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Les Misérables | Study Guide

Victor Hugo

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Les Misérables | Part 4, Book 4 : Saint-Denis and Idyll of the Rue Plumet (Aid from Below or from Above) | Summary



During the time when they were feeling somewhat estranged, Jean Valjean and Cosette had begun making visits to the poo,r and this is how they met the Jondrettes. After the attempted robbery, Cosette sees her father's chisel burn and begins caring for the infected wound, which brings them closer together. By the time spring arrives, both Jean Valjean and Cosette have cheered up, and he encourages her to begin walking in the garden again.

One evening Gavroche is walking around town looking for dinner and remembers Mabeuf's garden and apple tree. As he approaches, he overhears a conversation between Mabeuf and his servant, Mother Plutarch, which reveals they have only the apples left to eat, so he refrains from taking one. He crawls under a bush to sleep but soon witnesses Montparnasse attacking an old man who ends up overpowering him. The old man happens to be Jean Valjean, and he gives the 19-year-old criminal a lecture, then hands him his purse. Gavroche sneaks out of the garden and picks Montparnasse's pocket. When he comes back, he throws the purse at Mabeuf's feet, near the bench where he is dozing. This wakes him up, and he finds six napoleons (120 francs) inside.


This book explains why Valjean and Cosette were giving alms to the Thénardiers. Of course the hero does not tell Cosette how he received the wound but is happy to have it since it brings him and Cosette back together. Cosette now establishes a regular habit of walking in the garden, which will become an important plot point.

Little Gavroche, a Thénardier in name only, is a street urchin with a heart of gold. He forgoes his dinner of apples when he hears what dire straits the old people are in, and he steals from the criminal and gives the money to Mabeuf. Gavroche hardly seems to realize his extreme misfortune and exhibits more than one instance of generosity and compassion throughout the story. He doesn't fault his parents for their lack of care; he simply takes it as a fact of life. Although Gavroche seems less of a realistic character and more of plot device, he enters the story from time to time to remind the reader that poverty does not rob all people of their humanity. He also serves to arouse the reader's pity for the orphaned and the disenfranchised.

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