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Les Misérables | Study Guide

Victor Hugo

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Les Misérables | Part 4, Book 2 : Saint-Denis and Idyll of the Rue Plumet (Eponine) | Summary



In Part 4, Book 2, Hugo returns to the main story: Marius abruptly moves the next day, partly in horror of the scene he witnessed and partly because he doesn't want to testify against Thénardier. Javert tries to track him down but can't remember Marius's name. He moves into Courfeyrac's place and is beginning to experience serious poverty again because he hasn't worked in months, since he's been pining over the girl he lost. He also sends the incarcerated Thénardier five francs a week, even if he has to borrow it from his friend.

Two of the prisoners, Montparnasse and Claquesous of the Patron-Minette, have escaped on the way to jail. Although Eponine and her sister, Azelma, are initially jailed, there is not enough evidence against them, so they are released. The judge has put another of the criminals, Brujon, in solitary confinement, but he finds a way to communicate with Babet about a possible target of robbery. Eponine visits Monsieur Mabeuf, now near 80, and asks about Marius. Although he doesn't have an address, he tells her where he goes walking, in "The Field of the Lark." Eponine finds Marius and tells him she can point out Cosette's residence to him. Marius excitedly grabs her hand, which she withdraws, saying "in a tone that would have pierced the heart of any observer, but which did not even touch the giddy and ecstatic Marius, 'Oh! How pleased you are!'" When they get to the house, he gives Eponine a five-franc coin, which she drops, saying, "I don't want your money."


The fact that Eponine knows about Marius's friendship with Mabeuf shows she has been watching and following him for a long time. They lived next door to each other at the Gorbeau House, and while the dreamy Marius was paying no attention to his neighbors, Eponine was falling in love with him. Now Marius is mooning in the Field of the Lark because he associates it with "the Lark," the name Thénardier used for Cosette during his attempted robbery of Jean Valjean (The Lark was the name the townspeople gave to Cosette when she lived in Montfermeil). Eponine does not remember Cosette as her childhood stepsister, and she gives Marius her location because she wants to make him happy. Marius shows his lack of insight in that he has no idea Eponine has feelings for him. For her part, she has no chance with Marius, so she is willing to take the little she can get—some simple gratitude. Eponine's behavior also shows that although she has been raised by human mongrels, she is basically good. Her first impulse is to help the man she loves rather than act out of spite because she is envious his affections are elsewhere engaged. Although Eponine does become jealous as her attachment to Marius grows and will act out of spite later in the novel, she initially becomes a kind of angel to Marius, watching out for his interests. In fact she ends up saving both Marius and Cosette and Jean Valjean from harm.

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