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Les Misérables | Study Guide

Victor Hugo

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Les Misérables | Part 4, Book 13 : Saint-Denis and Idyll of the Rue Plumet (Marius Enters the Shadow) | Summary



When Marius hears he is wanted on the barricade, he sets off gladly, since he prefers to die now that Cosette seems lost to him. He walks through the armed city and then sits down on a stone. First he recalls his heroic father. Now it is his turn to be "brave, intrepid, bold, to face the bullets, bare his breast to the bayonets, pour out his blood, seek the enemy, seek death." He thinks about how Cosette has abandoned him without a word, even though he had given her his address, and he weeps bitterly. For a moment he thinks he should not fight in a civil war, but then convinces himself all wars are equally bad, and he cannot abandon his comrades.


Marius has promised to die if he cannot be with Cosette, and he now seeks to carry out that promise. He is by nature a dreamy, introspective man, and until now he has not embraced the rebels' cause. But in true romantic fashion, he remembers his heroic father and seeks a heroic death himself; he wants to die for love. He still has reservations—for example, he realizes he will be fighting in a civil war—but he rationalizes that he cannot leave his comrades to fight alone, even though at this point he is good friends with only Courfeyrac. Furthermore, because he feels fear, he redoubles his resolve to take part in the rebellion. He takes the opportunity of his despair to try to measure up to the grandeur of the image he has of his father.

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