Changes in the city of Paris during the 19th century greatly reflect
the changing ideals of the times. Seen in the streets of Paris,
its monuments and its institutions, these changes reflect both the
political and cultural move from the ideals of the conservative
aristocratic Paris of 1789 to a modern bourgeoisie city .
Politically, Paris during the revolution was like a fishing boat
caught in the middle of a hurricane. Tossed from side to side, from
monarchy, to empire, to republic and back again, the revolution
was a time of chaos and uncertainty. Victor Hugo himself reflects
much of this political uncertainty in his Les Miserables
character of Marius who is raised a royalist, becomes a Bonapartist
upon his father's death, and is then converted by his friends of
the ABC to follow the path of democratic republicanism. This chaos
and uncertainty manifested itself physically within the city as
well -- through its squares, monuments,
and streets. As the ideals and
opinions of the people changed so too did the physical markers of
Paris. This idea serves for the cultural side of Paris as well.
During the course of the revolution many conservative institutions
were forced to give way to those of more modern ideals -- ideals
that were as contradictory and chaotic as the politics of the time.
On one side was the general revelry in anything new and improved
by technology. Another
side showed the turning away from the material world by such people
as the bohemians;
and a third side showed those who embraced this new material culture.
Overall, Parisian culture by the time of Victor Hugo was a hodgepodge
of conflicting ideals which can be seen both in his book Les
Mis and in street and cultural
maps of the time.
Delacroix, Eugene, Liberty Leading the People,
1830 Oil on canvas, 102 1/4 x 128 in. (260 x 325 cm) Musee
du Louvre, Paris
Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People"
painted in 1830 reflects many of the ideals of the revolution,
both political and cultural. One can literally see the chaos
and confusion of the revolution in action, led by the guiding,
flag waving figure of Liberty. Except for the Aristocracy,
all the major classes of Paris are represented: the bourgeoisie,
the workers, the women, and the gamine. In the background
of the picture is seen the Towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral,
a sight all Parisians would have recognized.