1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Abaissé re-reads the novel in its entirety! All welcome, no matter whether you're reading in French or some other translation. Discussion topics for each step along the way.

Moderators: Charlette-Ollie, Ulkis, Frédérique

Ulkis
Posts: 1342
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 3:41 am

1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Postby Ulkis » Thu Oct 07, 2010 3:48 am

Volume 1: Fantine, book 4: To Trust is Sometimes to Surrender

Chapters:

1. Une mère qui en rencontre une autre/A meeting between mothers
2. Première esquisse de deux figures louches/First sketch of two mean figures
3. L'Alouette/The lark

A short book, but in it we meet the Thenardiers, and Fantine trusts the wrong people yet again.

User avatar
Aurelia Combeferre
Posts: 8847
Joined: Mon Nov 13, 2006 9:57 am
Location: somewhere with the abased
Contact:

Re: 1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Thu Oct 07, 2010 4:55 am

Oh this book. I remember our teacher making a point of this quote:

A person sitting instead of standing: fate hangs on such a thread

The best way to sum up Hugo's Law of Coincidences. :D
"...all aptitudes having equal opportunity; politically, all votes having equal weight; religiously, all consciences having equal rights."

collectingbees
Posts: 491
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:23 pm
Location: this chamber has no windows and no doors..

Re: 1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Postby collectingbees » Thu Oct 07, 2010 6:48 am

Although I think the Thénardiers are rotten to the core, I am rather partial to them at this point in the story just because they are still a touch ridiculous. One of my favourite expressions in the English language ever is in this section: "with the chaste immodesty of an infant" referring to the exposed tummy of one of the Thénardier girls (whom I cannot remember at the moment).

I second the comment about Fantine trusting the wrong people. What is up with that?

User avatar
Aurelia Combeferre
Posts: 8847
Joined: Mon Nov 13, 2006 9:57 am
Location: somewhere with the abased
Contact:

Re: 1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Thu Oct 07, 2010 2:03 pm

The Thenardier girl with her stomach bared is Azelma.

I suppose that Fantine trusting the wrong people is part of illustrating her basic naivete, or her ability to (usually) think the best of people at least until she is proved wrong. She is guileless to the core, even to the end.
"...all aptitudes having equal opportunity; politically, all votes having equal weight; religiously, all consciences having equal rights."

Ulkis
Posts: 1342
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 3:41 am

Re: 1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Postby Ulkis » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:07 pm

I second the comment about Fantine trusting the wrong people. What is up with that?


I didn't even realize it until now. She just got screwed over by Tholomyes, and now she immediately falls into a trap again. I wonder, from the perspective of a 19th century reader, would Fantine look as naive as she does to me? I wonder if Hugo wouldn't've been better off having Fantine leave Cosette with a friend or a relative who turned out not to be so nice. At least Fantine then would have had better reason to think they could trust that person.

Although I think the Thénardiers are rotten to the core, I am rather partial to them at this point in the story just because they are still a touch ridiculous.


I like their exchange at the end of the chapter. "Nice trap you set"/"And not even meaning to". That said, the Thenardiers are eeeeeevil. :) Reading the next book I get a little enraged at them, in the love-to-hate way. It's a shame Hugo disposes of Mme with just a line.

This is where the story really got going for me, because as soon as I started reading this book I read through the next one too.

collectingbees
Posts: 491
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:23 pm
Location: this chamber has no windows and no doors..

Re: 1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Postby collectingbees » Fri Oct 08, 2010 12:56 am

The introduction of Valjean kick-starts the book for me, but this section just accelerates in complexity (read: awesome) at this point. I have to say, I love how evil the Thénardiers are, I really do. It's an unbelievable and yet-so-very-believable evil that isn't just ill-will or misguided: it pure darkness. Although it's very unlike book!them, I think that they make terribly good comic characters. Their juxtaposition is just funny enough naturally the way Hugo describes it to make it work. Mme. Thénardier is terrifying, but hilariously so: I mean, the protruding tooth, wild hair, being described as an ogre. She's meant to be forbidding and frightening, but such a description, IDK, just lends itself to being funny.

It also occurred to me that I love that they hate each other. Moreso, I think Mme. Thénardier hates men, which she transferred onto Gavorche and the other boys (but mostly Gavroche at this point). She already hated him at this stage, but it becomes more noticeable later on.

AC: Leave to Azelma to have an exposed tummy!

User avatar
Lara
Posts: 304
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 10:12 pm
Contact:

Re: 1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Postby Lara » Fri Oct 08, 2010 1:46 am

I go back and forth between loving to hate the Thenardiers, and then just downright being disgusted by how horrible they are. I like Mme. Thenardier a lot more than her husband.

And I agree about Fantine. I know Hugo's trying to prove a point about how naive and clueless she is, but it's just common sense to not ditch your child with the first stranger who looks like they are good with kids. We are looking at this from a modern perspective, but things weren't exactly sunshine and unicorns back then either. (Seriously, just google Amelia Dyer.)

Ulkis
Posts: 1342
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 3:41 am

Re: 1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Postby Ulkis » Fri Oct 08, 2010 3:19 am

It also occurred to me that I love that they hate each other. Moreso, I think Mme. Thénardier hates men, which she transferred onto Gavorche and the other boys (but mostly Gavroche at this point). She already hated him at this stage, but it becomes more noticeable later on.


When Fantine meets them, I don't think they hate each other, although I certainly don't think they have a particular fondness for one another. Mme seems to care for him, at least respect him. She probably stops when she finally realizes he won't ever be able to permanently support the family. He seems indifferent to her both in this book and later on. It would have been interesting to know how the Thenardiers came to be together in the first place because I really can't imagine how or why they did so.

User avatar
Aurelia Combeferre
Posts: 8847
Joined: Mon Nov 13, 2006 9:57 am
Location: somewhere with the abased
Contact:

Re: 1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Fri Oct 08, 2010 5:04 am

@collectingbees: Was Gavroche even born yet at this point? He's a baby when Valjean comes to rescue Cosette some years later.

It occurs to me that Fantine may not have had any other friends in Paris besides the three other girls. Besides, maybe it was the attraction of the two baby girls with Mme. T that convinced her. As far as I know (or as Hugo expounds), Favorite, Dahlia, and Zelphine had no children. Maybe that was reason enough (in Fantine's mind at least) not to leave Cosette with them?

Or maybe her reason for leaving Cosette with a stranger was an unconscious desire to also bury her shame/hurt as far as Tholomyes was concerned. Almost anyone she would have known in Paris would have at least had some inkling about the Fantine/Tholomyes thing, and they could have given her stick for it. Maybe she thought it was better to leave Cosette with a stranger who'd be hopefully willing to buy her story of Cosette's father being gone, etc. Fewer questions asked, hopefully.
"...all aptitudes having equal opportunity; politically, all votes having equal weight; religiously, all consciences having equal rights."

User avatar
MmeBahorel
Posts: 1773
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:12 am
Location: Washington, DC
Contact:

Re: 1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Postby MmeBahorel » Fri Oct 08, 2010 7:46 pm

I think Aurelia has it right - Hugo fairly specifically tells us that Fantine had thrown her lot in wholeheartedly with Tholomyès. The girls parted, their only connection being the men; Fantine had "neglected her opportunities" for work, but that almost certainly means she has abandoned her network, anyone she had met in Paris before she met Tholomyès would have been related to her former labour, and that is what she lost as much as her former habit of labour. She thinks of returning to M-sur-M because someone there might remember her, which means she thinks no one in Paris would remember her or she cannot think of anyone in Paris who could be a help to her.

But I also think this is less of a sense of crushing naïveté. In this period, it was common to send a newborn out to nurse with a stranger in the country, to leave a child with the wet nurse until the age of 5 or even older. Women in the lower classes did this, too. Commentary on the 1817 census, as quoted by Louis Chevalier:
The number of infants in the 0-5 age group, amounting only to 48,824, is far lower than one would expect from the total population of Paris if the known proportions are observed. A great many infants are put out to nurse in neighboring towns either by their parents or by public institutions. it is not possible at present to give the average number of children absent and the average duration of their absence with any certainty; the estimates of the inroads made on the 0-5 age group are too imprecise. It is probably that the number between five and ten is also reduced by this emigration, at any rate among the bourgeoisie.


Also from Louis Chevalier:
Unfortunate from the start was how Lachaise described [lower-class children] in 1821. He noted that even for those who remained in Paris, the benefits of being suckled by their mother were soon canceled out by "the species of wilting in narrow, dark and often dirty lodgings to which the majority of those who belong to the class of workers are subject," particularly those in the central districts, and especially Les Halles; doomed to grow up in the damp and dark.


This was well enough known at the time, by the population themselves, to make wet-nursing in the country an attractive options not only for financial reasons but also for the probability of the children having a higher rate of survival (you still see this in rapidly industrialising countries where the links between ancestral villages and industrial cities are recent). If one could not afford to send the child all the way back to the native village to be raised, then strangers in a nearby country town were seen as a reasonable second choice, a better choice than handing the child over to a charitable institution who would send it out anyway but give the mother no information on how to contact the nurse or reclaim the child if her circumstances improved. Katherine Lynch, in Family, Class, and Ideology in Early Industrial France, describes several cases of women attempting to find the children they gave up as charity: one case, that of Julie Lequesme, a seamstress in Rouen, included a midwife who took payment of 30 francs to find the child Lequesme had given up, that according to hospice records had died after about a year. The midwife found a child who had been born around the same time, told Lequesme it was hers, and Lequesme had made frequent visits to the wet nurse caring for the child, bringing clothes and even a cradle. The midwife was not punished for having lied, bt t h wet nurse was refused any more charges from the state because she had benefited most directly from the trick on Lequesme.

This being the society in which Fantine had to make decisions about the welfare of her child, it is a logical result that she would seek a family in a country village to look after the girl, giving her greater freedom to work longer hours and improve her financial situation. Children were handed over to strangers all the time, so Fantine's naïveté is not at having given Cosette to a woman she had only just met, but in giving Cosette to Mme Thénardier as an individual. Hugo was probably writing for a middle-class audience, who continued to use wet nurses and raise children in country homes, through the entire century, so a woman giving up her child to a stranger at all was hardly a strange occurrence to his initial audience. It is the specifics that are shocking because of the description of the Thénardiers, not because of the general idea expressed.

Moreover, while Hugo makes much of the difference Mme T sitting hunched over and Mme T standing would have made, Fantine spent the night. She met Thénardier himself after the arrangement was made, Mme T was certainly not sitting on the step all evening, and Fantine still went ahead with the arrangement. We get the benefit of the narrator bringing a sense of danger in from the beginning, with the chain used as a swing bringing the idea of "prison" into our relations with the Thénardiers from the beginning. Fantine isn't thinking "prison" or "scary chain", she's thinking "cute kids" and "mother looks well-fed, too". She doesn't hear the comment about "thank god, I can make up that debt because you set a nice trap". So without the additional information, with the connotations that the narrator puts on the scene, Fantine may not be that stupid.

I think the essence here is that she is unlucky, or perhaps too trusting in general (Tholomyès plus the Thénardiers), but not "Oh dear god, she just abandoned her child to jackals!" We have misgivings thanks to the narrator but not until Fantine is gone do we have evidence that they are jackals.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

User avatar
MmeBahorel
Posts: 1773
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:12 am
Location: Washington, DC
Contact:

Re: 1.4 Confier, c'est quelquefois livrer 7/10/10-9/10/10

Postby MmeBahorel » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:14 pm

And here are the notes for this book:

Chapitre I
1 (Montfermeil): En septembre 1845, Hugo y était passé, peut-être en compagnie de Léonie Biard, lors d'une brève et mystérieuse excursion à l'est de Paris. Dès 1827, Paul de Kock y avait situé l'action de son roman, La Laitière de Montfermeil.
In September 1845, Hugo had passed through here, perhaps in the company of Léonie Biard, during a brief and mysterious excursion to the east of Paris. As of 1827, Paul de Kock had situated here the action of his novel, The Milkmaid of Monfermeil.

2 (one of these carts): La source probable de la présence étrange du fardier est une chose vue, un souvenir du retour d'Espagne, l'un de très rare conservé par V. Hugo. Supprimé du Victor Hugo raconté par un témoin de sa vie publié en 1863, il est connu seulement par le manuscrit de Mme Hugo : << Des auberges où il passa alors, il ne se souvient que d'une, ou, du moins, d'une cour où était un immense voiture de roulier dételée, avec des chaînes qui pendaient. Pourquoi, dans un voyage long, accidenté, où à coup sûr il se trouvait des choses curieuses et frappantes, se souvenire de cette insignifiance ? N'est-ce pas là un mystère ? >> (Victor Hugo raconté par Adèle Hugo, ouv. cit., p. 243.)
The probable source of the strange presence of the heavy cart is a thing seen, a memory of the tour of Spain, one of the very rare ones kept by V. Hugo. Suppressed from Victor Hugo Recounted by a Witness to his Life published in 1863, it is known only from Mme Hugo's manuscript: “Inns where he passed then, he only remembers one, or at least one courtyard where was an immense unhitched wheeled carriage, with hanging chains. Why, in a long voyage, accidentally, where were certainly found curious and striking things, remember this insignificance? Isn't that a mystery?” (Victor Hugo Recounted by Adèle Hugo, p. 243.)

3 (la belle et tendre Imogine): Romance genre troubadour Imogine et Alonzo en dix couplet, dont le premier dit:
Il le faut disait un guerrier
A la belle et tendre Imogine
Il le faut, je suis chevalier
et je pars pour la Palestine.
Tu me pleures en ce moment,
Que ces pleurs ont pour moi de charmes !
Mais il viendra quelque autre amant
Et sa main essuiera tes larmes

Cette chanson n'est pas sans analogie avec une autre romance troubadour devenue hymne du Second Empire, Partant pour la Syrie.

Romance of the troubadour genre of Imogine and Alonzo in ten verses, of which the first goes:
It is necessary, said a warrior
To the beautiful and tender Imogine
It is necessary, I am a knight,
And I leave for Palestine.
You weep for me in this moment,
These tears have for me so much charm!
But there will come another lover
And his hand will wipe away your tears.

This song is not without analogy to another troubadour romance become hymn of the Second Empire, “Leaving for Syria”.

4 (always a man of pleasure): Hugo avait songé, et sagement renoncé à faire réapparaître le personnage. A la cérémonie de ces noces, une petite fille s'avançait – Cosette – et lui disait : << Papa ! >> Voir le dossier des Misérables au tome Océan-Chantier.
Hugo had considered, and wisely renounced the reappearance of this character. At the celebration of his wedding, a little girl appeared – Cosette – and said to him, “Papa!” See the file of Les Misérables in the Océan-Chantier volume. [See the whole deleted scene, with English translation, at Marianne's website.]

5 (Thénardier): Inventé dès la première rédaction, ce nom a peut-être été construit par dérivation sur celui de Mlle Thénard qui tenait un second rôle à la création d'Hernani. Mais voir aussi V, 9 et la note 1.
Invented as early as the first draft, this name was perhaps constructed by derivation from that of Mlle Thénard who had a supporting role in the creation of Hernani. But see also V, 9 and note 1.

6 (Pepita): Cette Pepita est un souvenir du palais Masserino, en Espagne, évoqué dans Victor Hugo raconté... (p. 216) : << Il se trouvait là une nommée Pepita, encore petite fille […]. Il y eut des idylles, me disait mon mari, dans ces grands pièces […] >>. Cette jeune fille réapparaîtra dans Le Dernier Jour d'un condamné (chap. XXXIII) et dans L'Art d'être grand-père (IX, 1, Les Fredaines du grand-père enfant) :
Et c'était presque une femme
Que Pepita mes amours,
L'indolente avait mon âme
Sous son coude de velours.

This Pepita is a souvenir of the Masserino palace, in Spain, evoked in Victor Hugo Recounted . . . (p. 216): “There was one called Pepita, still a little girl . . . There were idylls, calling me her husband, in this great scenes . . .” This young girl will reappear in The Last Day of a Condemned Man (Chapter XXXIII) and in The Art of Being a Grandfather (IX, 1, The Escapades of the Grandfather as a Child):
And there was nearly a woman
As Pepita my loves,
The indolent one had my soul
Under her velvet heel.

[The one period when Hugo sort of lived with both parents was in Spain from 1811 to 1812, where his father was stationed and his mother had followed to harangue the general into actually supporting his wife and children. The family was housed in the Masserano palace. Victor was 10; Pepita was the 16 year old daughter of the Marquis de Montehermosa, a French sympathiser whose wife was sleeping with Joseph Bonaparte. Pepita let Victor play hide and seek with her, hiding in the same huge Japanese vase, and she was painted by Goya. Also, Victor was a randy 10 year old who was very excited because Pepita let him kiss her – probably to provoke her suitors. Graham Robb gives me all the fun background stuff *g*.]

Chapitre II
7 (and ravaged the suburbs a little): La Thénardier dévore ce que Hugo enfant savourait chez le libraire Royol – voir III, 5, note 3.
The Thénardiess devours what Hugo as a child savoured at the home of the bookseller Royol – see III, 5, note 3.

8 (Azelma): Jusqu'en 1860, elles s'applaient Palmyre et Malvina. Plusieurs réminiscences ont pu concourir à l'adoption d'Éponine : le titre d'un livre de Delisle de Sales, Éponine ou la République, un vers des Petites Vieilles de Baudelaire évoquant la déchéance des courtisanes : << Ces monstres disloqués furent jadis des femmes, / Éponine ou Laïs... >>, l'histoire héroïque de cette gauloise qui – comme le demande Doña Sol – partagea le sort de son mari, Julius Sabinus, traqué par les Romains après l'échec d'un révolte, et que désigne un titre noté par Hugo en 1860 : << Éponine et Sabinus ou la généreuse épouse, roman héroïde >> Ajoutons que la rime et le sens apparentent Éponine et Fantine, deux noms qui font écho à celui de Léopoldine.
Until 1860, they were called Palmyre and Malvina. Several reminiscences could work towards the adoption of Éponine: the title of a book by Delisle de Sales, “Éponine or the Republic”; a verse in “Petites Vieilles” [Little Old Ones?] by Baudelaire, evoking the fall of courtesans: “These dislocated monsters were once women, / Éponine or Lais . . .”; the heroic history of that Gaulish woman who – as was asked of Doña Sol [in Hernani] – shared the fate of her husband, Julius Sabinus, hunted down by the Romans after the suppression of a revolt, and is designated in a title noted by Hugo in 1860: “Éponine and Sabinus or the Generous Spouse, heroic novel”. Let us add that the rhyme and the sense link Éponine and Fantine, two names that echo that of Léopoldine.

9 (Arthur, Alfred, or Alphonse): Arthur comme Wellington, Alfred comme de Vigny, Alphonse comme Lamartine.
Arthur as in Wellington, Alfred as in de Vigny, Alphone as in Lamartine.

Chapitre III
10 (the Lark): Ce surnom a peut-être été suggéré à Hugo par le premier nom donné à la fille de Fantine (Marguerite Louet) : Anna Louet.
This nicknames was perhap suggested to Hugo by the first name given to Fantine's (Marguerite Louet) daughter: Anna Louet. [the Lark – l'Alouette]
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard


Return to “Read-Through”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest