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Les Misérables | Study Guide

Victor Hugo

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Les Misérables | Part 4, Book 10 : Saint-Denis and Idyll of the Rue Plumet (June 5, 1832) | Summary



Book 10 provides background information to explain the uprising of June 5, 1832. In some ways this incident was a continuation of the revolt of 1830, which had been stopped in its tracks. The narrator wisely notes "universal suffrage ... dissolves the riot in its principle and by giving a vote to insurrection disarms it." France was making slow progress toward democracy but still had a long way to go. Some people were impatient and wanted the system to change more quickly.

The spark of the insurrection was ignited by the death of General Lamarque, a war hero and beloved politician. Lamarque was an ardent Bonapartist who had fought at Waterloo, but he was also a defender of liberty. General Lamarque's funeral procession passed through Paris, and a large, unruly crowd was getting bigger. At some point a riot started, and the arms factory was plundered by insurrectionists. Moreover, the radicals who had been planning for this moment had armed their partisans beforehand. In no time at all, barricades were thrown up all over the city, and certain municipal buildings were occupied.


Hugo stops again to provide a gloss on the action of the story by giving the reader background on the temporary takeover of parts of Paris by radical factions in 1832. He has already explained France went through what amounted to a prolonged revolution, with stops and starts. France didn't establish its Third Republic until 1870, while the American Republic, which borrowed many ideas from French as well as English philosophers, had been in existence since 1776. But France had a long history of monarchy, which is not so easy to shake off.

The radicals have been waiting for an event to set off the powder keg. Parisians had suffered a long bout of cholera. The economy was still in poor shape in 1832, just as it had been in 1830, and the radicals channel the anger of the poor as fighting breaks out all over the city.

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