Study Guide

Les Misérables Part 3, Book 4

By Victor Hugo

Part 3, Book 4

The ABC Society

  • Victor Hugo interrupts this program for an important message: there is revolutionary enthusiasm in the air in France around 1830. Young people like Marius are starting to identify with the French Revolution and are looking to party like it's 1789.
  • (Brain Snack: 1789 is the year the French Revolution started.)
  • New groups and societies start to form around the idea of revolution. The ABC Society is one of them. On the surface, it simply aims to educate children. But its real mission is to raise a generation of revolutionaries MUHAHAHAHAHA.
  • Hugo gives us a short roster of all the young men who hang out in the ABC Society. Their leader is a guy named Enjolras.
  • One day, a member of the ABC Society named Laigle de Meaux sees Marius (who has just been banished from his grandpa's house) driving around in a carriage and not knowing where to go. Laigle recognizes Marius from law school and tells Marius the story of how he [Laigle] sacrificed himself in role call and posed as Marius in order to keep Marius' name from being registered as absent. Thanks, dude.
  • At this same time, another ABC Society guy named Courfeyrac comes out of a bar and hears Marius say that he has nowhere to go. He offers for Marius to stay with him, since he's a wealthy young man with his own place. They become quick friends over the next few days.
  • One day, Courfeyrac asks Marius point-blank about his political opinions. Marius says he believes in Napoleon and democracy, which is a radical thing to say. But Courfeyrac laughs at him for not being radical enough.
  • Before you know it, Marius is hanging with the ABC crowd and spending all his time talking politics in cafés. But something is still missing.
  • Before long, Marius has blown through his thirty francs. He sells his clothes and his watch, but he knows sooner or later that he'll have to find a job, since he refuses to accept his grandpa's money.
  • Eventually, he manages to earn a modest living and he rents out his own apartment in the same tenement building that—coincidence—Jean Valjean and Cosette lived in when they first came to Paris.
  • Before you know it, Marius is twenty. It's been three years since he left his grandfather, and neither of them is willing to back down and apologize. The sad truth, though, is that Monsieur Gillenormand misses Marius but his pride keeps him from admitting he was wrong.
  • Eventually, Marius is offered a good-paying job. But he refuses it because he's afraid of becoming too dependent on his wages. In other words, he never wants to take a job he can't afford to quit—which, um, okay?
  • Marius also spends a lot of time visiting Monsieur Mabeuf, the man who first told Marius about what a great hero his father was. Bad economic times have plunged Monsieur Mabeuf into poverty. And even when the guy does have a little money, he spends it on rare books.
  • One day, Marius learns that his neighbors in the next apartment, the Jondrette family, are about to be turned out for not paying their rent. He doesn't have much money, but he has enough to pay their rent and buy them some food. He asks the landlady not to tell them where the money came from, though.