You have no idea (or, really, you do) how hard it was not to insert "and a nice chianti" in there
A few notes of my own here:
This is possibly my dirty mind, but it's also a direct theme in French literature of the later part of the century - Magnon/Mamselle Miss is canon, isn't it? The raid recalls prostitution raids later in the century (This Slate article
cites Jill Harsin as comparing prostitution raids to Nazi roundups of Jews - swift, harsh, thorough), the location of her first house is certainly deliberate and the second is really the same ("It is thought to be this [street] that Guillot, in his poem, designates by the name Pute-y-Muse" - Dictionnaire historique de Paris, vol. 2, p. 281
), and the décor just screams courtesan. Getting knocked up twice by a rich Royalist over the age of 80 is the sort of thing that could set off a woman's career - it gets one known in the right circles for the right reasons. And courtesans are often explicitly deemed lesbian. I'm seeing a lot more evidence of the sex trade here than of straight up thieving, particularly as what they are arrested for is never mentioned.
And no, I don't go looking for the slash, but I swear, the usage to which these sorts of relationships and descriptions is put by other authors (Balzac and Zola) makes the passage really stand out here because Hugo doesn't usually go there. I'm not entirely sure he knowingly went there, but I think it is there.
Is Hugo paying attention, or did the weather turn awful in a few days? Marius is sitting in beautiful sunny weather, now it's freezing as hell. I'm sure spring weather in Paris is just as variable as everywhere, but he's also seeming to term the crap weather of this scene as typical, whereas we just had Marius in lovely spring weather.
For the record, "Windsor soap" is "Windsor-soap" in French. I find this hilarious for some reason. (Windsor soap is a heavily scented, high quality soap marketed to men at this period: there's a good description here
. Good local soap would be savon de Marseille, generally lavender scented or unscented, made on an olive oil base. Both of these varieties can still be purchased through natural soap producers.)
The mômes are born in 1825 and 1827 if the estimate of their ages is correct; Magnon's are only a year apart in age, however, as described in III, 2, 6, and it was in 1824 she was pregnant the first time (Gillenormand was 84 at the time, and he was 74 in 1814). The croup epidemic was in 1827 if the math is correct, meaning the youngest of her children had to be born in 1826 or 1827. I'm wondering if the youngest boy was actually born in 1826 and is a bit small for his age, as we're just getting estimates here.
This is the chapter that, even more than IV, 5, 2, takes all the danger out of Gavroche. He is prevented from stealing for his dinner, miraculously finds money anyway, performs two good deeds that leave him the worse but others far better off, and does it all cheerfully. This is not a boy with darkness in his heart. Moreover, the mischief we see him commit is very light, not in the least dangerous, and not really all that insulting or vulgar - it's absolutely sanitised for the bourgeois audience.
Why Hugo uses the Iowa
as exemplars of savage cries, I have no idea. Not seeing any crazy massacres by the native tribes against the white incursions that are getting listed on Wiki, anyway.
Notice Hugo has to get in a jab at Louis-Napoleon with his crack about "power in a tea kettle".
I find it interesting that with everything else he's doing here, the coincidences, the sanitised life of gamins, he bothers to justify "But there was totally a kid living in the elephant, I swear!"
Every theatre has a claque. They must be paid off in order not to boo your play off the stage. Generally, to get good word of mouth going, a playwright - or the theatre manager - will provide the claque with free tickets, will tell them where to applaud and which are the best bits to laugh raucously at (if your play is a comedy), and they will be paid for their efforts. If they are not paid enough, or you annoy them in any way, they will boo the actors right off the stage and make it generally very difficult for the play to go on. If you do not pay them at all, they will pay their own way in just to boo your actors off the stage.
For some reason, I have a bookmark in the page where Babet is insulting Thénardier - was this for the argot usage examples or for the insight into Babet's character or what? I have no idea. Its a recent-ish bookmark, too, so it's definitely for fic purposes in the past three years or so, as I recognise the notepaper. Anyway, it is a telling scene, that here we have three of the four "chiefs" of Patron-Minette, and only one is still halfheartedly arguing in favour of not leaving Thénardier to the guards. And that's Parnasse, and only because he's sleeping with Éponine, not because he really has any faith in Thénardier. Thénardier's an amateur, and they all have serious doubts about him at all. Loyalty to a comrade only takes you so far when you think your comrade is worthless.
I also find it interesting to note that all the gang members address each other in the familiar.
Gav seems to pause or to think twice about helping out when he sees it's his father. Is this accuracy rearing its head for a moment over the bourgeois-friendly version of the kid? It's as if the actual consideration of an economy based on favours, which in this case won't be repaid and thus really aren't worth the trouble, gives way to a bourgeois-acceptable "He is your father, no matter how much of a bastard he is" and "When asked by your elders to do a job, you do it". I think the pause shows there is some bitterness there, despite how Hugo has tried to describe Gavroche's family feelings in the past. It's interesting because I'm re-reading Bleak House right now, and Jo, the street boy, lacks Gav's spunk but has the bitter depression that feels more appropriate to me. Jo has no family at all that he can remember, and his loyalties are to those who have made it worth his while, the people who have given him money or food. Gav, in helping the gang in general, is probably doing them a favour because they will repay him in some form. But helping his father, from whom he gets nothing and expects nothing, gives an impression even to him of family loyalty, and he seems to balk for a moment. Does he go through with it because Hugo needs him to for plot purposes, or because Hugo needs him to not repel the reader?
And linked to that is the final lines of the chapter, which oddly come from Babet to Thénardier. The man who has "misplaced his wife and children as one would a handkerchief" has more concern for Thénardier's family than Thénardier does. And it makes one wonder if he really has forgotten his own wife and children or if there's something more there. This disconnect is where most of my characterisation of Babet comes from.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard