Les Miserables: Novel Summary: Section 5 - Book Seven

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Section Five - Jean Valjean
Book Seven - The Last Drop in the Chalice
The day after the wedding Jean Valjean arrives at the Gillenormand house and has the servant call for Marius but tells him not to reveal his identity. Most of the house is still sleeping, on account of the previous evening's festivities. Marius greets him as "Father" and expresses that he and Cosette desire that Jean Valjean should come live with them. Without any preamble Jean Valjean informs Marius that he is a former convict, that he faked his thumb injury so his illegal signature would not be added to their license and that he is currently in breach of his ban. Marius is shocked and repulsed. He tells the young man that his real name is Jean Valjean and reassures the terrified young man that Cosette is not related to him. Marius asks why Jean Valjean has revealed himself and the former convict answers that it is from honor and conscience and so that he will not be a pretender in their household. Marius offers to have his grandfather try to arrange a pardon but Jean Valjean refuses on the grounds that the authorities believe him to be dead which is better than a pardon. The awkward moment is interrupted by Cosette's entrance. She assumes that the two men have been talking politics and becomes very cross when Marius insists she leave so they can continue their conversation in private. After she leaves Jean Valjean beseeches Marius not to tell Cosette the truth of his identity and Marius promises to keep his secret. Although Marius at first suggests that it would be best if Jean Valjean never saw Cosette again Jean Valjean humbly begs the right to see her in the evenings in the basement room of the house where he will not intrude into the house's day-to-day life. Marius assents, but after Jean Valjean has left, he regrets his decision.
Analysis
It is almost unbelievable that after all that has happened and with no one around to reveal his identity, Valjean feels the need to tell Marius about his past and who he really is. Even though he knows that it can only hurt his relationship with his new son-in-law, he feels he must tell him everything out of "honor". It is unfortunate that Marius lacks understanding and compassion and becomes revolted instead.

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