Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Les Miserables Essay

Les Miserables (the title is the same in French and English) is the most well-known of Victor Hugo’s novels. It describes the miserable life of French workers, and especially their children. Hugo calls for social action to improve the unfortunate poor’s lives. This excerpt describes the character Marius, and how he has worked very hard to succeed in life. Excerpt from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1802-1885) Misery is the same with anything else. As time passes, it gradually becomes bearable. Marius had emerged from the narrow passage of his life; now the path widened out a bit. Through sheer hard work, courage, and a strong will, he had managed to earn around seven hundred francs a year. He had learned English and German. Thanks to Courfeyrac, the man who introduced him to his publisher friend, Marius held a position in the literary department of the publishing house, where he filled the useful role of utility. He wrote prospectuses, translated articles from journals, annotated publications, compiled biographies, and so on. His net gain, year in, year out, was seven hundred francs. He was able to survive on this income. How? Not badly. Here is how he lived. For a yearly rent of thirty francs, Marius lived in a miserable little room without a fireplace in the Gorbeau tenement. There was only a bare minimum of furniture which belonged to him. He paid the old woman who took care of the building a sum three francs a month to sweep his room, and bring him some warm water, a fresh egg, and a small loaf of bread every morning. This egg and bread cost him between two and four cents, because eggs varied in price. At six o’clock in the evening, he went downstairs to eat dinner at Rousseau’s in the Rue Saint Jacques. He had no soup, but he ate a plate of meat for six pennies, half a plate of vegetables for three pennies, and a dessert for the same price. As for bread, he could eat as much as he liked for three pennies, but instead of wine, he drank water. Then he paid at the counter, where Madame Rousseau sat majestically, a large woman with a pleasant face. She would smile as Marius handed the waiter a one penny tip. Then he left the restaurant. For a total of sixteen cents, he got a dinner and a smile. †¦.. Marius had two complete suits, one of them old, that he wore for everyday use, and the other one new, which he wore on special occasions. Both suits were black. He owned only three shirts: the one he had on, another one that was in the bureau drawer, and the third one that was at the laundry woman’s. When they wore out, he replaced them with new ones, but generally, his shirts were ragged, so he buttoned his coat up to his chin. To reach this stage of prosperity, it had taken Marius many hard, difficult years: years of barely getting by, and years of trudging along. He had never once given up. He had struggled and done without, he had been through every hardship, except going into debt. Instead of borrowing money, he went without food. There had been many days of fasting. During all his hard times, he actually felt encouraged, and sometimes he even felt a certain inner strength. In addition to the memory of his father, Marius carried the memory of Thà ©nardier in his heart. He envisioned the man surrounded by a halo, the brave sergeant Thà ©nardier who had saved his father, a colonel, when he found him among the cannon fire and bullets at Waterloo. Marius always kept the memory of this man together with the memory of his father, and he felt great admiration for them both. It was a bit like a form of worship in two steps. The high altar was reserved for his father the colonel, and the low one for Thà ©nardier. His feelings of gratitude for the man were strengthened by the knowledge that Thà ©nardier had suffered a horrible misfortune. Marius found out that as an unlucky innkeeper, Thà ©nardier had gone bankrupt. After learning this, Marius made countless efforts to track down the miserable Thà ©nardier, who had disappeared. Marius blamed and hated himself for not being able to locate him. He felt that the only debt his father had left him was to succeed in finding Thà ©nardier. Marius felt it was his duty to pay him that tribute. â€Å"After all,† he thought, â€Å"when my father lay dying on the battlefield, it was Thà ©nardier who was able to find him through the smoke, and carry him away on his shoulders. Yet he owed Thà ©nardier nothing, whereas I, who owe so much to Thà ©nardier, cannot get to him in his time of darkness and suffering. I cannot, in my turn, restore him to life. Oh! I will find him!†

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