by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) is from James
McNeill Whistler. It was made during a trip to Venice in 1858.
It depicts an old woman and a girl huddling in a dark alley way.
In the background, one can see what appears to be the main street
or shopping district of town. However, these two females are quite
displaced from that area. They may be begging. During the nineteenth
century in France, the bourgeoisie were afraid of being robbed
in the faubourgs, when in actuality, they were more likely to
be robbed in such a setting as above shown.
The technical definition of a faubourg
is a suburb of a French city. During the time of Les Miserables,
faubourgs were the areas of the city where the poor resided.
The most prominent faubourgs were in the southwestern portion
of the city.
The relationship of the faubourgs
to the barrieres played a crucial role in giving them
their dangerous reputation. The barrieres were some
of the oldest areas of the city, found mostly along the fringes.
They were the places most associated with crime and destitution:
"The passerby could not keep from thinking of the innumerable bloody
traditions of the spot" (Hugo 378).
Hugo places the Gorbeau tenement in
the barrieres. The Gorbeau tenement seems to
be the repetitive home of the characters when they have "hit the
bottom." Valjean and Cosette have a stay there in Cosette, Book
Fourth. Later on, the Thenardiers and Marius would also have a stay
there. It would become Thenardier's headquarters for his dealings
with the criminal gang Patron-Minette.
places it in the neighborhood of Saint-Jacques, which he states:
" . . . seemed fore-doomed, and was always horrible, the gloomiest
of all this gloomy Boulevard was the spot" (Hugo
A list of quotes regarding
Saint-Jacques and the barrieres:
- "A street, at that time, without
houses, unpaved, bordered with scrubby trees, grass-grown or muddy,
according to the season, and running squarely up to the wall encircling
Paris" (Hugo 377)
- "Far as the eye could reach
there was nothing to be seen but the public shambles, the city
wall, and here and there the side of the factory, resembling a
barrack or a monastery; on all sides, miserable hovels and heaps
of rubbish, old walls as black as widow's weeds, and new walls
as white as winding-sheets; on all sides, parallel rows of trees,
buildings in straight lines, flat structures, long, cold perspectives,
and the gloomy sameness of right angles"
- "Still a few steps, and you come
to those detestable clipped elm-trees of the Barriere Saint Jacques,
that expedient of philanthropists to hide the scaffold, that pitiful
and shameful Place de Breve of cockney, shop-keeping society which
recoils from capital punishment, yet dares neither to abolish
it with lofty dignity, nor to maintain it with firm authority"
Hugo and other authors
(especially Balzac) aggravated the bourgeoisie's
view of crime in the faubourgs with descriptions such
as those above. In truth, "The bourgeois hardly ever ventured into
these purlieus; the assaults on them occurred in the central districts"
(Chevalier 86). However, because
of these powerful representations,
horror regarding crime
and the lower classes swept through Paris.