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Les Misérables
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Side-Reads > 05/12 Les Miserables, Part V, Books I, II

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Zulfiya (ztrotter) As I promised earlier, I am going to post this thread ahead of the schedule because the next couple of days for me could be rough. The questions contain semi-spoilers, so you have not read that far, remember that questions can spoil some plotlines.

1. Jean Valjean is back. His name is titular for this part, he is the driving force in this chapters, and he generates the literary tension here. Do you feel that this is his final battle after which he retires or do you feel that Hugo has a different plan for Valjean?

2. How do you feel about the death of Gavroche? Was it inevitable?

3. Do you hope that the other Thenardier children will survive the ordeal of the revolution?

4. Does Hugo convey the feeling that this revolution is inevitable because the people who are involved are the most wretched people in Paris: miserable, hungry, deprived, abused, forgotten and ignored by their government?

5. Why does Valjean save Marius?

6. Why does Valjean save Javert?

7. All the main characters are on the barricades. Is the revolutionary stage the culmination of the novel? Is it the logical moment of the plot development in this massive novel?

I hope you understand that I might be temporarily MIA, but by the Sunday I should be back and posting :-)


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Linda | 1307 comments I just remembered that you had posted this thread early!

This was a great section, so much happened. I was really not expecting Gavroche to be killed, it broke my heart, along with the death of Mabeuf. I should have seen it coming, though, as Gavroche was singing while gathering ammunition and getting fired upon in the process, and with a smile on his face through it all. It was too happy, but when he was finally shot, I was shocked.

I was thinking about his two brothers because I couldn't remember if they survived or not? If I remember correctly, the last time we see them was when they were at a park and they were fishing out some soggy bread from a pond or puddle to eat. I think they were just left wandering from that point and that's the last time we see them?

I was confused in the last section about why Jean Valjean went to the battle, but since he went and didn't participate in any actual fighting, it was evident he did go just to save Marius, knowing that if he didn't Marius would die in battle. Of course Jean Valjean wants Cosette to be happy and Marius is her happiness at this point.

Again, I was surprised by Jean Valjean saving Javert, but I should not have been! I should know how Jean Valjean operates by now, and how good a person he is. But again, when he let Javert free I was surprised, and then immediately thought "how could I have even thought that Valjean would want to kill Javert?". I was disappointed in myself for being surprised at this scene. I think he went out of his way to save Javert because he could. Javert did not need to be killed. He was disarmed and was not in the line of fire and putting the revolutionaries in immediate danger for their lives. I think if Valjean had not saved Javert, he would have felt that he would have been a willing participant in his death, and he could not have that on his shoulders.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Linda wrote: " I was really not expecting Gavroche to be killed, it broke my heart, along with the death of Mabeuf."

The death of Gavroche was heart-breaking. Honestly, he was my favorite character in the book - slightly reckless, brave, adventurous, definitely rough, but his heart was in the right place. And now he is gone, as well as many others. Revolution is a bloody mother of her children, and many people were ground in the mill of the French Revolution.

I was also surprised about Valjean's actions, but later I criticized my own judgement because this Jean Valjean would have only acted the way he did act in the novel, and other actions would have been unimaginable. I wonder whether this Jean Valjean is able to kill anyone.


Lyndi (mibookobsession) I also was heartbroken when Gavroche died. He was my favorite character also, through all his troubles, he remained cheerful.
After Jean Valjean didn't participate in the fighting, I guessed that he would release Javert, but I was surprised that he told him where he lived. After all this time of hiding from his past, is he just going to give in? And is that why he saved Marius, because he will be gone and he knows Marius will take care of Cosette?
Hugo built up all these characters for hundreds of pages only to kill them off one by one in the space of a few chapters. Are all the characters going to die?


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Linda | 1307 comments Lyndi wrote: "Hugo built up all these characters for hundreds of pages only to kill them off one by one in the space of a few chapters. Are all the characters going to die?"

Yes, I was wondering the same thing. It seemed like at this point my heart was being ripped out by so many likeable characters dying. Gavroche dying was the worst. :(


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Lyndi wrote: "Hugo built up all these characters for hundreds of pages only to kill them off one by one in the space of a few chapters"

I hate saying goodbye to Mabeuf and Gavroche, but I think it is intentional. Sweet and happy end is not exactly Hugo's penchant if I can judge based on his other works. He even 'killed' Fantine in earlier chapters.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 456 comments I already knew Gavroche was going to die, but it still broke my heart. So full of life, so determined, so unafraid. I think it would have been unfitting if he had NOT died; Hugo is painting a picture of the awfulness of war and how it effects the ones we most want to protect, so of course Gavroche would be one of the side effects. It's tragic and horrifies us, exactly as intended. The most innocent are those who suffer the most in war and that is truly reprehensible. The fact that he dies gallantly makes it all the worse. I felt for his death far more than Eponine's, as he went selflessly and unafraid, and she went more as a lovesick women determined that if she couldn't have her man, no one else could, either.

And even knowing Valjean would go find Marius, the scene of his rescuing him and taking great lengths to ensure his safety is still a nail-biter to me. Hugo does go into ridiculous sidetracks, but he does know how to build tension all the same.

The description of the sewers I think is one of the more interesting of Hugo's bunny trails. If you think about it, the sewers of a city really tell a great deal about it, not only of its history but the kind of people who live in it now. I have to disagree about the wasting of the potential fertilizer of human waste, as I understand it's supposed to be quite bad to fertilize the soil with our own waste, but the idea of the sewer telling the story of the people is fascinating. Disgusting, to be sure, but certainly intriguing.


Deana (ablotial) The first book in this second was wonderfully tragic, the second bored me. actually, I found the first chapter about the sewers to be pretty interesting, but a whole book devoted to them was a bit too much. clearly we will next learn that this is where Valjean has taken Marius, though since it is apparently so complex down there I worry they will get lost.

Gavroche's death was horribly sad, though I suppose it was inevitable, as someone else above said. He was just to likable of a character to stick around much longer. I do hope the other Thenardier children survive the revolution, even the other girl, despite their parents. They should not be looked down on because of their parent's crimes.

I was also surprised that Valjean let Javert go, although I agree we shouldn't have been surprised given his character. I wonder what Marius was planning to do or say to Javert if he had made it over there before Valjean "shot" him.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Deana wrote: "Gavroche's death was horribly sad, though I suppose it was inevitable, as someone else above said. He was just to likable of a character to stick around much longer. ..."

As many have said - Gavroche is a real gem of a character in the novel, and everyone likes him.

I finished reading the novel three days ago (I do no think that this is too much of a spoiler), but there is absolutely no place for Gavroche in this literary future. Keeping him in the same position and role he was prior the rebellion would mean no literary development, and no resolution of the social conflict.

His death was said, but as you justly said, inevitable.


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