This chapter explains so much of what I don't like about Marius. Partly, this is because I can't help reading this through a Feuilly perspective; partly, this is because I'm coming off my own couple of years struggling to get by on work that pays like crap when I much prefer a total bourgeois lifestyle. Marius is driving me nuts.
Chapter 1: Hugo claims that poverty is "Crucible into which destiny casts a man whenever she desires a scoundrel or a demi-god". We'll see the scoundrel later, I assume, in Montparnasse (who is also young, hot, with good hair, and very poor), which would make Marius the demi-god? Yes, Victor, you're basing Marius on much of your youth, but demigod? Oh, florid nineteenth century prose, you are not actually why I dislike Marius, but you make it so hard to like him. "Distress is the nurse of self-respect"? Maybe for you, Victor - for me, it was the destroyer. Also, Marius learning to swallow bitterness, among other things? Marius made his choice - he has no right to bitterness. It wasn't fate that made Marius poor, it was his own choice.
I also get lost in the timeline here, as Hugo has made it incredibly vague. If Marius was 17 in 1828 (and that much we do know), and he left probably during the summer (since he was still in class and the swimming school was open, also facts we know), then he was probably in his first year at the law school, as he couldn't matriculate earlier than the age of 16. The lowest degree would take two years, but let's pretend some of his fees were already paid for by M. Gillenormand for the following session. It would cost Marius 60 francs to sit his 2nd year exam and another 50 francs for the diploma. If he has go go the third year, then on top of that 60 francs for the 2nd year exam, he has two 3rd years exams at 90 francs each, plus an acte public at 120 francs, plus 80 francs for the diploma. Where on earth is he managing to come up with this money?
Moreover, at what point did Marius go into mourning for his father? At the time of his father's death, he merely put a black band around his hat (again, this is canonical). The traditional mourning period at this point would be 6 months. It would be, then, during this six month period of official mourning that he meets M. Mabeuf and undergoes his "conversion", but he certainly isn't dressing in full mourning while still under M. Gillenormand's roof. And then the whole "but the coat Courfeyrac gave him was green" thing. So at some point, long after the official mourning period, Marius goes seriously emo.
Chapter 2 - Again, it's the money that is driving me crazy. Feuilly is making around 750 francs a year if he engages in Holy Monday every week; he'll make more with a six-day work week. Marius is managing to scrape together 700 a year, having to live on less than two francs a day - a level a hard working grisette struggles to get by on. But we'll buy that, since Marius is poor, doing better than Marius still makes a person poor.
Chapter 3 is where I can't take it anymore. "He was happy . . . in suffering" because it was for his father. Smack that boy upside the head. Does he really think a father who had been through everything the Colonel had would approve of his son giving up on the possibility of advancement in life? Not bothering to attack any obstacles? Marius rejects a job that would pay 1500 francs a year for real work and include a room, if not board, a job offered because the potential employer respects the contract work he has done and wants to help him. There's a possibility there for advancement, if he isn't going to use his law license. And Marius rejects it not because he has other ambitions, but because he has no ambitions at all! Hugo tells us he works just enough to not quite keep himself decently, that he prefers to dream than to work. And he literally means "dream". It's one thing if his dreams lead to writing or art, but they don't. There's no creation, there's no labour of the soul in mere daydreaming, there's just absolute laziness. Cosette, you could do so much better.
Chapter 4 - Hugo likes his chaste old couples, doesn't he? Cauteretz
is in the Haute-Pyrénées.
Chapter 5 - Hugo tries to undo some of the damage of Chapter 3, I think. Marius actually leaves the house and talks to people in a social setting! He is said to be "piling up schemes and aspirations". Of course, this latter is Hugo, not Marius. Hugo had aspirations; note that he doesn't flesh out just what aspirations Marius has that he isn't acting on. I suspect that this is because he has none, but Hugo needs to assert again that Marius is him, therefore of course Marius has ideas for the future. The Colonel's friends, besides Fririon, also include Pajol
, which is fascinating under the circumstances (the man took part in 1830 and suppressed 1831 and 1832), and Bellavesne
(wiki in French), who must be a zombie (he died in 1826 - or maybe he's a vampire, and he turned Marius? *g*). Much of this socialising probably took place in the winter of 1829-30 - it was an unusually cold winter, so Marius could go out more frequently as the ground was likely frozen more frequently. Here is also where we have Hugo conveniently eliding 1830 - but what does "satisfied and soothed him" mean? While one can easily assume he sat it out entirely, he's in contact with people who didn't.
The biggest gap with Marius, that I wish had been fleshed out better, is how on earth he stays friends with Courfeyrac AND Enjolras. Which proves a lot against fanon!Enjolras, doesn't it? If I can't take Marius for being an idiot, there shouldn't be any way that Hugo can say "They had remained good friends" when talking about not Courfeyrac but the group led by Enjolras. And Enjolras a few months later refers to him being kind of flaky, so they are obviously still in contact even though Marius never went to another meeting after his Napoleon outburst. It's one thing to say, in Chapter 1 of all places, that Marius had done some "good turns" for Courfeyrac - I can't quite imagine what those are at the period of Marius' lowest fortunes (as he lends Courfeyrac money later on once his finances stabilise), but I can try to come up with something that doesn't involve girls or money. But in Chapter 3 to say not only that "They had remained good friends" but also "they remained ready to help each other in all possible ways" - what? That sounds more individual than collective, that it's Marius and Enjolras not Marius and Les Amis, but it comes completely out of nowhere when judged against fanon, when judged against the marble lover of liberty, and when judged against my personal issues with Marius.
So, come 1830, if he is still on speaking terms with Enjolras, would not Enjolras use any able body in support of revolution? Which would make it kind of hard for Marius to completely sit it out, even if he avoids the barricades and shooting. He has two major acquaintances and one friend who are all involved the overthrow of Charles X. And that overthrow "satisfied" Marius; he was at least mildly in favour of it. This is so much more complicated than I had remembered! Particularly the relationship with Enjolras.
Chapter 6 - I still like Théodule. None of this sticking his nose where it doesn't really belong is his idea; he's just going along with Mlle Gillenormand's ideas in the hopes they might be profitable. He's not a fool, but he is kind of a tool. But I still like him. In part because by the end of the chapter, I sort of feel sorry for the two Gillenormand men, getting pulled around by Mlle Gillenormand because she doesn't actually understand her father. Théodule's only doing what he was told, and he gets called an idiot for it - Mlle Gillenormand's the fool, really. I also still love M. Gillenormand, ranting about Romantic fashion - "these kids today don't know how to dress and they all need to get a damned haircut" *g*. I think Tiercelin and Potier are actors (though the Tiercelin Wikipedia covers wasn't born yet, and Potier
retired in 1827). Descamisados refers to the most radical left in Spain from 1820-1823, in a direct adaptation of the French "sans-culottes" (though the spanish is "without shirts"). Even his political references are about ten years behind the times.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard