Is Marius a Gary-Stu?

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Marianne
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Is Marius a Gary-Stu?

Postby Marianne » Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:05 am

So it is 1:30 in the morning in Paris and I should be packing for my flight home tomorrow, but instead I am sitting here ruminating on Hugo's treatment of Marius. I mean, there's a recurring joke in the fandom that Marius is Hugo's Gary-Stu because he is such a transparent avatar for young!Vic, but is self-insertion all it takes to push a character into Sue/Stu land?

There are loads of definitions of what makes a Mary Sue, but let's take the one most likely to apply to Marius, and say that a Sue (or a Stu) is an author avatar that ranges from 'rather idealized' to 'unrealistically flawless.' Is Marius an author avatar? Well, yeah, obviously. But is he an unduly idealized version of young Hugo?

He certainly gets sympathetic treatment in the novel, as one of the main protagonists. Hugo goes on at length about what a fine young man he becomes. Maybe it's because of the narrative praise for him that the fandom is so eager to tear him to bits--I've seen him called an idiot with his head in the clouds, a hypocritical rich boy playing at being poor, not the sharpest bayonet in the arsenal, and above all a dickwad jerkface meanie-pie for shunning Valjean. Obviously the boy has flaws. But then again, so do Javert and Enjolras and all the other characters that get fangirled shamelessly. Why does Marius simultaneously get flak for being a Gary-Stu and for being flawed? Is it because Hugo never comes right out and calls him a dickwad jerkface meanie-pie? And that just raises the question: do you really think Hugo, who spent a thousand pages and change building up sympathy for Valjean, was unaware that Marius came off looking pretty callous in that part?

This is why I tend not to think Marius is really a Gary-Stu--he's an avatar, yes, but he's also a fairly well-balanced portrait of the author as a young man (hur hur). Hugo treats him sympathetically, but not with unequivocal praise, and he's not afraid to portray Marius (and by extension his younger self) being broody, or kinda dumb where the real world is concerned, or amusingly awkward in love, or even a bourgeois meanieface who doesn't want a convict under his roof. (I think at that point Marius is also intended to represent the book's intended audience, as in "here's this amazing dude called Valjean, let me write about his awesomeness for a thousand pages, and now look what you normal people with your prejudices and your sensibilities would do to him," but Hugo had some pretty stuffy bourgeois sensibilities in his youth too so the self-insert still stands.) I do think Marius is idealized in other ways, most notably in being all pure and virginal whereas Hugo was a horny old goat, but I don't think that's an area where modern readers would fault him either way.

Your thoughts on the matter, O Abaissé?
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Postby Schmerg_The_Impaler » Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:40 am

I think the thing is, Marius is a fully flawed character like any other character, BUT, Hugo obviously loves him so much that he goes on and on about how great he is. He even directly contradicts Marius' typical behaviour. Marius will be a bit of a jerk to Éponine, and then the narrative would say, "Now, normally, Marius would NEVER do this, but he was preoccupied." And he'd do this every time something like that happened. Or he'd say, "Marius was way too lazy and dreamy... BUT ONLY TEMPORARILY! IF ANY SITUATION HAPPENED, HE'D SNAP OUT OF IT." But he totally never does.

Now, I have to say, I love Marius. I like him because he's so awkward and such a dork and so convinced that he knows everything there is to know about the world-- he's a boy who thinks he's a man.

I think that Marius is an idealized self-insert of Hugo, but I think that he doesn't suffer from Stu-ism, just from the author contradicting his personality in the narrative. Whenever Marius makes a mistake or does something stupid, the author always covers it up, like he's feebly apologizing for his own mistakes.

I honestly think that Marius being so pure and virginal is supposed to be funny, though. On one hand, it makes a pure and beautiful romance, but it also makes Marius' scenes with Cosette all the more hilarious and awkwkard. The way Hugo worded it made it sound like he was sarcastically mocking his younger self, and I liked it better that way than when he was praising Marius' sterling qualities.
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Postby Ulkis » Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:37 am

And that just raises the question: do you really think Hugo, who spent a thousand pages and change building up sympathy for Valjean, was unaware that Marius came off looking pretty callous in that part?


Yeah, I think he was aware. Otherwise he wouldn't've wrote the chapter called "Pity for the Unhappy, Indulgence for the Happy", explaining why we shouldn't be too harsh on Marius and Cosette.

As for whether Marius is a Gary-Stu I go back and forth on this. I think there is only one part where I roll my eyes at him; it's when Hugo talks about how Marius could earn more and start living somewhere else, but he didn't want to be a slave to earning large wages all the time and so purposefully stayed poor so he had more freedom to do what he wanted. It was basically why Marius refused to give into The Man.

But overall I'd have to say no. If he *was* a Gary-Stu we would have Marjolas in the book as well as we do in some of the films.

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Postby Sieglinde » Fri Aug 15, 2008 10:15 am

Hugo find always excuses for Marius, but it doesn't make me to forgive him. Poor Valjean suffered a lot because of this dolt. :evil:

I don't know what Cosette and Ponine see in him...

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Postby Schmerg_The_Impaler » Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:53 pm

Well *I* like him. I'd just like him a lot more if Hugo didn't keep directly contradicting his personality traits. Marius is still one of my favourites because he's such a hopeless loser who's such a hopeless loser that he doesn't even realize that he is, in fact, a hopeless loser, and I find that endearing.

Yeah, in response to what Ulkis said about Marjolras, it was a stirring moment when Marius came up to the barricade and yelled, "KAY, WELL, IF Y'ALL DON'T SIMMER DOWN, I'M BLOWIN' UP THIS JOINT, YA HEAR?" Well, not those exact words, but you know what I mean. Marius is not the type of person to do anything bold (not that he's not brave, just not... bold), so this is his finest moment. If Marius were a total Gary-Stu, it wouldn't come as a surprise that he'd do something like this, because that's What A Man Does, or something.

I didn't hate Marius when he told Jean to go away-- after all, that was really what Jean wanted (even if his heart told him otherwise), and it was the sensible thing to do. And I thought it was really funny when he was doing such passive things to keep him away as not lighting the fire and moving the armchair farther away. That's exactly the sort of means Marius would take... just like throwing the paper into the Gorbeau house with Éponine's note on it, and just like his way of stalking Cosette; doing everything in an indirect, sneaky way.

One thing that I think is well-written about Marius is the way he treats different people, well, differently, just like real people do. A lot of book characters are always nice or always mean or always joking, or what have you. The way Marius treats Gillenormand is different from how he treats Cosette, which is different from how he treats Éponine, which is different from how he treats Valjean, which is different from how he treats Courfeyrac, which is different from how he treats Mabeuf. Marius is a more three-dimensional person than that.

In closing-- my very favourite Marius scene in the book is (in the Fahnestock-MacAfee translation):
He raised his eyes, loked straight at his grandfather, and cried in a thundering voice, "Down with the Bourbons, and that great hog Louis XVIII!" Louis XVIII had been dead for four years, but that made no difference to him.

CLASSIC MARIUS. Incidentally, my younger brother (who has only seen the musical) thinks Marius is hilarious and has a special nickname for him-- Emcee Pontmercy, or MC MP.
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Postby Sieglinde » Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:28 pm

Marius yelling things against the king is great. And also his entrance to the barricade.

But he sooo like my ex. :P


Oh, and I adore his scene with Javert. He tries to give counsels to a professional. :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Postby Viorica » Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:19 pm

Incidentally, my younger brother (who has only seen the musical) thinks Marius is hilarious and has a special nickname for him-- Emcee Pontmercy, or MC MP.


. . . I just had a vision of Marius in the Kit Kat Club. XD

Anyway, I don't see Marius as a Gary-Stu. I think he's a self insert in a lot of ways, but I doubt Hugo lacked self-awareness to the point where he didn't realize it. After all, there's no chapter entitled "Why I- I Mean, Marius- Is The Bestest Person Ever, And Here's Why".
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Postby Mamselle Miss » Fri Aug 15, 2008 5:58 pm

Oh, and I adore his scene with Javert. He tries to give cousels to a professional.


I love that scene too. The look Javert gives him, that 'Are you kidding me? I've been doing this job longer than you've been alive!' look. At least that's what I picture.

Anyway.

Marius as Stu. I can see where some people might get the idea that Marius is too good to be true. After all, he does come across as incredibly virtuous. But he does have his flaws. He becomes very cold toward Valjean, and he feels a little too proud in his dealings with his grandfather. But he is also very much a product of his time. The whole book is actually. So in the end I don't see him being much of a Sue. An avatar for Hugo, yes. But not a Sue.
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Postby lesmisloony » Sun Aug 17, 2008 5:47 am

My problem with Marius (um, I love the way he treats Éponine and I totally understand the way he treats Valjean) is that he teaches himself German in, like, a week. And then English.

(That happens, doesn't it? It's been a while.)
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Postby Sieglinde » Sun Aug 17, 2008 9:50 am

Well, a Sue wouldn't be cold with Eppie and Valjean, he/she would be totally understanding. :twisted: So Marius isn't a Sue.

I am so angry with him because of Valjean. Okay, Valjean is sometimes too saintly and he didn't tell the whole story. But Marius is soooo... come on, he is the only man who thinks Thénardier rocks. :lol: Although he saw what kind of man the SOB is. But he discriminates Valjean.

Sometimes I have the heretic thought that Hugo had no patience at the end of the book. He is like: "Okay, let Valjean suffer once again and finish this" and hey, saintly hero's reaction to Javert's death was TOTALLY OOC. That's just not him. He should've lamented for a long chapter and thinking about what did he wrong...

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Postby Ulkis » Sun Aug 17, 2008 7:29 pm

My problem with Marius (um, I love the way he treats Éponine and I totally understand the way he treats Valjean) is that he teaches himself German in, like, a week. And then English.

(That happens, doesn't it? It's been a while.)


Ha! Yes, yes it does. I remember reading that part in the book and thinking, "alrighty then!" Let's just assume he only had to translate one sentence at a time when he started the job. :)

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Postby Schmerg_The_Impaler » Mon Aug 18, 2008 2:05 am

Well, he's translating FROM German and English INTO French, if I'm correct. So I'd imagine he was just sitting there with a language dictionary translating back and forth. He just had to have a rudimentary grasp of vocab-- he wouldn't need to know any grammar or syntax if he was just translating.

It's so sad how I constantly defend Marius... I guess I find it impossible to dislike any character ever played by Michael Ball.
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Postby MmeJavert » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:22 am

Er. Have you ever translated anything more significant than a sentence or two at a time? Because you definitely need to have a more than rudimentary grasp of grammar to translate. A lot of languages have idioms that cannot be exactly translated into any other language; some languages have grammatical constructions which other languages don't. Certain verb tenses which exist in one language may not exist in other languages, etc. It takes a lot more than a language dictionary to make proper translations. I highly doubt that the people Marius was doing translated work for wanted literal word-by-word translations; they would've wanted clear, accurate, and well-flowing French versions of the English/German text.

Shall I give you a Latin dictionary and a volume of Virgil, and see how you make out with that? Because I spent several years learning Latin grammar and I still had some difficulty translating Virgil's constructions. And I was pretty damned good at learning grammar and vocabulary.
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Postby Schmerg_The_Impaler » Mon Aug 18, 2008 1:07 pm

Mmm. I see what you mean. I just meant that I have a significantly easier time translating from German to English than vice versa, and I have a little sister who took French 1 (but no further classes) and can translate from French to English really well, but can barely write in French, so I'm guessing that he didn't have to be fully proficient in the languages to do translations. And I guess since the languages are German and English, they have a lot in common, so it's easier to learn the both of them than, say, Italian and Japanese.

You're right, though... if Marius has the power to learn languages that fast, why is he such an idiot at pretty much everything else?

Then again, no one ever said Marius was very GOOD at what he did... :D

Do you think he ever ended up being an 'actual' lawyer? Somehow, I can't imagine it.
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Postby Frédéric Dumont » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:16 pm

That translation of articles thing seems to have been common practice in those times. In the Habsburg monarchy (yes, it's spelled Habsburg actually, no idea what dork came up with the p you see so often in English :roll:) most newspapers has people translate articles from French or English into German (or Czech, or Hungarian, etc) simply because it was cheaper, and who was to check if it was a correct translation or not? I guess there were loads of mistranslations.

No, I don't think Marius is a Gary Stu. Self-insert, yes, sort of, though in a slighjtly parodistic while at the same time moralised way (funny feat, that :) ). As some have pointed out already, Marius has too many characteristics to be just a cliché blank sheet walking. Unlike your random Sue character, he is capable of being mean, he is naive (wouldn't a Sue be oh so streetwise and stuff?), he wouldn't be shown making mistakes or hesitating for ages, and of course he would see Thénardier right through and punish him.
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