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“Fantine,” Books Three–Four

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“Fantine,” Books Three–Four

“Fantine,” Books Three–Four

“Fantine,” Books Three–Four

“Fantine,” Books Three–Four

“Fantine,” Books Three–Four

There are echoes of Cinderella, the Grimm fairy tale, in the relationship between the Thénardiers and Cosette, which Hugo uses to comment on the role mothers play in the development of their daughters. While Thénardier plays a more prominent role later in the novel, most of Cosette’s maltreatment actually comes at the hands of Mme. Thénardier and her two daughters, Eponine and Azelma—Hugo’s interpretation of the evil stepmother and evil stepsisters, respectively. Hugo notes that “[Madame Thénardier] was unkind to Cosette and Eponine and Azelma were unkind, too. Children at that age are simply copies of the mother; only the size is reduced.” Here, Hugo identifies the mother as the most important factor in determining a child’s development and suggests that Cosette’s upbringing is impaired because Fantine is absent.

The relationship between parents and children, which is emphasized throughout the novel, surfaces in the letter that Tholomyès and his friends leave their mistresses. In their letter, the four students write, “Understand, we have parents. Parents—you barely know the meaning of the word,” indicating that Fantine and the other working-class girls come from broken homes. Here, Hugo points to the breakdown of the traditional family among the working class, a dissolution brought about by the struggle to survive. These instances of ruptured family relations—of orphans, unwanted children, and foster parents—represent Hugo’s comment on the upturned social order and broken family ties that he felt plagued the working classes of early nineteenth-century France.

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Les Miserables Analysis

by Adi31415, March 28, 2013

Les Miserables is based around the turning point in French history, and it explores the nature of this change in terms of society, and uses this as a basis for explaining the revolution. It explains how the ‘miserables’, or ‘victims’, damned into a life of thievery and being the scum of the Earth aren’t inherently bad. The society which has not given them a chance forces them to be bad, or do bad things. Instead of understanding their inner goodness and their plight to change their ways, or giving them some kindness or hope, they a... Read more

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Correction to Note 1 in Study Section

by IleneRM, October 24, 2013

It says: "Fantine falls in love with Tholomyès, a debonair upper-class student who obeys upper-class social customs and leaves Fantine even though she is pregnant with his child." This is wrong. Fantine was not pregnant. Ten months after the affair ended, Cosette was almost 3 years old; therefore she was already born when he left Fantine.

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12 out of 20 people found this helpful

Study Questions - error in #1

by IleneRM, October 24, 2013

It says: "Fantine falls in love with Tholomyès, a debonair upper-class student who obeys upper-class social customs and leaves Fantine even though she is pregnant with his child." This is wrong. Fantine was not pregnant. Ten months after the affair ended, Cosette was almost 3 years old; therefore she was already born when he left Fantine.

See all 7 readers' notes   →