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Les Misérables | Study Guide

Victor Hugo

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Les Misérables | Part 5, Book 6 : Jean Valjean (The White Night) | Summary



Cosette and Marius marry in February of the following year. Jean Valjean leaves the wedding festivities early, while Grandfather Gillenormand gives a long speech ending in the observation, "To love or to have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life. To love is a consummation." When Jean Valjean gets home, he looks wistfully around Cosette's empty room and then opens the mysterious case that never leaves his possession. Inside is Cosette's mourning clothes he dressed her in on the day he came to rescue her. His drops his head, and "his face was swallowed up, so to speak, in Cosette's clothes, and anybody who had passed along the staircase at that moment would have heard irrepressible sobbing."


Jean Valjean leaves the wedding early and goes home alone to brood on his last act of sacrifice. He has one more trial to endure, which is to reveal to Marius his real identity.

In one of the most poignant scenes in the novel, he finally takes out the case he has been carrying around for a good part of the novel—what Cosette has called "the inseparable"—and "hugs" Cosette's mourning clothes, which symbolize her innocence and fragility and his entry into fatherhood.

While most parents have to face separation from a beloved child at a certain point in time, his will turn into an exile. Juxtaposed against this exile is Gillenormand's speech about love as the pearl of great price. Without his pearl Jean Valjean's life must come to an end.

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