St. Denis: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3642

Eponine - SummaryMarius, having watched the entire scene, leaves the house just after Javert and goes to Courfeyrac’s. Courfeyrac has moved from the Left Bank to the Rue de la Verrerie, a neighborhood where there are more revolutionists. The following morning, Marius returns home, pays his rent, and leaves without leaving a forwarding address. Ma’am Bougon thinks he is involved with the criminals who were arrested the previous night. Marius leaves for two reasons. One is that it is the place where he first encountered “a social deformity perhaps more hideous than the evil rich man: the evil poor.” The other is that he does not want to be involved in a trial. He does not want to have to testify against Thénardier.

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He is unhappy because he now realizes that he doesn’t even know the name of the girl he loves. Finally, he is once again poor because he has stopped working and “nothing is more dangerous than discontinued labor; it is a habit lost. A habit easy to abandon, difficult to resume.”

Marius does not stay with Courfeyrac. Rather, he lives on the Boulevard de la Sante, the seventh tree down from the Rue Croulebarbe. He sits on the bank of a brook, frozen in a state of inaction. He is sad, and his idle state makes the loss of the girl even more difficult to bear. He watches the women washing clothes and notices the birds singing and is pleased by the happy sounds they make.

He is approached by Eponine who, despite the fact that her clothes are dirtier and more ragged than ever, looks beautiful. She tells him that she has been in jail and has been looking for him for six weeks since she was released. She offers to mend his shirt and tells him that she can make him happy. She reveals that she has the address of the young lady Marius is missing. Of course, he is thrilled and asks her to take him there. She agrees to lead him but warns him not to follow her too closely because it would not be good for him to be seen in public with a woman like her.

The House in the Rue Plumet - Summary
New Character:
Touissant: the servant of Jean and Cosette

Jean Valjean, Cosette, and a servant named Toussaint, an old woman Jean rescued from a hospital, live in a small house on a deserted street in Saint Germain. Built as a summer house by the president of the Parlement of Paris the century before, it has an acre of land and a huge iron gate which faces the street. At the rear of the property is a small building with only two rooms and a cellar which was originally built to hide a child and a nurse. It has a secret passage which leads to a building about a third of a mile away. Jean rented the property in October 1829 and had the secret passage restored.

Though Jean was happy in the convent, he left after Old Fauchelevent died because he felt that Cosette should have the chance to have a more normal life. He told the reverend prioress that he had received a small inheritance and gave her 5000 francs for the five years Cosette had spent there.

When they leave the convent, he takes with him the little box Cosette refers to as “the inseparable.” He always carries the key with him and from then on always has the box with him. He uses the name Ultimus Fauchelevent. Afraid now to go out in public, Jean also rents two other properties in distant quarters of the city in case he needs to change his address quickly.

Cosette and the servant live in the main house, and Jean lives a spartan life in a cottage in the back yard although he does eat with Cosette. Each day they go for a walk in a remote part of the Luxembourg, and every Sunday they go to church.

The mail they receive is tax bills and notices from the National Guard addressed to M. Fauchelevent. Jean would put on a uniform several times a year and perform his guard duties. He does this willingly because it provides a good disguise. At 60, he could have been legally exempt, but he looks like a man in his fifties and welcomes the opportunity to be a part of society and still hide his identity.

All three occupants of the cottage enter through the secret passage, and Jean allows the garden to be overgrown so that it does not attract attention. His precautions may have given him a false sense of security.

Cosette is only 14 years old when she leaves the convent. She has received a fine formal education there, but she is very naive about life because she has no mother. Life in the house on the Rue Plumet is also solitary, but it offers the promise of freedom.

She has only vague memories of her mother, but she does remember her horrid life with the Thénardiers from whom she was rescued by Jean. She loved him passionately as a daughter and felt that “her mother’s soul had passed into this good man.” She is proud and happy to be with Jean, and he thanks God for her love.

Cosette had often been told that she was homely so she thought of herself as unattractive even though Jean told her she was not. Once while they were still at the convent, she was surprised by the way he looked at her. Another time when she was walking on the street, she heard someone behind her say she was pretty but not well dressed. Finally, one day she is shocked to overhear old Toussaint remark to Jean that she is so pretty. Cosette runs to her room and looks in the mirror, amazed to find that she is beautiful.

Jean was aware of her beauty long before she was. It causes him anguish because he knows that one day she will find a husband and leave him. Cosette, once aware of her looks, resolves to look good. Within a month she is one of the best dressed women in the city. Six months later, Marius sees her again in the park.

Marius and Cosette continue to see each other in the park. Their attraction for one another grows, despite the fact that they do not speak to one another. Each adores the other from afar and looks forward to their daily encounters.

Marius tries not to bring himself to the attention of her father, but Jean is very aware of the young man. He notices that Marius dresses better, pretends to read while he is sitting in the park, and no longer approaches them. Jean despises the young man. One day, unable to control himself, Jean makes a negative comment about Marius. Cosette responds by saying that she thinks he is charming. Another day, after they had been sitting in the park for three hours, Cosette surprised him by not wanting to leave so soon.

Though he thought he was no longer capable of evil thoughts, Jean’s dislike of the young man grows, and he glares at Marius. When the porter informs him that Marius has been asking about them, Jean changes their residence within a week and resolves to never set foot in the Luxembourg again. He relents because Cosette is saddned when she does not see Marius. However, for the next three months Marius does not appear in the park so they stop going. Although she never speaks of her anguish, Cosette’s sadness hurts Jean.

Aid From Below May Be Aid From Above - Summary
The only pleasures Jean and Cosette continue to share are their efforts to help the poor. It is at this time that they happen to visit the Jondrettes. Jean’s wound keeps him indoors with a fever for a month. Cosette dresses it for him each day and urges him to see a doctor. He refuses, but finally tells her to call a “dog-doctor” to look at it. Cosette is so concerned about his wound that she spends all her time with him. Without noticing the change that is happening, she grows more content. Jean begins to recover by spring. One day she convinces him to walk in their beautiful garden. She is unaware that her gloom has lifted, but she is laughing and happy. When Jean fully recovers, he resumes his evening walks.

The End of Which Is Unlike the Beginning - Summary
One day Cosette is sitting in the garden on a seat which is hidden from the street. When she gets up, she notices a stone which was not there the moment before. Later, realizing that the stone must have been put there deliberately, she asks Toussaint if she is careful to lock the garden gates. Toussaint assures her that she locks everything well because they are two women alone. Despite these assurances, that night Cosette insists she double check all the doors and windows and inspect the house from top to bottom.

When Cosette awakens in the morning, she runs to the garden and looks under the stone. She finds a letter. There is no name on it, but she knows she must read it.

Although the letter has no name on it and no signature, she knows this message of love is from Marius and she kisses it after she reads it. She has fallen back into the romantic reverie of the time when she saw him daily in the park.

That evening Jean goes out and Cosette, without knowing why, fixes her hair and puts on a dress which is “a little immodest” because the neckline is slightly lower than those of her other dresses. She goes out to the garden. The stone is still there. She touches it and just then senses that someone is watching her. She turns and sees Marius. He confesses his love for her, she blushingly confides that she has loved him from afar. Finally, they tell each other their names.

Enchantments and Desolations - Summary
Marius is ecstatic, but he perceives a sadness in Cosette and asks what is troubling her. She tells him that her father informed her that morning that they might go to England. She suggests that Marius join them there, but he says he does not have enough money to do that. When she begins to sob, Marius tells her that he will die if she goes away. When he is about to leave, Marius tells her that he will not see her the following day. He scratches his address, 16, Rue de la Verrerie, into the plaster wall with his penknife.

Where Are They Going?
New Characters:
Gavroche: Thénardier’s son, one of the band of insurgents

Bossuet, Feuilly, Combeferre, Joly, Bahorel: revolutionists at the barricade

Enjolras: one of the commanders of the insurgents

Summary
Increased police activity because of the political unrest in Paris and the fact that he has seen Thénardier several times in his neighborhood makes Jean nervous so he decides to leave the country and go to England. He plans to leave within a week. One morning he finds an address, 16, Rue de la Verrerie, scratched on his garden wall. He is sitting on the riverbank contemplating his fears when someone standing behind him drops a paper into his lap. A single word, “REMOVE,” is written on the paper. Jean jumps up just in time to see a small man wearing a gray shirt running away. Jean goes home immediately.

Marius wanders aimlessly all day looking forward to his meeting with Cosette at 9 o’clock. As he walks to her home, he thinks he hears the sounds of fighting in the street. He is devastated when he finds her house and garden deserted. A voice through the trees which sounds like Eponine’s advises him, “your friends are expecting you at the barricade, in the Rue de la Chanvrerie.”

At the barricade, a torch protected from the wind on three sides sheds light only on the red flag of the insurgents.

It is evening, and there are few sounds of fighting while the government gathers an army of thousands. There are fifty men in the barricade. Gavroche, the gamin (a gamin is a street urchin, a boy who roams the streets), is holding an infantry musket when Enjolras, one of the leaders, approaches him and asks him to go into the street and report what is happening. Gavroche points out a big man in their midst and accuses him of being a spy. When he is surrounded by four of the rebels, the spy confesses that he is Javert, a government official. They search him, finding a card which identifies him as a police inspector, and then tie him to a post in the basement of the wine shop. Others, including Courfeyrac, run in. Enjolras decrees that Javert “will be shot ten minutes before the barricade is taken.”

Marius Enters the Shadow - Summary
Eponine’s words are like a call of destiny to Marius. Like a man possessed, he hurries through silent streets, avoiding troops and sentinels until he comes close to the barricade where all is dark.

When he reaches the markets, he sees the red glare of the torch and moves toward it. Passing the sentry at the end of the street unnoticed, he rounds the last house and sees inside the barricade. He takes a last step into the barricade.

The Grandeurs of Despair - Summary
At ten o’clock Enjolras and Combeferre sit at the entrance of the barricade, listening for the sound of marching soldiers. Suddenly they hear Gavroche singing part of the song “Au clair de la lune” and know he is warning them. They watch him run down the empty street and leap into the barricade. Minutes later they hear the sound of many men marching toward them. A voice yells out asking them who they are and the insurgents yell back, “French Revolution.” Fighting begins. There is an explosion in the barricade and several are wounded. There is a pause in the battle and Courfeyrac tells them not to waste their powder. They hear the troops reloading their weapons.

Alone on watch, Gavroche sounds the alarm when he hears men approaching the barricade. Municipal Guards overwhelm him. Bahorel, one of the rebels, kills the first one, but the second kills him. Another holds Courfeyrac on the ground with a bayonet but is shot in the head with a musket ball. A fourth guard is also struck. Marius has just entered the barricade.

Marius had been watching the battle from his hiding place. He rushes in with two pistols, saving Gavroche and Courfeyrac. Having used up his ammunition, he is now unarmed. A soldier aims at him and shoots, but Marius is saved by a young working-man who is shot when he jumps between Marius and the soldier. Marius sees a keg of powder on the ground but barely notices the person who saved him.

The insurgents rally. With their backs against the row of houses, they aim and fire at the approaching soldiers. Two explosions kill many on both sides. Marius yells, “Begone or I’ll blow up the barricade” (240). During the confusion he has dragged the keg of powder to the end of the barricade near the torch. When the smoke clears, he is holding the torch, ready to light the keg. A soldier replies that he will also kill himself. When Marius yells that he will do it anyway, the soldiers flee, and the barricade is saved.

Marius asks where the chief is and is told by Enjolras that he is now the chief. The overwhelming joy Marius experienced for two short months has evaporated. He has lost Cosette and become the leader of the insurgents.

Marius goes to inspect the small barricade. As he is leaving, he hears a voice faintly calling him. He recognizes the voice of Eponine. She is dressed in men’s clothing and lying in a pool of blood. It was she who was shot instead of Marius when he entered the barricade for the first time. She confesses that it was she who led him into the barricade even though she knew there would be no survivors. When she saw someone aiming at him, she took the bullet because she wanted to die before him. She also tells him that she has a letter for him. She was supposed to mail it, but she did not want him to receive it. She makes him promise that he will kiss her on the forehead when she is dead.

Keeping his promise, Marius kisses Eponine after she dies. He takes the letter. It is from Cosette. She tells him where she is and that she is leaving for England the following week.

Eponine has manipulated events. Hoping to separate Marius and Cosette, Eponine had warned Jean with the word “Remove,” prompting him to decide to leave the country. Distraught, Cosette hastily wrote the note to Marius. She saw Eponine disguised as a boy, outside her garden gate and paid her five francs to deliver it. Eponine, hoping to come between Marius and Cosette, did not deliver the letter. Instead, she sent him a message to entice him into the barricade. She knew they would all die, but she was willing to go to her death and sacrifice Marius.

Marius now has two goals: to tell Cosette his fate and to save Gavroche who is Eponine’s brother. He writes a letter to Cosette, telling her that although a lack of money kept them from marrying, they will be together soon because he is about to die. He puts the letter in his notebook. On the first page he writes his name and instructions to take his body to his grandfather. He puts the book in his coat pocket, then gives the letter to Gavroche to deliver to Cosette.

The Rue de l’Homme Armé - Summary
When they leave their home on the Rue Plumet, Jean takes only the small box Cosette has christened “the inseparable”; Toussaint takes some linen and clothes, and Cosette brings her blotter and writing desk. Jean is in a moral dilemma because he cannot leave Toussaint behind, yet he cannot tell her why they must flee.

They arrive at their new quarters on the Rue de l’Homme Armé in the evening. The following day, Cosette remains in her room and returns without eating dinner claiming a headache. Several times Toussaint mentions that there is fighting in the streets, but Jean does not hear. Later, pacing about the room, he looks in the mirror and is stunned to read the letter Cosette had written to Marius earlier in the day. The words were on the blotter and the backward image is corrected when it reflects in the mirror. Chance has allowed Jean to read the letter before Marius. He is tortured by the loss his loved one will experience. When Toussaint returns, he asks her about the fighting in the street. Minutes later, he goes out.

Outside, he hears the attack on the barricade. Gavroche comes down the street. He sees but ignores Jean until Jean asks him what is the matter. He says he is hungry, and Jean gives him a five-franc note. Thanking him, Gavroche asks him to point out number seven. On a hunch, Jean asks Gavroche if he has brought him a letter. Gavroche protests that the letter is to be delivered to a woman, but Jean convinces him that he will take it to Cosette so he hands it over.

Jean takes the letter upstairs, lights a candle, and reads, “————I die. When you read this, my soul will be near you.” Inside, he is overjoyed. He is rid of Marius and he has not even had to do anything to achieve it. He soon becomes gloomy. About an hour later he goes out again. This time he is wearing the uniform of a National Guard and carrying a loaded musket. He walks in the direction of the barricade.

St. Denis - Analysis
The love between Marius and Cosette continues to grow although from a distance. Having vacated his apartment, Marius lives in the Field of the Lark, a reference to a place on the bank of a brook as well as to the sphere of Cosette’s influence. Cosette, it will be remembered, was called a lark in an earlier section of the novel.

A subplot with the theme of unrequited love develops between Marius and Eponine, who manipulates events on numerous occasions. Initially, she leads Marius to Cosette when he cannot find her. Later, she tries to keep them apart, disguising herself as a boy so Cosette will pay her to take a letter to Marius. She does not deliver it. Then, she drops a note in Jean’s lap, frightening him into the decision to leave the country. Finally, she tells Marius that his friends expect him at the barricade. Knowing that he loves someone else and that her social status prevents a relationship with him in any case, she is willing to sacrifice both their lives.

St. Denis is a section of Paris where the barricade is located. An idyl is a poem which describes a simple or charming scene. Used in the title of this section, it refers to the garden scene at the house on the Rue Plumet where Marius declares his love for Cosette.

Action packed, this section uses a series of miscommunications and plot twists to bring the main characters together and set the stage for the final resolution of all of the plots and subplots.

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