And a few things now that I've finally caught up on the reading:
I think here, at the end, is the real heart of everything: "But this much he felt, that whichever decision he might make, necessarily and with no possibility of escape, something of himself would surely die". And the beautiful counterpoint, the reminder that indecision and agony are divine as well as human, "Eighteen hundred years before this unfortunate man, the mysterious Being, in whom all the sanctities and all the sufferings of humanity come together, He too, while the olive trees trembled in the fierce breath of the Infinite, had brushed away the fearful cup that appeared before him, streaming with shadow and runing over with darkness, in the star-filled depths." Yes, Hugo consistently links Valjean as something of a Christ figure (this is hardly the first or last comparison we'll see), but he means it in the sense of Christ's humanity rather than Valjean's divinity, which is a nice change-up from how messianic comparisons are generally used.
Analysing the dream: the barren, grassless, sad field with neither day nor night has very much the feeling of the prison. The hairless man again, to me, reflects the prisoner with the shaved head, his naked body another way in which he is rendered outside society (clothes would be markers of status, but he has no clothes, therefore he has no status). The brother himself, of the past, and talking about the neighbour they once had, again, of the past - antediluvian memories, perhaps connected with the thoughts Valjean had before his first imprisonment. I do believe here that the brother existed, though it is entirely plausible that he was either of an age with the sister and left early, before everything turned to hell, or was of an age with Jean and died, since otherwise, with the circumstances, there would be some emotion connected with the brother. The aside about "I barely remember him" strikes me as true rather than an explanation of dream logic (that logic where you're with someone you don't recognise in the least but that you know, within the dream, is your best friend Emily).
No one except this brother speaks to him - on entering the deserted town, Valjean is now alone. The idea that there is a man behind every door, and that man is silent but watching, can be read as both the unseen, unspoken convict and the always watching, often hidden jailer. Within the dream, this is attributed to death, and thus connects directly back to Valjean's fear of the death of something inside him no matter what his choice. But he's not surrounded by dead men or shades of the dead, as he seems to suppose from the eventual statement of the one, but to me, it seems he's surrounded by the images of the prison he is returning to.
It's interesting that it is the mail coach coming from Arras, a symbol of the well-ordered state, that ends up almost giving Valjean an out. Hugo could have used anything for an act of God, but he chose the state - the state has an interest in stopping Valjean (as we see in the next book when we get a little more detail in the consequences of his declaration).
"All aspects of life are in perpetual flight beefore us. Darkness and light alternate: after a flash, an eclipse; we look, we hurry, we stretch out our hands to seize what is passing; every event is a turn in the road; and suddenly we are old." The fact that I pick this out now to mark, rather than when I was 16, probably means something. Particularly since I'm not even 30!
Apparent sunset in Arras in late February would be around 4:30 pm, for the record.
"The night grew darker and darker." Oh, Victor, how very nineteenth century novel of you
I'm sorry Hugo gives the lawyers no sympathy - no matter how sympathetic they may be to their clients they must defend, they have to prepare the case as it is and be ready for the cold arguments against them. That's no reason to condemn the entire breed as heartless because they discuss the law before going in to argue their legal cases. The lawyers aren't necessarily the problem.
Victor, your chapter title pun is obnoxious. I shouldn't be facepalming and sort of giggling at this point. I giggle because you are you.
"the story of Théramène" I had to look up myself - the reference is to the character in Phèdre, who has a long speech at the end of the play that details the death of Hippolytus and his last words that take place offstage because heaven forbid we break the unities. (I hated this part of Phèdre, so it gives me great joy to see Hugo going "wow that sucked as drama but I suppose the lawyers learned a lot from it".) Coming on the heels of "Romanticism is so awesome we caused an illiterate to not exactly commit a crime!", it is so very biased I have to laugh. It just seems such an odd place to be so self-congratulatory.
Of course, I'm still trying to picture this scene with Petit Gervais. The kid runs off and what, finds a gendarme and says "A big guy with a stick stole my forty sous piece!"? And this was taken seriously - a Savoyard chimneysweep arguing over two francs - and recorded with full description so that it could be put together with descriptions of convicts released from Toulon in the past week so that it could be attributed to Valjean? The fact that it keeps coming up in the trial just keeps driving me nuts on this. If Javert was the one to turn them onto this, why does the Bishop only come up in his testimony? That doesn't get covered during the part of the trial we see, only in the record of Javert's testimony read back in his absence. Does that not get followed up because it is mere speculation? It is mere speculation that Valjean had anything to do with Petit Gervais. Were there no other crimes across France to attribute to a large man coming from the south?
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard