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Les Misérables | Study Guide

Victor Hugo

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Les Misérables | Part 3, Book 6 : Marius (The Conjunction of Two Stars) | Summary



Marius has grown into a handsome man, and he doesn't realize women find him attractive. He has been regularly walking in the Luxembourg Gardens for over a year and notices an old man, about 60, and a puny teenager who sit on a bench on one of the deserted paths. The students have dubbed the old man Monsieur Leblanc because of his white hair. Marius stops going to the park for about six months, and when he returns the girl has blossomed into a beautiful woman. Nothing much happens until they catch each other's eye, and he is smitten by her artless gaze. The next day he begins dressing in his good suit for his walks. He continues watching, but now from afar, and at one point the girl and her father walk toward him and she looks at him questioningly. This flirtation between them increases until her father finally notices. At one point Marius follows them home and asks the porter about them. Suddenly Leblanc and his daughter disappear from the park. About a week later, when Marius inquires at the house, he learns they have moved.


Marius falls in love with the young girl, who happens to be Cosette. Her attraction is "a trap that Innocence unconsciously lays, where she catches hearts without intending to ... It is the virgin glancing like a woman." Hugo means that, even when sexual love is innocent, it knows its end and the means to its end. On the other hand, Marius is such a novice at love that he does not know how to disguise himself from Jean Valjean or properly introduce himself. When he follows Cosette home, Jean Valjean immediately removes Cosette from Marius's vicinity, since the possessive father is not likely to accept interference from an amorous young man who can potentially separate him from his beloved child. An important theme in the novel is the redemptive power of love, and while Cosette's love does not redeem Marius, it transforms him so that he exchanges action for dreaming and risks his life for a cause. Jean Valjean's love for Cosette at first makes him more possessive, but in the end he will sacrifice himself to that love—not only allowing Marius into Cosette's life, but becoming the instrument of their union.

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