This, like every rom-com in existence, is additional proof that fiction and real life should not be confused for each other. For the same reason Darcy is an ass and Rochester is a bastard, Marius is creepy. You can get away with things when you control the narrative that you can't get away with when you don't control the girl's reaction. By keeping Cosette locked up, in essence, Hugo has deprived her - and thus the reader - of rational considerations. Cosette doesn't know any better, so she falls for it, and the reader accepts it because, unlike the reader, Cosette doesn't know any better, and we know Marius is harmless.
Chapter by chapter thoughts:
"Marius was of the temperament that sinks into grief and stays there." See Marius angst. Angst, Marius, angst. *headdesk, headdesk, headdesk*
Some of what I was getting at before, about Cosette being more ignorant than the reader, Hugo covers here with his generality that falling in love is "a critical moment for every orphan" - orphan is in the female, so this is something that falls to women only, to avoid a misalliance (because a bad marriage *never* affects the husband, right? *gag*), and there's an assumption here that the role of family is to prevent a misalliance, that it is most critical for a female orphan to avoid such a thing rather than for every girl. But this strikes me as utter crap, a) because Valjean is her family and will do his best, like any father, and b) because plenty of "appropriate" marriages turn out horribly. It's as if we're supposed to here feel sorry for Cosette and worry that she will fall because she is an orphan, and then be all relieved that Marius will (physically) catch her, so everything's all right. She falls for Marius, not Théodule (who is totally the tavern sign of the overwrought metaphor), and therefore mischance is averted by God, rather than her guardian on earth. I don't like it because it seems to undermine Valjean and everything Hugo himself has said about the Valjean-Cosette relationship.
Of course, I actually like, or at least am amused by, Théodule here. "I don't have time to look at every girl who looks at me!" He's really quite honest about being sort of a dick, as opposed to attempting to cover it up.
I'm on Cosette's side at this point, with the whole shadow thing. It was scary, and who wouldn't want to reach for and believe in a logical explanation after the original facts start to feel hazy? It's much better than the idea that someone is stalking you.
The mysticism strikes me as coming from the many evenings of table tipping in exile, and I also find it unnecessarily manipulative. It is again reminding the reader that Cosette is unprotected as well as unlettered in love, since her mother is dead, and only a mother could ward off the misfortunes of a poor alliance. But I don't think we've forgotten this in the least during the intervening chapter.
Cosette deserves all the credit in the world in this chapter, with what Marius puts her through. It's creepy as hell, but she tries to shake it off. Valjean would not mind at all if his little girl needed protecting, but I suspect she refuses to be a coward because he's no coward. I bet she's always trying to live up to the manner in which they entered the convent. Even if she remembers very little, she can't have forgotten it all, and she can't let herself freak out over the prospect of some guy in the garden if she managed to let herself be pulled over a very high wall and then smuggled out in a basket.
Could Marius have come up with a creepier way to deliver that note? This strikes me as not just Marius being shy, but being actively creepy. She just got up and boom, he puts the thing down. He could so easily have been busted. By being daring yet cowardly at the same time, he's being creepy.
As I suspected, the French on Cosette's commands to Toussaint is, "Taisez-vous. Fermez bien tout.
" To me, that's, "Shut up. Shut everything up tight," though maybe a bit more polite than "shut up", though in an English rendering the repetition works nicely even though it doesn't exist in French. "That will do" or "be quiet" strike me as most accurate of the translators' suggestions.
Oh dear god, Hugo, what are you doing? This whole thing comes across as you quoting yourself rather than anything in character for Marius. My French edition puts section breaks between each set of statements so we can see the number of pages - the Signet edition does not. In total, we have 31 pages of either Marius being deeply creepy or Hugo quoting himself to the detriment of character development. Only a couple bits are specific enough to feel like Marius; the rest are too general to really feel appropriate.
A few that are striking:
"God is behind everything, and everything hides God." In many ways, this is Hugo's manifesto for the novel and for society. Which is why it doesn't feel Marius-like at all, and it really starts us off thinking of this entire section as Hugo quotations.
"Occasionally I have dreamed that a few hours have detached themselves from the lives of angels and came down to pass through the destiny of men." I LOLed at this one, but I can also actually see Marius thinking it, not just Hugo.
"the day a woman walking past sheds a light on you as she goes, you are lost, you love." This screams "Adèle" rather than "Cosette" to me and thus is Hugo rather than Marius.
"a lost glove or handkerchief found" - I think Marius would be specific to the handkerchief and would not generalise with the glove. The generalisation really makes me think Hugo.
"to be laid side by side in the same tomb . . . and from time to time . . . to caress a finger gently". Ew. Just - ew, Victor! Romeo and Juliet had the right idea, that if you're in the same tomb, you ought to both be dead. It was creepy, not romantic, and you knew it, when you had Quasimodo laid down with Esmeralda's body; it was equally creepy, and recognised as such, when Poe wrote "Annabel Lee". It is just as creepy now, and not in the least romantic, to give the image of a live person caressing a dead one in a tomb. I can't imagine Marius putting this to paper and handing it over. He's too thick to be actively creepy, and caressing a corpse is actively creepy. He'd be more in the Romeo and Juliet vein, killing himself to be able to lie forever next to his beloved, and therefore unable to caress a finger gently because HE'LL BE DEAD! This is NOT the direction to take me right before he turns up in the garden again and finally speaks to Cosette.
"In the street, I met a poor young man." This one is actual Marius and really fascinating. The way he describes himself in the third person yet does it from a first person POV that gives him a chance to distance himself as writer addressing Cosette from himself as he sees himself, that chance to deny that he is, indeed, the poverty-stricken man who only possesses love is interesting and depressing. He knows he's no catch, and there's a way to assert that but also back away from it. This cloaked description reeks of shame but with a heavy dose of hope as well.
But on the whole, there's a lot of creepy here, and a lot of Hugo. I also think my reaction is largely due to the hazards of modern life. It feels stalkery because it reminds us of crazy people in the news. It's selections from the notebook of a guy who just got arrested for murdering the chick he was stalking. It's excerpts from the brain of a lunatic. I feel like I'm connecting Marius to John Hinckley or something, but I think it hits the "creepy" buttons because things like this are attached to creepy on the level of murder. At the time it was written, however, the murders that took the public fancy were crimes of passion that generally didn't require a lot of correspondence or the keeping of a diary because the people involved were lower class and barely literate or illiterate.
"Cosette had never read anything like it." No shit, Victor. The literary stream of consciousness narrative had not yet been developed, and that would be the closest thing to these ravings of the mad. Not that Hugo knew of stream of consciousness, and the fact that these bits were poured out over days, that they are merely selections, means they don't really fit that mode, but "unorganised outpouring of the soul" isn't a common literary technique in 1832.
"She would have gladly thrown something at [Théodule's] head." I think Cosette is going to get along very well with her grandfather in law
The last sentence, the tie-in of the bread thrown into Ireland, is very dark and a brilliant linkage. Hope and despair tied together, outside and inside, criminality and innocence, the two sides of the whole world in a kind of weird metaphor.
This scene would be so cute if it weren't so creepy, Hugo! (It's really no wonder I was futzing around with it to make the Cosette femslash fit into canon. And yes, I started giggling on "Cosette had fallen into a profound seraphic love" because a friend made an LJ icon
with that sentence and I mis-read it as "sapphic" so yes, now I have a lesbian!Cosette icon.)
This is Marius - the hesitation, the nervousness, the inability to react in anything other than a chaste manner because he's absolutely petrified by the fact it worked. What do you wanna bet Cosette kissed him? *g* I'm actually kind of serious on this, if it were real life. Hugo would not dare write his beautiful, chaste, perfect heroine making the first move in a physical way, but she did it before in the Luxembourg, and she put his hand on her chest here, and I bet she was the one to kiss him. Because she has more daring than he does, when it comes down to it. I can well .believe that he kept chickening out from talking to her, then let the notebook do it for him, then managed to start rambling at her because he had more confidence in the notebook than in himself, really. He does start rambling in his nervousness, and it is pretty cute, and most of the stalking is almost certainly him being a big chicken.
However, the very specificity of Marius' stalking is utterly creepy. We get exact dates? Really? And oh look, the 16th of June was a day of massive rioting in Paris, repressed by the National Guard. (This pushes everything back by a couple weeks, but it does give direct reference to the bourgeois' warning to his young son that Marius overhears, a reference I had wondered about, as it could have referred to legislative elections not quite three weeks later, but I think is proved to be about the rioting.) It's the exact dates, and admitting that he's all Freddie Eynsford-Hill, happier here because its the street where she lives, that make it creepy. (And no, I don't find Freddie creepy, because he didn't follow her so much as look up in the directory where Henry Higgins lived, and Henry wasn't hiding from the world, and he actually spoke to Eliza, they had a full conversation, and he tried to actually visit her. Not going home after being definitely rejected is obnoxious rather than outright creepy, though in both cases, it's less creepy than in real life because we know the boys are harmless doofuses.)
Short version: Hugo made Cosette pretty awesome here, yet completely undermined Marius. It's unfortunate.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard