"Paris has a
child and the forest has a bird; the bird is called the sparrow; the child
is called the gamin."
Miserables, Marius, Book 1
Online defined gamin as "a
boy who hangs around on the streets"; the gamine is his female counterpart.
In Les Miserables, it is safe to say that the gamin and gamine
are either the most or one of the most sympathetic subclasses in the novel.
In fact, Hugo had a lot to say about them. He describes them with phrases
like "cherub of the gutter" and "dwarf of the giantess"
(Hugo 503). In fact, he devotes the first book of Marius to them.
The following list is a summary of the things Hugo admires about the gamin:
- The gamin has a perpetually cheerful manner
- The gamin, being
a child, is naturally "pure"
- "He is, in
his nature, but slightly academic"
- The gamin is intrepid
- The gamin is cautious and clever
These are but five of the many commendations Hugo gives to his class
of urchins, and the way he represents them
makes it very difficult to find any disagreement. His strongest representation
of the gamin is in the character Gavroche.
of Gavroche from Les
MisÚrables on-line text edition; first published in 1862;
by Thomas Y. Cromwell & Co. Here Gavroche shows his cleverness
and playful side as he grabs a drunken man (the figure on the
ground)'s cart to add to the barricade. One should note the gleeful
smile on his face as he looks back at the drunken man. Gavroche,
despite his misgivings towards his wayward parents, was the epitomy
of merriment (which of course is one of the trademarks of the
Who was Gavroche?
"He was one of those children so deserving of pity from all,
who have fathers and mothers, and yet are orphans . . . His parents
had thrown him out into life with a kick. He had quite ingenuously
spread his wings, and taken flight" (Hugo
the child of the Thenardiers. He is the middle child, for we later
learn that he has two younger brothers besides having two older
sisters. He and his brothers live out in the street, and later in
the novel, he takes them in. However, after his death at the barricade
(where he acted at the forefront), his little brothers are left
to fend for themselves.
When Hugo says
that Gavroche deserves the most pity, he makes sure that the reader
feels that way as well. Gavroche's short life is all the same extraordinary,
and his death has the same terrible beauty as that of Enjolras.
He is "the ideal of the gamin previously sketched"
An image of
Gavroche from Les MisÚrables
on-line text edition; first published in 1862; by Thomas Y.
Cromwell & Co. Here Gavroche shows the natural goodness of the
gamin's child nature. In this image, he has adopted two more little
gamin and is putting them to bed in his home--poor as it may seem,
no one else bothered to take them in, and so Hugo shows the altruistic
side of the gamin.
page was created by M. Childs