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Les Miserables: Novel Summary: Section 5 - Book Nine

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Section Five - Jean Valjean
Book Nine - Supreme Shadow, Supreme Dawn
Jean Valjean eventually stops leaving his apartment and then a whole day passes where he does not eat or leave his bed. His landlady becomes very worried and has a doctor come see her lodger. The doctor agrees that the man is very sick but suggests that since he seems like a man who has lost a dear friend there is little he can do. One evening Jean Valjean finds that he has great difficulty rising from his bed. Nevertheless he gets up and with much effort dresses himself and lays out Cosette's clothes. Perspiring from the effort he lights two candles in the silver candlesticks given to him by the bishop so many years before and begins to write a letter to Cosette in which he tries to explain the manner in which he made the money. Before he can finish he breaks down in tears at the thought that he is about to die without ever seeing Cosette again. There is a knock at the door.
That same day Marius is in his office when the servant brings him a letter from a man waiting to see him. Marius recognizes the letter as one of Thenardier's ruses but is surprised when he does not recognize the man who enters. The man insists that he is a member of Society who has fallen on hard times and has some information to sell. Marius is curt but allows the man to continue. The man reveals that the person known as Monsieur Fauchelevent is actually the convict Jean Valjean. Marius surprises his guest by coolly answering that he is already aware of those facts. Moreover, Marius has seen through the man's disguise and after he gives him five hundred francs Thenardier reveals himself. Marius reveals that through inquiries he has learned some of Jean Valjean's history, namely that he robbed a man named Madeleine, and states that he knows him to be the murderer of the police officer Javert. Here Thenardier surprises him by using newspaper clippings to prove that Jean Valjean was Madeleine and that Javert committed suicide. Marius is overjoyed to discover that Jean Valjean was essentially a good man but Thenardier cautions that he can still prove the man to be a robber and murderer. Amid Marius' rising interest, Thenardier relates the story of encountering Jean Valjean in the sewer with a corpse that he desired to rob and describes the extreme effort the man must have exerted to bring the corpse that far. To prove his story, Thenardier shows Marius the piece of torn cloth from the murdered man's coat. Marius is jubilant at having discovered his savior's identity and accuses Thenardier of being a scoundrel. He tells the astonished man that he knows of his crimes and could have him put in jail for the rest of his life. He remembers his father's letter, however, and angrily gives Thenardier several thousand francs and orders him to leave the country and go to America at which time he will send him twenty thousand francs never to return. The narrator relates that two days later Thenardier and Azelma left for America where Thenardier eventually became a slave trader.
Once Thenardier has left the house, Marius retrieves Cosette from the garden and in wild haste orders a carriage to take them to Jean Valjean's apartment. They enter the poor man's room just as his strength has failed and he is despairing of never seeing Cosette again. Cosette immediately embraces her father but Marius, overcome by emotion, leans in the doorway. Soon, however, he bursts forth with his knowledge of all that has passed and Jean Valjean feebly insists that he kept everything secret to avoid embarrassing the family. Marius insists that Jean Valjean will be living with them from then on and Jean Valjean counters that he will not be at their house nor his own the next day. They misunderstand his meaning and Cosette describes all the pleasant things he will experience at their house. Jean Valjean smiles at the sound of her voice and admits that he will die in a few moments. Cosette and Marius beg him to live. The physician enters and intimates to Marius that he and Cosette were what the old man needed but they are too late to save him. Jean Valjean explains where the money came from and begs Marius to use it to make Cosette happy. The landlady enters and asks if Jean Valjean wants a priest but he answers that he already has one. He means the long dead bishop and indicates a point in the air. He calls Marius and Cosette near and shares memories of the happy times that he and Cosette knew in the past and insists that his gravestone be simple and have no name. He tells Cosette that her mother's name was Fantine and that she suffered much so that Cosette could be happy. He dies.
The narrator notes that in a secluded spot in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery there is a stone that bears no name. At some point there was once a verse written in pencil that has since faded but when legible read:

He is asleep. Though his mettle was sorely tried,
He lived, and when he lost his angel, died.
It happened calmly, on its own,
The way night comes when day is done.

It is satisfying to realize that all the misunderstandings between Valjean and Cosette and Valjean and Marius are resolved and that his behavior is finally understood by the ones whose love he so desperately needs. He is now finally able to forgive himself and dies in peace.

 Les Miserables Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


 Les Miserables Study Guide (Choose to Continue)

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