Thursday, 3 December 2015

Les Misérables Read-Through #11: III.ii.1 - III.iv.4

I didn't do a Read-Through post last week and I do sincerely apologize for the slacking on my end. But I had to prioritise my studies for a bit. And the fact that I am now free made me enjoy the latter part of this week's 20 chapters a lot more. Yes, we've finally gotten to the Friends of ABC and I genuinely couldn't be happier I think! There's just something about the way Victor Hugo writes these characters that feels incredibly relevant. Also, I am now even more upset at the film than I was before, because not only did the film make me dislike Jean Valjean, it also ruined Marius... who knew I would get this passionate about this book? But anyway, let's get this post on the road.

Plot Summary:
Since I started a new section in this week's section, everything that happened was very connected, unlike last week. We start off with a description of M. Gillenormand who, initially, seems like a bit of an annoying old man but OK in his own way. The descriptions of the society in which he moves reminded me a bit of Jane Austen's subversive wit where a compliment is actually usually an insult. About halfway through the this section you start to realise Gillenormand is actually something of a terrible human being and you realise poor Marius has been kept from his father on largely malicious grounds. When Marius does come to learn the truth about his father and starts changing it's something of a victory.

And then, cast out of his grandfather's house due to his new-found love to the Republic, Marius meets the Friends of ABC. They're all ridiculous characters, but in a great way. Each is an extreme in their own right but what the beauty of them is that all, except Grantaire, are united by their passion for revolution. Also, I may now ship Grantaire and Enjolras and I'm pretty sure Victor Hugo did as well.

Feel of the Chapters:
The more characters Hugo introduces the more it feels as if his heart is bleeding for all those who try so hard and have the world on their shoulders. When it comes to describing Marius' heart-ache over realizing who exactly his father is and that he was loved by him, Hugo has no remorse over making the reader feel that sadness. People are always sacrificing themselves in Les Misérables, thinking they are only harming themselves by doing so. Thankfully the Friends of ABC show up to provide some distraction from the sadness. Reading the four chapters on them so far was like walking back into a room with some of my friends at University. Everyone has opinions, everyone is slightly ridiculous and up themselves, and you can walk around a room and here everything discussed from politics to law to religion to where the next bottle of wine is coming from. It's fun, is all I can say.

General Thoughts:
  • I'm not quite sure what it was in my mind that made me think that Victor Hugo would be a staunch conservative, but I am definitely being proven wrong week by week. 
  • At a certain point Hugo points out that '[a]ll contemporary social crimes have their origin in the partition of Poland', which I just found amazing. The moment Nazi Germnay and Russia split Poland it was clear that WWII was coming and Poland has always been sort of the middle of these kind of conflicts and I love the fact that this seems to be so embedded in history.
  • Hugo still likes rambling a bit and if I wasn't as educated in the Classics (I mean Latin and Greek culture) as I am, I would be absolutely lost. His French references fly over my head anyway, but this is definitely a book that requires either an internet connection so you can look the references up, or a pool of knowledge.
  • Hugo quite often shows us characters stuck in their own lives. They somehow got trapped one day without knowing it and now can't escape or don't even know they're stuck. It's quite sad.
Something Interesting:
Yes, I finally have another one of these! Since there's such talk of revolution in these chapters, of course the year 1789, the starting year of the French Revolution, came up, so I decided to have a look at the National Assembly. Be careful, political and historical talk is about to commence.

After unsuccessful arguing in the Estates-General, the Third Estate, which represented the people, got together without the other two Estates, representing the clergy and the nobility, since their voices weren't being heard. On the 13th of June, 1789, this group started calling itself the Commons and uniting for the common people. Naturally the King, Louis XVI, was not pleased, and on the 23rd gave a speech telling them to disband. In a sign of protest, none of the Commons moved whereas the clergy and nobility did. Eventually the King gave in and the National Assembly was born. The King started to increase the number of troops in Paris, which partially led to the Storming of the Bastille on the 14th of July, which forms the starting point for the French Revolution. 

In August the same year, the National Assembly drafted and instituted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which proclaims:
'Man is born and remains free and equal in rights.'
Quotes:
'His candle was burning; he was reading, with his elbows resting on his table close to the open window. All sorts of reveries reached him from space, and mingled with his thoughts. What a spectacle is the night!' p.1078-9
I love reading at night or with an open window because your reading environment definitely adds to your reading experience. And I'd love to read by candle light...

'Youth was on the point, may the reader pardon us the word, of moulting. People were undergoing a transformation, almost without being conscious of it, through the movement of the age.' p.1101
Sometimes it very much feels as if we're on the brink of exactly the same. Moulting means the shedding of old feathers and the youth nowadays, including myself, is definitely trying to shed some of our society's old feathers. The whole world, it feels, is moving towards something and we can only hope it will turn out for the better.

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