Les Miserables: Novel Summary: Section 1 - Book Eight

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Section 1 - Fantine
Book Eight - Counter-Stroke
Fantine passes a sleepless night but falls asleep at dawn. Sister Simplice is surprised soon afterward by the entrance of Father Madeleine who appears very haggard and worn. He insists upon seeing Fantine. Fantine awakes and Father Madeleine tells her that Cosette is safe and nearby but the physician insists that she may not see her daughter until she has recovered her health. The sound of a child playing outside causes Fantine to become joyful but she quickly becomes fearful when Javert, who has received orders to arrest the false mayor, enters the room. To the amazement of the nun and Fantine, Javert seizes the mayor by the collar and commands him to leave with him. Jean Valjean pleads in a low voice for the three days needed to fetch Fantine's child but Javert laughs and repeats his request loudly and mockingly thus informing Fantine that her daughter is not nearby. Javert goes on to proclaim that the man they know as Madeleine is really the convict Jean Valjean and he is under arrest. The emotion of the moment is too much for Fantine and she convulses and dies. Jean Valjean pries loose from Javert's grasp and wrenching an iron bar from an unused bed frame suggests to the police inspector that he should wait until he has paid his last respects to Fantine. He kisses her gently on the forehead and then allows Javert to take him to jail. Despite the good that Jean Valjean had done for the town nearly everyone abandons him except for the nuns and his old servant.
On the evening of his arrest the old servant is surprised when the man she still considers the mayor comes inside. Jean Valjean has escaped from jail and asks the old woman to tell Sister Simplice to meet him in his room. Sister Simplice finds Jean Valjean packing the two candlesticks but they are soon interrupted by the sound of Javert downstairs and the servant's protests. Jean Valjean hides behind the door and when Javert asks Sister Simplice, whom he knows has never lied, if she is alone she answers "Yes" and then when he asks her if she has seen the mayor she answers "No". That evening a man fitting Jean Valjean's description is seen walking toward Paris. Fantine is later buried in a public pit.
Analysis
Hugo shows the fickle side of human nature. Forgetting the good that Madeleine has done for the town and all the people in it, everyone, except a few faithful friends, is very quick to jump on the band wagon and condemn him when his identity is revealed.

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