How much the story of Jean Valljean and Javert owes to Vidocq, whom Hugo quotes several times - he was the model for several traits in both Valjean and Javert, the convict and the policeman - has been very rightly pointed out. The survival of these old forms, of what Hugo had learned from others, from books and especially from Vidocq's Memoirs, probably accounts for the astonishing contrast between the authenticity of the crime Hugo did not intend to describe and the artificiality of the crime he did mean to describe, embodied in Babet, Gueulemer, Claquesous, and Montparnasse. In all the crime literature of the July Monarchy, even the clumsiest and most melodramatic, it would be hard to find bandits less convincing and less impressive than this quartet who, Hugo claims, "governed the lower-depths of Paris from 1830 to 1835". A most improbable government. It is hardly possible to take these small fry seriously and to believe that "owing to their ramifications and the subjacent network of their relations they had the general direction of all the villainies in the department of the Seine". The horror with which Hugo invested them does not impress us, though he added details and corrections, which are to be found on the original manuscript of Les Misérables. He first wrote of Montparnasse: "At he age of nineteen he had several corpses behind him". This he corrected to "at the age of eighteen he had several corpses behind him", and added: "More than one wayfarer lay in the shadow of this villain, with outstretched arms, his face in a pool of blood". They are small fry as villains, expressing only, and badly at that, their own criminality or a form of criminality abundantly illustrated in Vidocq's Memoirs. Indeed, Hugo tried to give an additional turn of the screw by referring to Vidocq and by bringing him in in person: "These four bandits formed a sort of Proteus, winding through the ranks of the police and striving to escape Vidocq's uncanny penetration under cover of various disguises."
In the seventh book of Les Misérables, entitled "Patron-Minette", in which the sewers were described for the first time, they still denoted only city crime, the lowest depths, "la troisième dessous," of human societies and the "great cavern of Evil". Their darkest dark was the refuge of the quartet of bandits who embodied this circumscribed form of criminality.These beings, who were very cautious about showing their faces, were not the sort of people one normally sees on the streets. By day, wearied by their wild nights, they went to sleep sometimes in the lime kilns, sometimes in the abandoned quarries of Montmartre or Montrouges and sometimes in the sewers.
They went to earth in places "far away from other places", bearing no relations whatever to the upper levels, wholly alien to the city - threatening it, indeed, but different from it.
Roses for Ophelia wrote:You know what would be funny? If Patron-Minette puts up with Thenardier because it's really his wife who they respect. You know, the whole thing where she throws a rock at Javert must have won her [i]serious points in their eyes. Plus, she's always referred to as a giantess, a formidable woman and so on. As for his children Éponine's useful because she knows the city so well and is inconspicuous, Azelma basically does what she's told, and Gavroche is obviously really useful when you need someone small and inconspicuous. I think Montparnasse is at least trying to groom him for Patron-Minette. Maybe Thenardier is just a guy they have to deal with to get the services of his family? Probably not, but there's a plot bunny in there somewhere!
What i've always wondered is why Claqusous/le Cabuc went to the barricades--is he a revolutionary too? In the cut quarry scene they all appear, but Enjolras tells them off and they leave. Was Claquesous really a revolutionary,and wanted to stay? Also, it's speculated that he might be a police informer,and that's how he escapes arrest. If he is, then to what extent? There's probably a lot more to him than the fact he seems to think he's the phantom of the opera. More plot bunnies!
lesmisloony wrote:They probably each represent a different kind of criminal or something. I mean, you know Hugo. You've got the big, brutish, stupid kind (Gueulemer, of course); the devious, intelligent, heartless kind (Babet); the mysterious, unknowable kind (Claquesous); and... the pretty one...
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