Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

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Marius: Summary and Analysis

The Grand Bourgeois - Summary
New Characters:
M. Gillenormand: an elderly bourgeois gentleman

Mademoiselle Gillenormand the Elder: oldest daughter of Gillenormand

Lieutenant Théodule Gillenormand: Mademoiselle’s nephew

M. Gillenormand is 90 years old. He treats his 50-year-old daughter like a child and sometimes beats his domestics. He is “truly a man of another age — the genuine bourgeois of the eighteenth century, a very perfect specimen, a little haughty.”

Gillenormand’s daughters are ten years apart in age. The younger daughter is happy, gay, and married to the man of her dreams. The other, Mademoiselle the elder, remains unmarried. Ever modest, she is called the Prude and allows only her nephew Théodule to kiss her. She is a religious woman “of the fraternity of the Virgin” who keeps the house for her father and his grandson. The boy is terribly afraid of his grandfather.

The Grandfather and the Grandson - Summary
New Characters:
George Pontmercy: soldier married to Gillenormand’s younger daughter

Marius: son of Pontmercy and grandson of Gillenormand

Abbé Mabeuf: the priest who is curé of Vernon

It is about 1817 in the town of Vernon. George Pontmercy lives in a small, humble house with a woman who waits on him. He is about fifty, has white hair and a scar that extends from his forehead across his cheek. He was young soldier when the revolution broke out. With his regiment, he fought on almost every front from Italy to Turkey to Germany. The emperor awarded him the cross. He was a brave and distinguished soldier and an outstanding officer who was wounded several times. He fought with Napoleon at Waterloo. There, he was wounded again by a saber across the cheek when he rescued the colors from the opposition. Covered with blood, he delivered them to the emperor, who praised and thanked him.

During the Restoration, Pontmercy was reduced to half-pay and sent to live in a government residence in Vernon. Louis XVIII, ignoring Pontmercy’s valiant efforts in the campaign, “recognized neither his position of officer of the Legion of Honor, nor his rank of colonel, nor his title of baron.” He continues to use the title Colonel Baron Pontmercy and wears the rosette of an officer every time he goes out in spite of warnings from the government that this is illegal. He responds by asking if he is still permitted to wear his scar.

Between two wars, Pontmercy had married Mademoiselle Gillenormand who died in 1815 leaving a son. Her father, M. Gillenormand, considered his son-in-law “a blockhead” and demanded that his grandson live with him. Because the old man threatened to disinherit the boy if he did not have his way, Pontmercy gave in and agreed not to see or speak to his son Marius, thus insuring a large inheritance from his Aunt Gillenormand. Influenced by the grandfather, Marius gradually became ashamed of his father.

Every few months, Pontmercy would travel to Paris. He would go to Saint Sulpice, where he would hide behind a pillar so he could see Marius when the aunt took him to mass. There he met Abbé Mabeuf, the curé of Vernon, whose brother was a warden at Saint Sulpice. One day when the priest was visiting his brother, he saw Pontmercy and recognized him as the man he had seen hiding behind the pillar with tears in his eyes. The two brothers visited the colonel and eventually learned the whole story.

The father’s only contact with his son was letters, dictated by the aunt, which he received on January 1 and on St. George’s Day. The colonel’s replies were kept by the grandfather and never read.

In 1827, when Marius has just turned 18, his grandfather sends him to Vernon to see his father who is ill and asking for his son. Marius is convinced that his father does not love him and is therefore reluctant to go. Raised to be politically sympathetic with the Restoration, he does not recognize his father’s title as baron or colonel.

The colonel dies of a brain fever the same evening Marius arrives in Vernon....

(The entire section is 4,458 words.)