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Les Misérables
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2019 Group Reads - Archives > Les Miserables - Week 07 (09/15 - 09/21)

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

Gem  | 685 comments Mod
This week's reading reminded me of a line from The Godfather: Part III where Micheal Corleone (played by Al Pachino) says ,“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” That has to be the way Jean Valjean felt having to flee from Javert once again.

After arriving at the Gorbeau Tenement Cosette has a fitful night's sleep, when she wakes up she has to remember what has happened to her recently was not a dream. She showers Jean Valjean with questions concluding with, "Don't you want me to sweep the floor?" She doesn't seem, at least not yet, to be convinced the changes in her life are real or permanent. What do you think will reassure her? How long do you expect it will take for her to realize things are different for her now?

It seems the lessons the Bishop taught Jean Valjean have truly taken hold. Even living at the Gorbeau Tenement which my translation describes as "the most squalid of garrets" and presenting himself a bourgeois ruined by unlucky investments he still tries to help others and became known as the "the begger who gives alms." Unfortunately, the begger whom Jean Valjean regularly bestowed alms to was actually a police informer. Why, do you think, this begger would repay Jean Valjean's kindness by turning him in to the police?

Javert makes another appearance in the story, having been transferred to Paris. His pursuit of Jean Valjean holds a lot of importance for him. How do you feel about his motives for going after Jean Valjean?

When Jean Valjean was carrying Cosette as they were fleeing it brought to mind St. Christoper who, tradition says carried the Christ child, i.e. the Savior. Cosette appears to be Jean Valjean's savior, although she is an added responsibility, she saves him from himself by opening his heart to love. Any thoughts about this?

We meet up again with Fauchelevant. Unlike Javert who is using the potential capture of Jean Valjean as a means to promote himself, Fauchelevant tries to repay the act of having his life saved by Jean Valjean with a helping hand. What does this say to you about these characters (Fauchelevant, Javert and Jean Valjean)?

Although the chapter about the convent is a bit long (with more to come in Chapter VII) I found the insight fascinating. What did you think (or learn) from this view inside the convent?


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

Robin P | 2066 comments Mod
The chase was quite engrossing. JVJ again shows his Spiderman tendencies, but he has new challenges with Cosette. I think it was brilliant the way Hugo first presented the suspicion of Javert in the beggar's face, suspicious footsteps, etc. We, like JVJ, think "No, it can't be, it must be imagination." In a later chapter, Hugo explains it all logically. It wouldn't have been anywhere near as effective if he had put that chapter first.

Fauchelevant has been in the convent for years, and therefore he knows nothing of M Madeleine's disgrace. This is of course a coincidence. But there's a certain justice in JVJ's good deeds for once giving him a later reward.


message 3: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2066 comments Mod
I don't know why Hugo spends so many pages on the convent. I wonder if his daughter went to a school like that? The schoolgirls are cute, but the rest of the description is grim. The more he described the life of the convent - restrictions, rules, punishments, etc., the more I thought it was a lot like prison. At the very end, Hugo throws in the fact that 3 women went crazy!


message 4: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments Both the beggar and the landlady betray JVJ, but for different reasons. The beggar has been a police informant, one presumes for money, so I would think Javert pays him for his cooperation. As a miserable, the beggar is just out for his own survival, nothing more. The landlady is a gossip and a snoop. In addition, she is frightened by JVJ’s hidden money so she has no qualms in sharing what she knows with Javert.

Everything that has happened to lead Javert to discover JVJ’s whereabouts is a mix of lucky coincidence, as in his reading newspaper articles, his cleverness and his obsessiveness about JVJ. If JVJ is alive that means he escaped the galleys. There is nothing less that Javert can do but bring him to justice.

JVJ has also been clever, but the victim of unfortunate circumstances just as Javert has been lucky. JVJ is lucky in finding Fauchelevent in the convent. But as Hugo has foreshadowed other events- telling us the beggar had been a police informant, someone could have been hiding behind the trees- does it mean anything when Fauchelevent scolds JVJ for forgetting the people he has helped. That this demonstrates that JVJ is ungrateful. Could this mean Fauchelevent would betray JVJ in the future?

The detailed description of the convent and the harsh life of the nuns provides the explanation for the voices which JVJ hears in the garden as well as the figure of the prostrated nun. Does the convent play a role in upcoming events and for that reason Hugo wanted the reader to understand its character just as he provided detailed background on Myriel’s life? It certainly throws light on what at least some will do to follow a life of religious devotion.

When JVJ hears the voices in the dark and mysterious garden and sees the prostrated figure, either dead or alive, in an unexplained building, he is overcome with the same sort of terror that Cosette experiences in the woods. He is so emotionally wrought he doesn’t even know if he is awake or dreaming.

The nature of this secretive life have bonded JVJ and Cosette together in a way that a more conventional life would not have done. They both serve as saviors for the other. Hugo makes that clear when the narrator informs us that Myriel’s influence has been weakening. Cosette is a savior because of his fatherly love for her, his determination that she should be the focus of his life from now on. The same is true for Cosette. She loves JVJ as if he were her natural father. She has implicit trust in him as any child would for a parent.


Piyangie | 145 comments I enjoyed Javert's pursuit of JVJ and how JVJ outmaneuvered Javert. That part was quite intense and dramatic. I can honestly say my pulse were racing while I read this part. :)

I also loved reading about the bond that is developing between Cosette and JVJ. Cosette gave JVJ a motive to live on a virtuous life, if not for him then for her sake. Otherwise despair would have turned him bitter and cold once again.


Piyangie | 145 comments I still cannot fully understand Javert. Yes he wants to get credit for his work and possibly aiming for promotion. But at times his animal pleasure in pursuing JVJ gave me the idea of a some kind of hatred towards the likes of JVJ.


Piyangie | 145 comments Book 6 was long winded. It was hard to grasp all those details about the convent. And most of the part of it was bleak. As Robin has mentioned, the more I read of the details I too felt that those nuns were living in a prison than in a convent. My edition has an explanatory note on this which states that Hugo created this order and the convent. I don't know if it is true. I'm happy if it was an exaggeration. I wouldn't want to think that such a convent truly existed.


message 8: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2066 comments Mod
I agree that Javert's hatred is irrational. But the fact that he once identified his prey, then thought he was wrong and let him go, really pushes him. He was right all along and he feels he was tricked or ridiculed.


message 9: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments Piyangie wrote: "Book 6 was long winded. It was hard to grasp all those details about the convent. And most of the part of it was bleak. As Robin has mentioned, the more I read of the details I too felt that those ..."
In another post I mentioned that I recently read The Nun by Diderot. Unfortunately, the lives of the nuns in these convents were truly horrific (at least to contemporary outsiders). Total self sacrifice in the name of religious devotion.


message 10: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments Piyangie wrote: "I still cannot fully understand Javert. Yes he wants to get credit for his work and possibly aiming for promotion. But at times his animal pleasure in pursuing JVJ gave me the idea of a some kind o..."
Javert does have an obsessive hatred of JVJ but he sees it in a positive light as the fulfillment of his duty to the law to which he is utterly devoted. In Javert’s eyes, JVJ is incapable of being redeemed. He will always be the evil convict JVJ, an abomination to a law abiding society.


message 11: by JJ (last edited Oct 05, 2019 06:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

JJ | 45 comments Things have been crazy busy lately, but hopefully I can catch back up this week. My schedule is packed with work, school, and family.

Reading about the convent was dreary. In chapter IV of book six there was a part as follows.
"Madame Campan reports that a "little girl" seven years o;d said to a "big girl" of sixteen who was leading the procession, while she, the little one, remained in the rear, "You're a virgin, but not me."
So was this referring to some discrepancies within the establishment? As we know know that there are plenty of discrepancies in the treatment of children in such institutions. Abuse and such.

That whole chapter didn't make a whole lot of sense.


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

JJ | 45 comments Piyangie wrote: "I enjoyed Javert's pursuit of JVJ and how JVJ outmaneuvered Javert. That part was quite intense and dramatic. I can honestly say my pulse were racing while I read this part. :)

I also loved readin..."


I would have to agree. Reading about the pursuit was much more enjoyable than some of the other parts of this week's reading.


message 13: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2066 comments Mod
JJ wrote: "Things have been crazy busy lately, but hopefully I can catch back up this week. My schedule is packed with work, school, and family.

Reading about the convent was dreary. In chapter IV of book s..."


The little girl's comment was supposed to be humorous. She didn't know what "virgin" meant and had only heard the word used to refer to older girls so she thought she wasn't one. There are a couple of other "cute" sayings by the girls in that section. It doesn't imply any evildoing, although there might have been some for all we know.


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