The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

Les Misérables
This topic is about Les Misérables
19 views
2019 Group Reads - Archives > Les Miserables - Week 06 (09/08 - 09/14)

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Gem , Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gem  | 682 comments Mod
This week we see Jean Valjean escape from his imprisonment in a way that felt very James Bondesque to me along with far more details of the miserable and inhumane life Cosette has been subjected to.

We know that Javert was responsible for the capture of Jean Valjean and returning him to prison. Do you think we've seen the last of him? Since the Journal de Paris has printed an article about Jean Valjean's death is it possible that he no longer has to worry about run-ins with the law?

When Cosette has to enter the wood in the dark, what, if anything, do you think this symbolizes? What is the significance of Valjean taking the bucket Cosette was carrying? How do you feel when you read about the treatment of Cosette at the hands of the entire Thenardier family?

I struggled with the reality of Cosette trusting Jean Valjean immediately. On one hand, he's the only person who has, in her short life, ever show her any compassion and kindness. On the other hand, our known, even when the known is harmful or evil is still known to us while the unknown, no matter how appealing it may seem, is still unknown and could be a lot worse. I've seen that jade children's lives as well. How do you feel about her willingness to go with Jean Valjean, a stranger to her?


message 2: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
I was thinking that JVJ was like Spiderman, and indeed Hugo compared him to a spider when he was doing the rescue. Although he had money buried somewhere, he would have had to get there which could be a problem.

Cosette is presented like Cinderella, with 2 sisters who get all the nice things. I also wondered about her immediate trust of him, when she had hesitations about the doll and the coin. Hugo seems to say that JVJ exuded some aura that made Cosette trust him.


message 3: by Gem , Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gem  | 682 comments Mod
Robin wrote: "I was thinking that JVJ was like Spiderman, and indeed Hugo compared him to a spider when he was doing the rescue. Although he had money buried somewhere, he would have had to get there which could..."

I didn't think of the Cinderella parallel. It fits perfectly.


message 4: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments JVJ tries to be very careful and inconspicuous after his escape from Toulon, but there are several troubling things- he’s noticed by the police in Paris, followed by Boulatruelle who recognizes him from the galleys, Thenardier deduces from Boulatruelle that a man has hidden something maybe money in the woods, although he doesn’t learn his name. Thenardier is also suspicious of the money JVJ obviously has despite his clothing, and his relationship to Cosette is still mysterious to Thenardier despite the letter from Fantine.

We are given a thorough understanding of the evil natures of both Thenardiers. As Thenardier’s base nature has been unleashed by the possibility of extorting JVJ, it doesn't seem as if he would easily let it go. He is not to be trusted.
Cosette’s tortured existence under the “care” of the Thenardiers contrast with her positive feelings of hope and confidence and reassurance in regard to JVJ which seems to enter a spiritual, almost divine realm. It definitely goes beyond a realistic portrayal. JVJ becomes the “goodman” for her, her protector from the Thenardiers.

I didn’t find Cosette’s reaction to both the gold louis and the doll as illogical or incongruous with her trust in JVJ. These are expensive material items the like of which have never been in her possession. I think her fear stems from her unease at accepting ownership of such items- will she be beaten by the Thenardiers? Her subconscious belief in her unworthiness of possessing such items.

Perhaps I’m being too superficial, but I think Cosette’s illogical terror of the dark woods reflects a common fear, even among adults. The dark turns familiar objects into unexplainable, perhaps evil, apparitions. Have you ever walked alone at night and suddenly every sound, every shadow becomes ominous? Hugo wants the reader to understand, to experience her state of mind which is then so transformed by JVJ’s sudden appearance which relieves her of the burden of the bucket.


message 5: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
I agree about Cosette's reaction to the doll and the coin. She understandably has learned that anything pleasant for her incurs a punishment. Even when JVJ first tells her to play, she asks permission of Mme Thenardier. On the other hand, in real life, a child is likely to feel connected to her home, no matter how bad it is, and to fear leaving it. But Cosette has no such fear.

As far as the dark woods, most of us have no concept of how dark the world used to be before electric or even gas lighting. Once away from the village, unless there was a bright moon, you literally couldn't see anything. And Cosette had heard village superstitions about the devil and so on.


message 6: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments I was so relieved when Cosette gained her freedom. I was expecting Mr Thenardier's death by Jean Valjean, but he is too coward to fight someone who imposes a threat to him.

Unfortunately they will live unpunished for their sins against poor Cosette.


message 7: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Sep 12, 2019 09:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
Rafael wrote: "I was so relieved when Cosette gained her freedom. I was expecting Mr Thenardier's death by Jean Valjean, but he is too coward to fight someone who imposes a threat to him.

Unfortunately they will..."


You haven't seen the end of Thenardier yet! But I think it was a realistic touch that the bullying Thenardier backs down when faced with a real physical threat. He was lucky at the inn that JVJ just wanted to leave and didn't mind putting down money to speed up the process.


message 8: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments Robin wrote: "Rafael wrote: "I was so relieved when Cosette gained her freedom. I was expecting Mr Thenardier's death by Jean Valjean, but he is too coward to fight someone who imposes a threat to him.

Unfortun..."


Indeed. But I suspect that we will not see them again, but who knows?!

The money was not mine but even so it was hard to see the Thenardiers gaining money because of Cosette. It's hard to see someone who mistreats a pure child to get along with it.


message 9: by Jill (new)

Jill (ninjypants) | 17 comments Just wanted to apologize—I’ve gotten a bit behind but I’m not quitting! I’m only behind on this week’s reading but I’m out of town this weekend and then potentially have a pretty big trial coming up 10/1 and it’s taking up all my time. I will catch up!


message 10: by Gem , Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gem  | 682 comments Mod
Jill wrote: "Just wanted to apologize—I’ve gotten a bit behind but I’m not quitting! I’m only behind on this week’s reading but I’m out of town this weekend and then potentially have a pretty big trial coming u..."

No worries. The discussions will remain open, you can jump in any time with your thoughts.


message 11: by Trev (new)

Trev | 274 comments Cosette has not been shown any kindness since she left her mother. She has a grim view of the world. Her life is miserable. Even away from the Thenardiers when fetching water she is shunned or ridiculed. JVJ's kindness is a bolt out of the blue, or literally the horrible darkness, when he lifts the heavy bucket for her. His continuing bouts of kindness leading to the purchase of the doll helps Cosette to trust him. JVJ is the first person since her mother who has not treated her like a slave. She has to take the chance of freedom from the brutal oppression of the Thenardiers.


message 12: by JJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

JJ | 45 comments I would have to say that I felt afraid of the Thenardiers after reading Hugo's description. I especially did not like the wife and the way she treated Cosette. I absolutely loved how he put a gold coin in her shoe for her Christmas gift. It was heart warming to read the description of her old tattered shoe and how JVJ left her money and then slipped away. It was a relief when Cosette was finally set free.


message 13: by Gem , Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gem  | 682 comments Mod
JJ wrote: "It was a relief when Cosette was finally set free."

I agree relief describes it perfectly!


Piyangie | 135 comments I agree with Robin's comparison of Cosette to Cinderella. It is very fitting. And to me Mrs. Thenardier is worse than Cinderella's step mother. I hope somewhere down the story to hear them amply punished for their cruel treatment of the poor little girl. I too was very much relieved that she was finally rescued from that hell by JVJ.


Piyangie | 135 comments There were few comments here about Cosette's instinctive trust in JVJ. I think its intuition on the part of Cosette. We also see that Hugo takes the trouble to present JVJ as an epitome of goodness and kindness, so it is natural for Cosette to be drawn to his kindness which is a stark contrast to the Thenardiers brutality.


message 16: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Sep 27, 2019 07:05AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
Yes, the bond between JVJ and Cosette is metaphysical and symbolic. I think that is more important for Hugo than a more "modern" psychological portrayal. JVJ is atoning for the suffering Fantine went through as well as Cosette's. JVJ feels all that was partly his fault, but as a Christlike figure, he is atoning for the sins of others, which are so much greater than his own legal sins of theft.


back to top