And, I mean, all of these things are perfectly true, but some time over the past ten years a switch has flipped in my head and suddenly I kind of kind of love Terrible Failbot Marius? THE CHILD IS HILARIOUS.
Okay, so Marius Pontmercy. We first meet Marius is a sad shy eight-year-old being raised by his passionately Royalist ninety-year-old grandfather, M. Gillenormand. (Shout-out to the M. Gillenormand fans here!)
However, Marius eventually undergoes teenaged rebellion and falls passionately in love . . . WITH NAPOLEON. He hangs out in his room at night and shouts "LONG LIVE NAPOLEON!" at the sky. Please bear in mind Napoleon has been dead at this point for approximately ten years.
Eventually this gets him kicked out of the house, where he wanders sadly around the streets until he is picked up by some friendly revolutionaries, Bossuet and Courfeyrac -
-- okay, and here it is I think that I have to pause and present a Brief Guide to Revolutionaries in Les Miserables.
Enjolras: you all know who he is, he's the hot revolutionary leader who wears the red vest and is devoted to nothing but HIS COUNTRY and FREEDOM
Grantaire: you also probably know who he is, he is the cynical drunk one who trolls Marius and sings sarcastic verses about whether their deaths are going to mean anything at all on the barricades. You may ask why he hangs out with them at all, and the answer is because he's in love with Enjolras and follows him around like a bitter lovesick puppy who knows he has no chance in hell
Combeferre: the nice, mild-mannered, reasonable one who loves SCIENCE; my personal favorite
Courfeyrac: the hot playboy
Jehan Prouvaire: the angsty teenaged poet; think Ewan MacGregor in Moulin Rouge
Feuilly: the only one who is actually working-class; attempts to turn every conversation into a discussion of OPPRESSION IN POLAND
Bossuet: plagued by bad luck and premature baldness, but cheerful despite it all. My other favorite!
Joly: the med student who has done nothing with his training except become a hypochondriac
Bahorel: Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock
Get it? Got it? Good.
(But it's okay if you don't because all these funny, charming, totally idiotic kids are going to die horribly and it will only make you sadder to care about them. FLEE WHILE YOU CAN!)
So Bossuet -- the unlucky one -- and Courfeyrac -- the hot one -- happen to bump into Marius while Marius is storming off from his grandfather's house in a huff, and they have the following conversation:
BOSSUET: Oh hey you're Marius Pontmercy!
MARIUS: . . . have we met?
BOSSUET: No, but you totally skipped class today, right?
MARIUS: . . .yes?
BOSSUET: Well, when they called out your name, I thought I might as well do a good deed and said "Present," so you're okay!
MARIUS: Oh! Great!
BOSSUET: But then they called out my name and I couldn't say "Present!" again so I got kicked out of class. It's okay though, this helped me realize that I never wanted to be a lawyer anyway! Want to come home with me? -- oh wait, I forgot, I don't have a house.
COURFEYRAC: I have a house! I'll adopt him! Aww, look at that cute baby face.
MARIUS: . . . I have no idea what is happening.
So Marius gets adopted by the revolutionaries for a while and starts hanging out with them. However, things get sort of awkward when, in the middle of a big revolutionary party, he stands up and starts giving a PASSIONATE SPEECH ABOUT NAPOLEON AND THE GLORIES OF EMPIRE.
This is a bit like someone coming to an Obama rally and standing up to announce, "Guys, I'm real happy for you and I'm gonna let you finish, but I think we're all forgetting that JFK was the best President of all time. OF ALL TIME!"
This goes down about as well as you would think, and Marius storms out in a huff and basically stops speaking to everyone except Courfeyrac. OH MARIUS. It's okay, though, because he gets a new interest in life: Cosette.
Now, Cosette/Marius is ridiculous. Everyone knows it is ridiculous. What they forget is that a.) it is also hilarious and b.) guys, Cosette totally moved in on that first.
So the way this goes down is that Cosette and Valjean have been hanging out in the park for a couple years, and Marius is just like "ewwww, girls." And then they stop coming for a while, and then they come back, and Cosette is a year or two older and starts giving Marius sidelong glances, and Marius -- who has never actually spoken to a girl who is not his aunt or his landlady -- has a full on "OH NO SHE'S HOT" panic.
And the next day he puts on his best suit --
(Courfeyrac, in a direct and glorious quote: "I have just met Marius' new hat and coat, with Marius in them. Probably he was going to take an examination. He looked completely idiotic.")
-- and then shows up and takes, like, AN HOUR of lurking behind trees before he gets the courage to saunter by Cosette's bench all "look at my shiny coat! look! I am a suitable mate!" And he does this twice and then PANICS AND RUNS AWAY, thinking sulkily about how "she could not fail to have some esteem and consideration for me, if she knew that I was the real author of the dissertation on Marcos Obregon de la Ronda, which Monsieur Francoise Neufchateau has put, as his own, at the beginning of his edition of Gil Blas!"
OH MARIUS. OH MARIUS.
Marius continues to be totally ridiculous for the next six months. At one point, he finds a handkerchief on Cosette's usual bench, and moons around for the next week kissing it and holding it to his heart while making significant eye contact. What he doesn't know is it's Jean Valjean's handkerchief that he is macking on, so Cosette spends the whole week thinking "???? Weirdo."
One more shining example of Hilarious Failboat Marius: so this section ends with a great action sequence, when Thenardier lures Valjean to his room and then tries to rob him.
Marius, of course, lives right next door. He has no idea Thenardier is Thenardier, but he does know that a crime is planned, and has worked out a plan with FRIENDLY LOCAL POLICEMAN JAVERT that he will watch through a crack in the wall and fire a shot with a pistol when it's time for the police to rush in.
(As a sidenote, Thenardier's room is also jam-packed full of criminals who are here to see the action, because everybody evil in Paris were bored that day and had nothing better to do.)
Anyway, Thenardier embarks on his Villainous Monologue in which he reminds Jean Valjean who he is. Remember Thenardier accidentally saved Marius' dad's live that one time? CHEKHOV'S GUN: ACTIVATED! Marius can't turn Thenardier in, because Thenardier saved his dad's life! But if he lets him get away, his crush object's father might die! WHAT DOOOOOOO
Marius spends the next twenty pages in a flailing panic, while Jean Valjean calmly beats up every thief in Paris; trolls Thenardier with a fake address; beats up every thief in Paris again; uses a tiny lockpick hidden in a fake coin to break himself out of being tied up; and dramatically burns himself with a fire iron just to show off to Thenardier how badass he is. Even Thenardier is like "WTF!" but Marius is STILL BASICALLY TOO BUSY PANICKING TO NOTICE.
Meanwhile, Javert is presumably hanging outside, waiting for Marius' signal, checking his watch, and going "what the hell is this idiot student thinking?" OH MARIUS. OH MARIUS.
Eventually Marius throws a piece of paper that says "the cops are coming!" into the room, and all thieves start arguing about how they're going to draw lots for who's going to leave first. Someone politely offers his hat for the purposes. It is, of course, Javert, who has gotten sick of all this and is exceedingly sarcastic about it to boot. This scene , for the record, is probably the greatest gift to Javert fans in the entire book. Thenardier makes the mistake of trying to shoot him.
JAVERT: "Don't go and shoot. It'll misfire."
JAVERT: "I told you so!"
Valjean jumps out the window, Javert arrests everybody, and Marius . . . hides in his room . . . and pretends he's not there?
MARIUS PONTMERCY: A HERO FOR THE AGES.
Best Character Not Appearing In Any Adaptations Award for this section goes to Bossuet, because sometimes you get Combeferre but you never get Bossuet and without him there would basically not be a barricades section because Marius and the revolutionaries would never have met!
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