Study Guide

Les Misérables Part 1, Book 4

By Victor Hugo

Part 1, Book 4

To Trust is Sometimes to Surrender

  • We look in on a town outside of Paris called Montfermeuil, which is totally real and still exists today. Now we find Fantine, who has given birth to a baby daughter and is living an incredibly harsh life.
  • No one will give her work if they know she's an unmarried mother, so she stops while passing through Montfermeuil and asks a random mother whether she would consider taking care of her (Fantine's) daughter. After some financial haggling, they come to an agreement.
  • Just like that, Fantine leaves her daughter with the Thénardiers. But don't expect a happy ending. They're are a pair of inn-keeping scoundrels who only look out for themselves and only agree to take Fantine's daughter because of the money.
  • Two years go by, and, as you might expect the Thénardiers mistreat Fantine's daughter, whose real name is Euphrasie but whose her mother calls Cosette.
  • Eventually, Fantine has trouble coming up with the money, so the Thénardiers put Cosette to work with totally age appropriate tasks like scrubbing the tavern floors at the age of five.
  • Cosette becomes known locally as "the Lark," because she is small and birdlike (probably from malnutrition) and always up in the morning before anyone else.