaves, then what is in store for him? What is his purpose in life after that? It seems he still needs keep his identity hidden, so having Cosette close is his source of life and happiness at this point.

I really like Gavroche too!! He is mischievous, but he is just trying to get by the best he knows how. I like how he looked up to the one man he singled out in the group of friends (can't remember his name right now). But Gavroche had zeroed in on him after he had made some remark, and then studied him from then on. I also rooted for him when he threw the rock through the window of the place which refused his brothers, even though it was not a good thing for him to do since it was a bit of revenge. But still, he felt he was sticking up for the young boys who he had taken under his wing.

We are definitely a product of both nature and nurture. But Gavroche came from horrid parents, and so was influenced by them both genetically and psychologically. And then he was turned out on the streets where he encountered even more struggle to survive. But somehow he is still compassionate (as evidenced by helping his brothers with food and shelter, expecting nothing in return), happy, and a seemingly well-adjusted boy. How does someone end up like this with his background? All I can say is that the human body (our genetic make-up and the biochemistry pathways which take place in us) is so completely complex that although we might try to guess how someone might grow up with a given genetic make-up of A+B+C and given this particular environment, we can never definitively say how someone will turn out. Just as a child may be brought up by the most caring parents and grow-up to do unthinkable things in society (as we all know too well from the news), we can wonder how that person who came from such a loving home could be capable of such things. Gavroche is the opposite of this. But both examples demonstrate how complex the human body is - how it will end up responding to its genetic makeup and various environmental stimuli up to that point, we can make an educated guess but can never say for sure.

As for the revolution, yes, I have a pit in my stomach about what is to happen. I found myself wondering which of these men were not going to make it through the next day.

Sorry for such a long post!


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Everyman wrote: "So I'm going cheat a bit (or more than a bit) and quickly skim the intervening sections (since I've read it before, maybe that's not a total cheat, but it's still embarrassing to have to admit) and risk re-entering the discussion this week or next. If, that is, people who have actually read all the intervening hundreds of pages I'll be skipping briefly over will forgive me and not shun me for blasphemy. "

it is not cheating if you already read the book. You most definitely have a very unusual perspective, and you now how all the thread will come together; hence, you might bring our attention to the parts we are ignoring or not discussing. I am obviously not talking about spoilers, but about a certain sense of direction during our discussion. We definitely need this one.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Linda wrote: "We are definitely a product of both nature and nurture. But Gavroche came from horrid parents, and so was influenced by them both genetically and psychologically. And then he was turned out on the streets where he encountered even more struggle to survive. But somehow he is still compassionate (as evidenced by helping his brothers with food and shelter, expecting nothing in return), happy, and a seemingly well-adjusted boy. How does someone end up like this with his background? All I can say is that the human body (our genetic make-up and the biochemistry pathways which take place in us) is so completely complex that although we might try to guess how someone might grow up with a given genetic make-up of A+B+C and given this particular environment, we can never definitively say how someone will turn out. Just as a child may be brought up by the most caring parents and grow-up to do unthinkable things in society (as we all know too well from the news), we can wonder how that person who came from such a loving home could be capable of such things. Gavroche is the opposite of this. But both examples demonstrate how complex the human body is - how it will end up responding to its genetic makeup and various environmental stimuli up to that point, we can make an educated guess but can never say for sure.

..."


I thought in the similar way that we are all the products of both nature and nurture, and so many people turn into bad ones even with loving and conscientious parents who both set an excellent example and provide a good genetic pool. Unfortunately, we often witness exactly the situation you and I described while Gavroche is an example of an opposite sort. At the same time, the same mechanisms are in action. Because he was so neglected by his parents, all his knowledge about co-habitation comes from his street experience where urchins possibly help each other to survive. If you remember, Hugo dedicated a whole chapter to their sub-culture earlier in the novel. On the other hand, his parents were both nasty individuals, but neither Eponine, nor her sister, nor Gavroche is truly evil. So genetic combination they inherited from their parents was valid enough not to turn them into liars, cheaters, self-centered egotists. I think Gavroche is in fact a perfect example that we are complex being that are both affected by environment we are raised in and our genes. Human life is even more complex that it seems.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 456 comments This is a re-read for me as well, but I'm doing it via audio, so the perspective is interesting. I don't remember some of these long sections being so tedious, but I'm still enjoying it. It's also very interesting given that I know how the story is going to pan out. I'm really enjoying the character development and seeing how these characters end up at their ultimate end.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) It is always fascinating to re-read great books - I often re-read classics here on goodreads and always enjoy discovering new motifs, fresh interpretations, and re-discover old characters,
Having said this, this is my first crack at LesMis, and I do not have your perspective and obviously envy you, and I am sure if I read it again, I will possibly enjoy his passages and his philosophical forays more than I am now.


Deana (ablotial) Alana wrote: "This is a re-read for me as well, but I'm doing it via audio, so the perspective is interesting. I don't remember some of these long sections being so tedious, but I'm still enjoying it. It's also ..."

Alana, I'd imagine they are more tedious in the audio book version because it's so much easier to skim them when you are reading the paper version. And the audio book narrators already read slower than I would in my head, so they would just go on and on and on (and on!). I think it would be interesting to hear the audio version at some point -- as you said, they do offer different perspectives for how the narrator interprets them -- but I'd want it to have a good mechanism for skipping through the boring parts!


Deana (ablotial) Linda wrote: "I'm surprised I did not think of Marius proposing marriage until he brought it up with his grandfather. I assumed he would ask for money for travel or help obtaining a passport. But in retrospect that would be out of character for him, so marriage seems to be the most logical step in being able to stay with Cosette."

Linda I was the same! It came as a surprise to me when he proposed as well, I really thought he would be asking for money. But you are right, that would have been much more out of character and this is so much more a Marius thing to do. Though I suppose the person he should really be asking is Valjean... I wonder if Marius will go ahead with this plan even though his grandfather refused his blessing?

I was so frustrated with his grandfather, though. In a way I understand -- to him, it's a matter of principle. I have, in the past, really wanted to make up with a friend or family member but refused to until they apologized. Occasionally, you realize that the person in question means more to you than the principle you are standing for, but it is clear that the politics are still central for both Marius and his grandfather. And just as M.Gillenormand was beginning to make progress with Marius, he goes and insults him by suggesting Cosette become Marius' mistress instead of his wife. It is clear he doesn't know his grandson very well. I am glad he saw that Marius cousin wasn't worth keeping around, though...

I also like Gavroche. Having worked with children from bad backgrounds, and having come from a not-so-great background myself and gone in a very different way from one of my brothers (who has ended up in jail on multiple occasions), I will say only this to the question of nurture vs. nature. Some children grow up and end up like their parents due to their parents' influences. Others see their parents as role models in so much as a goal for what NOT to become. In this way, it can be a FORM of nurture, but in the opposite way that is expected.

I also want to point out that Eponine, despite continuing to live with her parents, has shown some redeeming qualities, protecting Marius, Cosette and Valjean from her father on multiple occasions.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Deana wrote: " Occasionally, you realize that the person in question means more to you than the principle you are standing for, but it is clear that the politics are still central for both Marius and his grandfather. And just as M.Gillenormand was beginning to make progress with Marius, he goes and insults him by suggesting Cosette become Marius' mistress instead of his wife. It is clear he doesn't know his grandson very well. I am glad he saw that Marius cousin wasn't worth keeping around, though..."

It was one of the most enjoyable but also frustrating moments in the novel because both were willing to compromise but at different times, and both became defensive at the most inopportune moments, and as a result, Marius leaves upset, and that upsets his grandfather. Oh, politics, it does play nasty tricks on people.


message 12: by Zulfiya (last edited May 25, 2014 06:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) Deana wrote: "I also want to point out that Eponine, despite continuing to live with her parents, has shown some redeeming qualities, protecting Marius, Cosette and Valjean from her father on multiple occasions. "

As you justly noticed, Eponine is another point in the eternal debate 'nature vs. nurture'


message 13: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1313 comments Deana wrote: "I will say only this to the question of nurture vs. nature. Some children grow up and end up like their parents due to their parents' influences. Others see their parents as role models in so much as a goal for what NOT to become. In this way, it can be a FORM of nurture, but in the opposite way that is expected."

You make a good point here, Deana. And I must say that my husband and two siblings are a good example of this too. My husband used his parents as a role model of what NOT to become, whereas his brother and sister have had multiple issues throughout their lives, and still do to this day.


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