Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Les Miserables, Vol IV: Different Shades of Love

The fourth volume of Les Miserables is about love. It talks much about love and little about anything else. My reading was not as joyful as the other volumes, perhaps because I read it with less concentration and speed than the previous volumes.

This volume feels a lot longer than the others I have read. Fifteen books! There are so many things worth noting, too many things that it's so difficult to determine what I should be talking about before anything else.

So I will talk just about love.

The first love is paternal love so intense and so deep that it becomes possessive and selfish. Jean's love for Cosette is undoubted. He refuses all luxury for himself but denies Cosette nothing. Cosette is his pearl and treasure. He is also very protective but kind to her. It's a pure fatherly love, like the love from God to His children – but a little bit too much. Jean, tasting love for the first time, begins to fear the possibility of not being loved any longer, as if love is divisible, as if love is a finite thing which amount will decrease when ir is given to more people. Also, because he well knows that he is Cosette's nobody, his fear becomes even bigger.

“ I have been first, the most wretched of men, and then the most unhappy, and I have traversed sixty years of life on my knees, I have suffered everything that man can suffer, I have grown old without having been young, I have lived without a family, without relatives, without friends, without life, without children, I have left my blood on every stone, on every bramble, on every mile-post, along every wall, I have been gentle, though others have been hard to me, and kind, although others have been malicious, I have become an honest man once more, in spite of everything, I have repented of the evil that I have done and have forgiven the evil that has been done to me, and at the moment when I receive my recompense, at the moment when it is all over, at the moment when I am just touching the goal, at the moment when I have what I desire, it is well, it is good, I have paid, I have earned it, all this is to take flight, all this will vanish, and I shall lose Cosette, and I shall lose my life, my joy, my soul, because it has pleased a great booby to come and lounge at the Luxembourg.”

This love materialises into series of inquiries, series of suspicion, and ends in hatred towards the rival: Marius. Happily, though, such hatred doesn't go further, because Jean thinks that Marius is going to die anyway, and his rivalry will end. It won't be so, will it?

Marius' love is another shade of affection. It's a gentle and warm love. It's amorous, but neither fierce nor ardent. The love in him is so deep that it overcomes lust, because lust is a lesser form of love.

“They touched each other, they gazed at each other, they clasped each other’s hands, they pressed close to each other; but there was a distance which they did not pass. Not that they respected it; they did not know of its existence. Marius was conscious of a barrier, Cosette’s innocence; and Cosette of a support, Marius’ loyalty. The first kiss had also been the last. Marius, since that time, had not gone further than to touch Cosette’s hand, or her kerchief, or a lock of her hair, with his lips. For him, Cosette was a perfume and not a woman. He inhaled her. She refused nothing, and he asked nothing. Cosette was happy, and Marius was satisfied.”

What I object, though, from Marius' love, is lack of determination in his part. Marius easily gives up to obstacles. As we can conclude form the last volume, Marius is a proud young man, and the same pride costs him his grandfather's blessing for his marriage. If he could just stay and say why he loves this lady so, his grandfather who loves him so much would surrender to his will. Also to choose death as an escape from his problems is not a very commendable thing to do. Marius is such a gentle person, and I like that, but he's not yet mature enough to be called a man.

The other shade is Eponine. She loves Marius dearly, and at least the does something to get him from Cosette. She fights for her love for Marius in a better determination than Marius, fighting for Cosette's. Eponine dies sacrificing herself for Marius' life, thus declaring herself as a better lover of the two. Marius loves as a scholar does, Eponine, as a knight.

“Promise to give me a kiss on my brow when I am dead.—I shall feel it... And by the way, Monsieur Marius, I believe that I was a little bit in love with you.”

The 4th volume of Les Miserables is a volume of love. There are too many love to write completely here. There is love for the country, for the people, that materialises in civil war; Enjolras and his friends are agents of it. There is love of a boy to other children whom he hardly know, and yet love doesn't withhold its kindness. That boy is Gavroche.

I still hope that somehow the end will be happy. Let every man gets what he deserves, not by the law of men, but by the greater law, the law of love.


  1. ooh, I like your view that Eponine loves as a knight! Lovely that!

    It was definitely a faster read, though am finding Marius & Cosette annoying ;p

    1. Haha. Yes, Eponine is the best lover of the two. I also find Marius&Cosette not so interesting. Can't wait to finish the last volume.