Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

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Cosette: Summary and Analysis

The Ship Orion - Summary
Two newspaper articles record the recapture of Jean Valjean. The first, from Drapeau Blanc, July 25, 1823, notes the arrest of an individual known as Monsieur Madeleine who revitalized the jet and black glass industry with the invention of a new manufacturing process. Prior to his arrest, Valjean withdrew more than half a million francs, money which was honestly earned through his business, from Laffitte’s Bank. Police were unable to determine where he had hidden the money. The second article appeared in the Journal de Paris on the same date. It reports that Jean Valjean had been appointed mayor and had established a profitable business under an assumed identity. After his arrest, he used his “Herculean strength” to escape. According to this account, during the three or four days before he was retaken, he withdrew “six or seven hundred francs” which were never recovered.

At his trial, Jean was found guilty of assault and robbery and condemned to death. Though he did not appeal to a higher court, the king “in his inexhaustible clemency, deigned to commute his sentence.” Returned to the galleys at Toulon with a sentence of hard labor for life, Jean Valjean changes his number to 9430.

At the end of October 1823, the ship Orion sails into the harbor at Toulon. While the crew is furling the sail, the topman loses his balance. Grabbing the ropes as he plunges toward the sea, he hangs, helpless, swaying in the wind. No one dares to attempt to rescue him until a man clothed in the red garb of a convict scales the rigging and carries the sailor up to safety. Then the rescuer slides down the rigging to return to his work. Bystanders, unsure whether he loses his balance or is simply fatigued, watch in horror as the convict plunges into the sea between two ships. Though a search is mounted, the body is never recovered. The following morning, the Toulon Journal reports that the convict Jean Valjean has fallen into the sea and drowned.

Fulfilment of the Promise to the Departed - Summary
After throwing himself into the sea, Jean hides in a boat until evening and then swims to safety. He purchases new clothing and follows a circuitous route to Paris where he purchases a child’s dress and finds lodging. He then goes to Montfermeil to rescue Cosette from the Thénardiers.

The Old Gorbeau House Summary
New Character:
The Old Landlady: runs Gorbeau House

At the extreme edge of Paris there is a quarter known as the Horse Market. Within the crumbling walls of the quarter, far from the bustling neighborhoods of society, there is a small gabled cottage nearly hidden from view. The postal service refers to the house as No. 50-52, but it is known in the neighborhood as the Gorbeau House.

Jean Valjean carries the sleeping Cosette to the deserted Gorbeau House. It has been nine months since the death of her mother and Jean is ecstatic to have her with him. The noise of a wagon passing on the cobblestone street awakens the child. Slightly disoriented, she asks Jean for her broom and asks if she must sweep. He tells her she must play. Unquestioning, she spends a happy day with Jean and her doll.

Jean Valjean has been alone for 25 years. His sister and her children had disappeared, and in spite of a lengthy search, he has been unable to find them. He rescues the eight-year-old Cosette and feels the “grand emotion of a heart in its first love.” His life takes another dramatic turn when, for the second time in his life, he sees a “white vision.” “The bishop had caused the dawn of virtue on his horizon; Cosette evoked the dawn of love.”

It is also Cosette’s first experience with love. Separated early from her mother, she does not remember her. Since then, she has been neglected and abused. She loves Jean from the moment he rescues her and considers him handsome in spite of his 55 years.

Their hiding place is well-chosen. Only one window faces the boulevard. The upper floor is occupied by an old woman who works as their...

(The entire section is 2,143 words.)