Study Guide

Les Misérables Part 5, Book 1

By Victor Hugo

Part 5, Book 1


Part 5, Jean Valjean

War Within Four Walls

  • By this point, darkness has fallen and the people fighting on the Paris barricade are waiting for the next army attack, which probably won't come until the next morning.
  • All the rebels talk about their friends who have died in the attack and what great guys they were.
  • In the middle of all this, one dude steps up and gives an inspiring speech about how they're all going to die for the cause of freedom, really pumping everyone up.
  • Enjolras, however, doesn't see the point in sacrificing forty men to defend a barricade that only needs thirty. He tells some of the men with wives and families to get on out. No one wants to, but eventually five men sneak out by wearing the uniforms of dead French army officers—one of which Valjean offers, once he shows up.
  • Enjolras thanks Valjean for his help, then asks him if he's willing to die, since everyone who's staying at the barricade has accepted this fact.
  • Now that the men have all decided to give their lives for freedom, Enjolras stands up and gives an inspiring speech about how the spread of democracy and education is a fundamental part of the world's progress.
  • When the speech is over, Jean Valjean goes inside the rebels' bar and sees Javert tied up. How darkly humorous.
  • Next morning, the rebels brace for battle. From the end of the street, a bunch of French soldiers bring a big cannon into view, which they plan on using to blow up the barricade.
  • Gavroche returns just at the moment the cannonball hits the barricade. But the cannonball just lodges in the barricade and does no real damage. All of the rebels snicker at its uselessness, and the French army officers are super frustrated.
  • Marius grabs Gavroche and asks him whether he delivered his letter to Cosette. Gavroche says yes, even though it's a lie and he definitely gave the letter to Jean Valjean. Marius suspects that Valjean has appeared because of the letter to Cosette, but he can't prove it.
  • Next thing you know, the French army is loading their cannon with something called grapeshot, which is kind of like a shotgun cartridge designed for a cannon. In other words, it's a bunch of tiny pellets that spray out in all directions, killing everything they hit. Before the French can fire this weapon, the rebels shoot the guy who's manning the cannon. This buys them more time, but really cheeses off the French army.
  • The grapeshot does a ton of damage to the barricade when it's eventually fired. The only way to stop it is to use a mattress to absorb all of its shrapnel. So Jean Valjean heroically jumps out from behind the barricade and pulls a mattress off the street while taking heavy fire. Eventually, he gets back with it and the mattress neutralizes the next round of grapeshot.
  • While all of this is happening, Cosette wakes up in her bed back at the Valjean house. She has no clue that her father is off fighting a battle, or even that there's fighting at all in Paris.
  • However, she does feel really put off by a family of birds outside her window, so there's obviously something going on.
  • Meanwhile, the French army has gotten fed up with the rebels and is sending waves of men toward the barricade. But the rebels just keep mowing them down. Enjolras is even annoyed, since the tactic is getting French soldiers needlessly killed and wasting the rebels' ammunition.
  • After all of this, a rumble starts up in the streets of Paris. For a moment, it sounds like the entire city is about to break into rebellion. But then the energy dies down, and Enjolras and the rebels know that they're alone. Worse yet, they're running out of ammo.
  • Hearing about the ammo situation, Gavroche leaves the barricade with a basket and starts taking ammunition from all of the dead French soldiers. He's totally exposed and getting shot at, but he doesn't seem to care. He just keeps singing and making fun of the soldiers who are shooting at him.
  • Eventually, Gavroche's luck runs out and he gets shot and killed. The rebels are inspired by his defiance, though, and they snatch up the basket of ammo he has collected.
  • As Gavroche dies, we look in on the two street urchins he helped a few days earlier – the ones who are actually his brothers. They stand by a pond, feeling hungry. A man and a child are walking by, and the child is so rich and spoiled that he throws his bread away into a nearby duck pond. The two urchins snatch at the bread and eat it, even though it's wet with pond water and they have to fight a swan to get it.
  • Back at the barricade, Enjolras decides that it's finally time to give up the barricade and to make one last stand inside the ABC Society's tavern.
  • He and his buddies gather up a bunch of rocks to reinforce the tavern's first floor, then they run inside. The French soldiers are in close pursuit, and the battle rages on.
  • While they're inside, they decide that someone needs to kill Javert before his cronies have a chance to save him. Jean Valjean volunteers to do it. He takes Javert out of sight and pulls the trigger. Say goodbye to Inspector Javert…
  • Wait a sec! Valjean doesn't kill him at all. He just fires his gun into the air and then totally lets Javert go and tells him where he (Valjean) is currently living. Javert leaves, determined to arrest Valjean if he doesn't get himself killed in the fighting in the meantime.
  • One by one, the leaders of the revolt get themselves killed until only Marius and Enjolras are left fighting. Marius is shot through the shoulder and he passes out. Before he loses consciousness, though, he feels a strong hand picking him up. He assumes he's been captured by the army and that he'll be killed, so he says goodbye to Cosette in spirit.
  • Meanwhile Enjolras gets himself cornered in a second-floor room in the tavern. He is out of ammo and is basically waiting for the French soldiers to shoot him. Before they shoot him, though, the drunken buffoon Grantaire wakes up from being passed out and stands by Enjolras' side, ready to die. It looks like the guy has some bravery in him after all.
  • Or it could just be that he has a really bad hangover and would rather die.
  • Now we look in on Marius, who has in fact been taken prisoner… by Jean Valjean! That's right, Valjean has saved Marius and is now carrying him away from the battle. But the only way to escape without being caught is to go down into the Paris sewers.
  • True, the French army has already thought of this and is patrolling the sewers, but Valjean manages to elude them.