Marius lives with his grandfather, a royalist, who considers the boy's father, George Pontmercy "a leper" because of his having been a heroic soldier, but one who served Napoleon. As a child, Marius heard the whisperings about his father, and he grew to think of his father with shame. Whenever Pontmercy wrote letters to Marius, his grandfather threw them away.
But, after his father dies, Marius learns the truth as old M. Mabeuf, the churchwarden, tells Marius that his father came every Sunday to watch his son as he was accompanied by his aunt who took him to Mass. Further, M. Mabeuf informs Marius that his father loved his son deeply, but "sacrificed himself for the sake of his son's future happiness" as the family threatened to disinherit the boy if he had any contact with his parent.
When, therefore, Marius went to Paris and the library of the School of Law and asked to see the file of his father, he begins "to worship his father." In contrast to what he has been told, Marius forms
a true picture of the gallant and gentle-hearted man, a mingling of a lion and lamb, who had been his father.
In addition, Marius realizes, too, that he does not know his country, either. But, now he admires his father and adores his country."What had been for him a sunset was now a dawn." In fact, he so admires his father now that he wears "something that hung by a black ribbon" on the blue medal of the Legion d'Honneur.