Les Miserables: Novel Summary: Section 4 - Book Fourteen
Section 4 - Saint-Denis and Idyll of the Rue Plumet
Book Fourteen - The Grandeur of Despair
Before Marius can make himself known to his friends, however, the sound of Gavroche's singing comes from down the street and soon they see him running to join them. He tells them that the soldiers are coming and the whole barricade makes ready. They hear the sound of men approaching in the dark and a voice calls out "Who goes there?" to which Enjolras replies "The French Revolution" and a great eruption of gunfire answers back. The bullets are so thick that the staff supporting the red flag is cut and many of the bullets ricochet off the wall and wound some of the men inside the barricade. Courfeyrac orders the revolutionaries to conserve their ammunition and not fire until the soldiers are in the street and in sight. Enjolras asks who will return the flag to the top of the barricade but the men, somewhat humbled by the force of the musket fire, are silent. Enjolras pleads for a brave man to replace the flag and Father Mabeuf, who has sat in the cellar seeming to talk to himself and unresponsive to the other's pleas to seek safety, takes the flag and mounts the barricade. When he reaches the crest his shouts "Viva la republique" and is immediately cut down by a fierce burst of gunfire.
Enjolras kisses the dead man on the forehead and removes his bloody coat pierced by numerous bullet holes. He announces that the coat will be their new flag. Father Mabeuf's body is carried reverently to the cellar and placed on a table. The soldiers make a rush on the barricade and close fighting results. Courfeyrac has fallen under a soldier's blows and is calling for help while Gavroche is about to be stabbed by a soldier's bayonet when shots kill both of their assailants.
Marius steps into the fray having discharged two shots from his pistols. The soldiers are at the top of the barricade and the revolutionaries are at the point of being overwhelmed. Marius sees a keg of powder inside the basement door and as he turns toward it he notices a musket aimed at him. Before it fires, however, the young workingman who had come to Courfeyrac's with the message places his hand over the end of the musket and the bullet passes through his hand and he falls. Marius sees this but in the pell-mell of battle he continues toward the keg of powder. The revolutionaries and the soldiers fire simultaneously at extremely close range and everything disappears in a cloud of smoke. As both sides are reloading Marius calls out for the soldiers to retire or he will blow up the barricade. They notice him standing over the broken powder barrel with a flaming torch in his hand. He repeats his threat to destroy the soldiers and himself as well and the soldiers fall back. Marius is the hero of the moment and Enjolras appoints him the group's chief. A roll is taken and they determine that one of their dearest comrades, Jean Prouvaire, has been taken prisoner and they form a plan to trade Javert for their friend. At that moment, however, they hear the soldier's execute their friend and Enjolras tells Javert that he is doomed.
Meanwhile, Marius is scouting the side streets when he hears a feeble voice that he recognizes call to him. He finds the young workman who stopped the bullet meant for him and discovers that this person is in fact Eponine. The musket ball has passed through her body and she is dying. She asks Marius to sit beside her. She lays her head in his lap and is comforted. She says that she knows that they will all die but she is glad to be dying before him. They hear the sound of Gavroche singing and she explains that the little boy is her brother and Marius thinks of the debt he owes to the Thenardiers. Eponine begins to fade and she gives Marius a letter she was supposed to have delivered earlier but that she kept for selfish reasons. She makes him promise to kiss her on the forehead when she is dead and then admits that she was a little in love with him. She dies and he kisses her on the forehead. He goes to the cellar and reads the letter. It is from Cosette who tells him that her father has removed them to new address and that in a week she leaves for London. Marius realizes that he must inform Cosette of his love and the manner of his death and also do his best to save Gavroche. He writer a letter that explains his failed plans to marry her and assures her of his love. On another sheet of paper he writes his name and directs the reader to carry his corpse to his grandfather's address. This paper he puts in his pocket. He takes the letter to Gavroche and orders him to sneak out and carry it beyond the barricade and in the morning to deliver it to the address. Gavroche is reluctant to leave but Marius insists. As Gavroche runs off he thinks to himself that the address is not far and that if he alters Marius' orders a little and delivers the letter immediately he can return before the action at the barricade resumes.
The insurrection at the barricade is portrayed in vivid detail. Hugo describes a few heroic acts such as the replacing of the flag by Mabeuf and Eponine stepping in front of the bullet that was intended for Marius and thus saving his life. All along Hugo does that glorify the scene at the barricade and does not condone the killings that occur there.