Is Marius a Gary-Stu?

Any discussion related to Victor's Hugo's Les Misérables, in any language.
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SylvieProuvaire1832
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Postby SylvieProuvaire1832 » Mon Aug 18, 2008 4:10 pm

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?


Perhaps Marius is an idiot-savant? ...just kidding.

I don't think that book-Marius is a Gary-Stu. If he were, he'd be more like the Marjolras from the 1998 movie, and perhaps that's one of the reason people hate Marjolras so much. Not only is it a sloppy, badly-done combination of two characters, but it makes an otherwise flawed, real character into a perfect-in-theory romantic lead.
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Postby Marianne » Mon Aug 18, 2008 4:37 pm

Schmerg_The_Impaler wrote: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?


But he wasn't an idiot at everything else. He could be pretty clueless when it came to interacting with other people, mostly because he appeared to have his head in the clouds 95% of the time, but that doesn't have any bearing on his ability to, say, learn a language. Or pass the bar.

As for learning English and German in a week--maybe not a week, but once you've got a grip on the rudiments of a language it's not too hard to do quick and shoddy translations into your native language with the aid of a dictionary. It's easier if you've studied a language before, and I assume Marius had had Latin crammed down his throat at some point. In any case, I can translate Dutch and Spanish with a dictionary...
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Postby sophiedegrouchy » Mon Aug 18, 2008 9:26 pm

Evidently Vic never read the rule that self-inserts are all automatic Sues/Stus.

This seems like a time to...whip out the Llosa!
"By contrast [to the gods and demons dominating the novel], the most human characters in the novel, who show indecision, incoherence, and nuanced or complex actions, seem mediocre in comparision to the more mythical characters. Marius is a good example. (...) This mediocre and noondescript figure, with all his hesitations and confustion, is the most "realist" character in the novel in that his actions are ambiguous and not obviously predictable, for it is in this ambiguity that we can recognize the unpredicatblility and relativity of real life. Marius seems of lesser stature because his is merely a man in a world of giants... (...) This ambiguity should make us sympathetic toward him, since his is so much like us, but instead, we find him irritating and unreal. Compared with the convincing heroes that surround him and demand our love and attention through their eloquence, Marius's normality seems abnormal" (Llosa, 58-60)

There are some things that Llosa says that make me want to chuck him across the room, but he has a point here. I'm certainly willing to accept that Hugo used his younger self as inspiration for Marius (even down to the purity - again from Llosa: "He was a twenty-year-old virgin when he married Adele Foucher, but from the wedding night on, he began to make up for lost time."), but Vic didn't fall prey to the temptation to touch up his self-portrait, as it were. All Marius-hatred I've heard stems from the times he acts like a mentally disabled jerk, not from the fact that he's somehow overly perfect. Plenty of others (Myriel comes to mind) show more superhuman perfection than dear Doltboy.

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Postby bigR » Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:30 am

I couldn’t agree more, Pie!
I was about to quote Vargas Llosa aswell!, but you saved me from translating it. I also feel like shouting at him sometimes (his opinions on éponine? Please!), but I think he really hits a point here, when he says that Marius is surrounded by Super Humans (in the nietzschean sense): Valjean, javert, Enjolras… and then there he is, all plain human and flawled trying to catch our sympathies. I always wonder why so many people think that the characters in Les Misérables are so extraordinary complex. 99% of the characters in the brick are totally flat. (that’s the main thing I disliked when I first read it. I was expecting some Flaubert, Stendhal, Maupassant, Balzac…, and instead I had to face that: sort of moral fable populated by flat unrealistic characters) . Marius is an exception among the main characters. And for some reason it doesn’t really work.

Marius purity: well, yes, that’s young Hugo. He was a virgin when he married Adèle. There is even this letter he sent her when he was 20, where he says that he would despise a woman who accepted to marry a man who wasn’t pure and virginal (we certainly can’t accuse Hugo of being sexist, can we?).

Nevertheless, I am one of the people who hate Marius. But not because of the way he treated Valjean. I perfectly understand it. Come on! Even nowadays people have a lot of prejudices, but that was the 19th century. Your position in society could be threatened by so many things. And to worry about that wasn’t frivolous or snobbish. It was real life. Social rules were strict. Also, nobody seems to remember that Marius thinks that Valjeans has killed Madelaine and that cosette’s fortune is stolen money. Who would want such a person under his roof? Even so, I think that he is very tactfull with Cosette, he maneouvres so that she isn’t hurt and doesn’t miss her “father”. What I don’t really get his moral issues about Valjean killing Javert at the barricade. Hello, boy, you also shoot people at the barricade, didn’t you? And Javert’s execution was ordered and approved by your friends, remember?

Anyway, if I dislike Marius it is not because of the way he treats Valjean but because of the way he behaves before the barricades. He is SO annoying, and over dramatic, and so self-centered, and he thinks that he and his feelings are SO important. In short, I dislike him because of the pretended over sensibily that prevents him to understand his grand-father (come on, you’re just a chicken, boy! I could understand it when you were 7. But you are 18 and you don’t understand that your grand-father loves you?), because of his exagerated devotion to his father, because he is boooooring, and brooding, and unable to relate to anyone who is happy or positive, because he can’t do anything but think about himself for 4 years, because he is unbearably prudish, and stuck-up, and he thinks that he is better than anyone else.
I like his clumsiness, and I smile at things like his going out only at night because his coat is green. But that’s all.
I think that my main problem with Marius is that, being the only really human and complex main character in the whole brick, I feel that I should be able to relate to him. But I just can’t. I just can’t relate to that boring boy who willingly spends 4 years on his own, and spends his evenings with retired old generals. I just don’t understand him.
Of course, I am aware that Marius’s character belongs to a certain period and is prototipically romantic. He is the heir of Werther, and all those romantics suicidals… But I just can’t relate or like him.

About Hugo being unaware that Marius would be an unsympathetic character, well, let’s face it, Hugo was monstrously full of himself. His voice in Les Misérables is like the voice of God. He though of himself as someone inconmensurably important and an admirable person. He probably never though that his youth flaws would make him, or his character, unlikable.

Gary-stu? Well, Marius is certainly the idealized version of young Hugo. He has some small flaws, but his flaws remind me of a hot-tempered, or atoo impulsive Mary-Sue. Little things that make him more charming. Nothing really bad. He even gets to play revolutionary, something that Hugo never did. Oh! and his dark thick hair! That’s the more gary-stuish thing ever. Specially if you remember that Hugo was half bald!

And Marius intellectual achievements have something gary-stuish about them too. Yes Hugo was a very brilliant student. So, he didn’t really idealised Marius. But. Hugo also had intellectual weakenesses. And it is really interesting what he did with them.
When I was writing Grantaire’s intro for the masterwork, I read his sentence about his father and mathematics, and I made up that grantaire’s father wanted him to get into the école polytechnique but he never had a chance because he was so bad at mathematics. Well, afterwards I found this anotated french edition online where they explain that this was actually what happened to Hugo (and then I read a little more about it in his bio). Apparently his father wanted him and his brother to get into the Polytechenique, and he had them both taking a lot of mathematics lessons every day (and by a lot, I mean, 4 or 5 hours, six days a week!!!), but Hugo was completely hopeless and never had any chance to enter the school. And what does Hugo do in Les Mis? He transfers his own real flaws to another character! (by the way, am I good reading between the lines or not! I totally guessed what that sentence was about . Yep. I’m stupidly proud of myself and my reading skills :mrgreen: )

So, my vote is: Yes! Marius is a Gary-Stu
Last edited by bigR on Tue Oct 14, 2008 4:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Mamselle Miss » Tue Aug 19, 2008 3:22 am

Anyway, if I dislike Marius it is not because of the way he treats Valjean but because of the way he behaves before the barricades. He is SO annoying, and over dramatic, and so self-centered, and he thinks that he and his feelings are SO important. In short, I dislike him because of the pretended over sensibility that prevents him to understand his grand-father (come on, you're just a chicken, boy! I could understand it when you were 7. But you are 18 and you don't understand that your grand-father loves you?), because of his exagerated devotion to his father, because he is boooooring, and brooding, and unable to relate to anyone who is happy or positive, because he can't do anything but think about himself for 4 years, because he is unbearably prudish, and stuck-up, and he thinks that he is better than anyone else.


He is the heir of Werther, and all those romantics suicidals



Thank you for reminding me of those passages bigR. Marius is exactly that. He is almost a textbook example of the tragic romantic hero. The type that is always going off the emotional deep end. I particularly remember the scene just before he goes to his grandfather's. Where Cosette tells him that she is going to England. The boy practically throws a temper tantrum, like a spoiled kid who doesn't get the toy he wanted for Christmas! It's bloody annoying. To my way of thinking, the only reason he goes to the barricade at all is because he can't have Cosette. You can practically hear him saying "Well, if I can't have her...I'll just go and get myself killed! That'll show them that I was serious!" Then of course when he gets there, he sits down and angsts about how his father would give him a scolding because he isn't going to join his friends for the right reason.

So, yes. Bloody annoying a good portion of the time, but I still don't see him as that much of a Sue. Just a self-centered spoiled brat.

Oh, and bigR? That thing with Hugo and your Grantaire having practically the same education experience? Scary good on your part. :D
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Postby sophiedegrouchy » Tue Aug 19, 2008 4:40 am

Forgot this in the earlier post...
Re: inexpert translators
I was reading something earlier this summer (Crime and Punishment, or perhaps a Balzac?) in which a character worked as a translator. He said that he understood some of what he was translating, and what he didn't, he extrapolated/made up, figuring that it was probably better than the original. :P Moral of the story: translation-based employment, at least by some standards, didn't necessarily demand fluency. Mind, I bet that Marius would be mortified to even dream of taking certain, eh, artistic liberties, so it's probably a moot point anyway, but it entertained me regardless.


Barricade Marius really is a pain, isn't he? When Enjolras declares that he is the leader (or is it chief?), a little part of me screams WTF NOOOOO and dies. I mean, he shouldn't even be trusted with his own life, let alone the lives of others, especially when he just views the barricade as a convenient form of suicide.

I suppose what his biggest problem is, isn't his human failings, nor his sudden (self-centered) heroics, but rather the fact that the two of them clash uncomfortably. I'm willing to accept that he went to the barricade to die, but stumble when he apparently undergoes some sort of transformation, so that, by the end, he's reached the point of "There is nothing so fearful as a dreamer in action" (or something to that effect; I'm too lazy to look up the real quotation). Were he a full Stu, he'd fit in; were he a normal human, we could sympathize with him. Instead, by falling in the middle, he becomes neither, and so we can neither admire him as an idol nor accept him as one of us.

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Postby Sieglinde » Tue Aug 19, 2008 11:16 am

I think all what Marius needs is to be slapped. And somebody who yells his head off: "Open your eyes, you DOLT, and see the truth!"

Cosette should've done it.

He's totally annoying. I hate this type of men... in our days, there are a lot of Marius-type boys. And we don't have too many Enjys.

And discrimination... well, I think Snookums could teach him one or two things. He, at least, didn't need Thénardier to understand he was wrong.

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Postby Schmerg_The_Impaler » Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:38 pm

But he wasn't an idiot at everything else. He could be pretty clueless when it came to interacting with other people, mostly because he appeared to have his head in the clouds 95% of the time, but that doesn't have any bearing on his ability to, say, learn a language. Or pass the bar.

Oh, I know! I just meant that Marius... fails at REAL life. As in, he never remembers to eat dinner and walks around looking raggedy in fields daydreaming about a girl he hasn't seen in a year. And keeps giving money to a creepy old crook who likes to hang around in his wife's clothes.

But anyways, awww, Marius is cuddly, you guys. He's like a little puppy that pees all over the rug and chews the room to shreds, and then looks up at you like, "What?"

But I agree with BigR, in a way. Most of the characters are fairly flat and idealized-- even Valjean-- but Marius is a strange combination between being extremely realistic and quite unrealistic (at least, by modern standards), so I guess that throws people off. A lot of Marius' emotions and interactions are all too real and reminds us (or at least, me!) of ourselves, but sometimes, he'll do something that no one, no matter how pure or brave or wonderful would do-- HOWEVER. I love him for this. Not many people can pull off being cold and stiff and ALSO being incredibly overdramatic and overly romantic!
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Postby Ulkis » Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:13 pm

I was reading some of the book last night, and there was more evidence, for me, that Marius is not a Gary Stu: it was after Marius has been seeing Cosette for a while, and he runs into Éponine again, and the next sentence is (paraphrase), "now we must present Marius as he was. Even the memory of his father paled in comparison to his love affair with Cosette", and goes on to say how he couldn't even bring himself to act friendly to Éponine even though he owed his present happiness to her.

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Postby lesmisloony » Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:49 pm

I love Marius, but in the way Schmerg said... he's like a cocker spaniel puppy sometimes. Except I also get the impression that he takes himself (and his love for Cosette) EXTREMELY seriously.
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Postby Schmerg_The_Impaler » Sat Nov 08, 2008 9:02 pm

Except I also get the impression that he takes himself (and his love for Cosette) EXTREMELY seriously.

Honestly, that's what I love most about him. He's this kid who's convinced that he's all done growing up. Maybe it's because my favourite character that I'VE created in my own writing, Jordan, is bizarrely like Marius-- this really awkward, nerdy young thing who takes himself incredibly seriously and is perplexed when other people don't. And I invented Jo-Jo a long time before I read Les Misérables, so the similarity was purty darn striking when I read the book. *Dork!Glomps Marius and Jo-Jo*
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Postby Ulkis » Sat Nov 08, 2008 10:59 pm

Except I also get the impression that he takes himself (and his love for Cosette) EXTREMELY seriously.


Oh, definitely.

Gillenormand: Why don't you just make her your mistress?
Marius: OMG U DID NOT JUST SAY THAT WTF. I AM DE-FRIENDING YOU!

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Postby Marianne » Sat Nov 08, 2008 11:03 pm

lesmisloony wrote:Except I also get the impression that he takes himself (and his love for Cosette) EXTREMELY seriously.


Yeah, but Hugo doesn't take him nearly so seriously. In fact he pokes fun at Marius for it.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

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Postby bigR » Thu Mar 26, 2009 6:07 pm

errr, I just took the Litmus Sue test. As if I was Victor Hugo and I was testing my character Marius Pontmercy. I tried to answer everything as honestly as possible and I got:
Score: 72
71 points or more: Irredeemable-Sue. You're going to have to start over, my friend. I know you want to keep writing, but no. Just no.
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Postby Euphrasie » Thu Mar 26, 2009 8:21 pm

Schmerg_The_Impaler wrote:
But he wasn't an idiot at everything else. He could be pretty clueless when it came to interacting with other people, mostly because he appeared to have his head in the clouds 95% of the time, but that doesn't have any bearing on his ability to, say, learn a language. Or pass the bar.

Oh, I know! I just meant that Marius... fails at REAL life. As in, he never remembers to eat dinner and walks around looking raggedy in fields daydreaming about a girl he hasn't seen in a year. And keeps giving money to a creepy old crook who likes to hang around in his wife's clothes.


That's what I do in a day.


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